Ingalls Rink in New Haven on the Yale campus was the site for the Division II boy’s hockey state championship Wednesday night. I haven’t covered a game at the “Whale” in a few years but I remembered it was a great place for a championship game, lots of energy which was evident as the East Catholic fans came prepared packing 11 buses to cheer on their Eagles.
Kevin Robinson of Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe proved to an elusive player as Liam Donohue and the East Catholic defense found out quickly in the first period as Robison scored two goals, the first 1:45 into the period and the second with 11:01 left to give the Mustangs a 2-0 lead.
Then East Catholic made it 2-1 when Alex Manner slipped the puck past goalie Kyle Greenhut with 49 seconds left in the opening period.
Brian O’Connell (L) led the celebration of Manner’s (C) goal as the Eagles fans cheer along while Conor Scharlop is left alone behind the goal as the Mustangs lead narrows to one.
Kyle Scheetz of Fairfield Warde battles for a control the puck from his knees after being checked to the ice in front of the goal during the second period.
Brian O’Connell’s goal with 9:08 remaining in the second period gave the Eagles new life as they tied the score at 2.
Griffin Casey (C) found a gap between Daniel Silvestri (L) and Charlie Meder (R) during the first period and when he scored with 6:08 remaining in the second it gave the Eagles their first lead at 3-2 which is how they ended the period.
The third period began the same way as the first two as Kevin Robinson continued to put pressure of the East Catholic defense as he skated in from the left wing.
Goalie Thomas Usseglio made the initial save on Robinson’s shot later in the period but somehow the puck got past Usseglio on the other side of the goal giving Robinson his third goal of the evening tying the score at 3 with 5:31 left.
Thomas Kryspin celebrates his goal at the end of regulation that would have given the Mustangs a 4-3 victory but…
as the East Catholic players lied on the ice in disbelief, thinking their season had come to an end a review by the goal judge ruled the shot a no goal and the game went to overtime tied at 3 apiece.
Thomas Usseglio made the save on Kyle Scheetz’s shot as the defense collapsed on the play during overtime stunting a chance for the win.
With 5:18 left in the extra frame, Fairfield Warde/Ludlowe was awarded a penalty shot after the referees ruled that East Catholic had fallen on the puck inside the crease. “It is a tough call for an official,” East Catholic coach Drew Clarkin said. “Clearly he was in position. From our vantage point you can’t tell a heck of a lot. We have to live with the call and live with the result.”
“I almost I had it and I was about to put my glove on it but [someone] knocked it away,” Usseglio said. “Someone’s stick came in and it went to the far post. I stuck my pad out and I don’t know what happened after that.”
“I saw him coming down and I saw it in his eyes he was going to deke,” Usseglio said. “I wanted to get him before he could come down and deke. I wanted to get him with poke check. … I missed the poke check and I slid and I didn’t get far enough.” Robinson scored all four goals giving the Mustangs their first ever title.
Brian O’Connell (L) and Sean Keleher (R) were the first ones to reach Usseglio to console the junior who made 31 saves on the night as the Eagles season came to a close.
It was one of the best hockey games I’ve had the pleasure to cover in a very long time. I had been reading Courant reporter Matt Conyers stories and Tweets throughout the tournament which seemed to have so many games in OT but even he said afterward it was one of his most memorable games.
Pro Tip: Shooting ice hockey can present plenty of obstacles. Some arenas provide little holes in the plexiglass to stick your camera lens through which gives you a cleaner image and your camera has an easier time focusing on the fast paced action as the players come flying down ice. The down side of that is limited swing from side to side in the small hole and switching between focal lengths with a separate body can be tricky and you will miss some shots. Shooting through the glass can create a distortion if you are not shooting straight on and can cause all kinds of interference for your auto-focus which will drive you crazy as the lens searches for its subject. The trouble here is finding a piece of glass that hasn’t been to scared from pucks and sticks. Some arenas have areas on the concourse level that afford you a nice overhead shot but I didn’t like the fact the glass was the same height all around the rink. Many, like the XL Center, will be higher behind the goal and extend around the corners slightly then drop down a couple feet to give a clean view of the goal area without the top of the glass in the frame. If you look at the photo of the East Catholic players lying on the ice at the end of regulation you can make out the top of the glass.
The problem with shooting from ice level is that you limit yourself to one goal and the hope the scores happen on your end. The first period I chose the Eagles scoring end since they are the home team for our readership so I need to focus more on their action. It burned me on Robinson’s first two goals which happened on the other side but then Alex Manner scored on my end to give me a nice reaction photo. I stayed at the same end for the second period so I could shoot goalie Thomas Usseglio. I always like to have something of both sides, offense and defense, just in case we need something of a certain player. The third period I chose to stay at ice level, a lot of times I will go up so that I can get both ends (the safe route), but I figured I would take a chance. I settled into the East Catholic bench side behind the goal which gave me a clean line of sight to their bench. I thought that if they scored on the other end the odds are the players will head to the bench for jubilation. I switched to the other side of the goal midway through the period since a lot of the Fairfield players seemed to come down their bench side. That proved to be fortuitous since Thomas Kryspin’s goal and reaction at the end of regulation was right in front of me.
For the overtime period I decided to stay put and hope for the best. When the controversial call was made and the penalty shot was awarded to Fairfield I was in perfect position for the winning shot as Robinson deked my direction and shot around Usseglio as the bench looked on behind them. I was lucky that my camera didn’t decide to have a focusing issue at that moment. After Robinson skated away to celebrate with his teammates at the other end I was able to capture one of my favorite photos as the East Catholic players came off the bench to console their goalie. These kids played their hearts out and left everything on the ice with nothing to be ashamed of.
Camera settings: Nikon D300s, 1/500th shutter, 17-55mm f2.8 set to 40 mm at 2.8 and auto white balance.