With the 2019-2020 hockey season coming right around the boards, I’m going to recap on some big moments in women’s hockey recent history that I was personally in attendance for.
And first up is the 2018 NCAA Women’s Frozen Four, which was held at Ridder Arena (University of Minnesota Women’s hockey rink) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This was my first big credentialed event that I got to shoot and boy was it exciting. With the buzz of all the professional photographers and other media members from the various papers, news organizations, and the other schools, it was thrilling to be surrounded by them and to see how they work. It was quite the learning experience. It was also the first time as a photographer that I was “assigned” a spot to shoot from. With a press pass at Cheel Arena (Clarkson University), I had free reign to go anywhere, except the locker rooms and benches, so it was a little different than what I was accustomed to (though usually necessary with so many other photographers in attendance), but it all was still exciting nonetheless.
Starting at the beginning, I want to give a shout out to one of the University of Minnesota’s Pep Bands for letting the Clarkson Pep Band (who I was traveling with) borrow their drums for the duration of the tournament. It was also quite the experience navigating through the adjacent TCF Bank Football Stadium to get to the band’s locker / storage room.
Next up was the red carpet, where when the team arrives to the rink, they are met with crowds, cheers, and the paparazzi as they head on to the locker room. This was another first for me both as a photographer and in general. The closest experience I had to this before was my high school sports pep rallies, which were often incredibly disorganized and lacked both a red carpet and the paparazzi.
Below in the first photo is Clarkson head coach, Matt Desrosiers. In the second are #4 Avery Mitchell, #20 Kristy Pidgeon, and #7 Elizabeth Giguere. In the third photo is #35 Shea Tiley, being cheered on by her sister and (presumably) her dad and brother.
Then after warm-ups, I noticed the TV / video crew taking some shots of the puck spinning on the ice (to play right after commercial breaks). So, I asked if I could hop on the ice and take some photos as well, to which they agreed. The second photo below was the ceremonial puck drop, dropped by four members of the then recently crowned gold medalists from the US Women’s Olympic Hockey team (PyeongChang 2018). Note: The two sets of photos above and below are from the first day of the tournament (semifinals), when Clarkson played Ohio State and Colgate played Wisconsin.
Before we move on, let’s talk a little about Clarkson’s quarterfinal game against Mercyhurst. Quite the nail biter, it was. Now, if I remember correctly, (I may be wrong, it’s been a while), Mercyhurst scored the first goal and it wasn’t until the 3rd period that Clarkson tied it up (#10 Michaela Pejzlova) to send it to overtime. (Games in Overtime Count: 1).
One thing I remember, was all of Clarkson’s blocked shots. Specifically, I remember seeing #25 Rhyen McGill seemingly limping on the ice, looking like she was in a lot of pain, yet still getting up and into position to block a shot late in the game. But the big moment came late in overtime, where #14 Savannah Harmon and #10 Michaela Pejzlova somehow got the puck to #7 Elizabeth Giguere (not sure who passed to who), who then does her signature skate-around-and/or-through-everyone and popped a shot into the back of the net to secure the ticket to Minnesota.
Now back in Minnesota, Semifinal game #1, Clarkson v. Ohio State. Just like the quarterfinal game, the semifinal game was another nail biter – no score through regulation, mostly thanks to the excellent goal-tending of Clarkson’s #35 Shea Tiley and Ohio State’s #32 Kassidy Sauve. The buzzer marking the end of the 3rd period sounded and back to overtime we go. (Games in Overtime Count: 2). Sometime late into overtime, Pejzlova and Giguere somehow get the puck down the ice to #19 Loren Gabel, who then proceeds to then initiate the classic Gabel Goal move which punches Clarkson’s ticket to the final.
To be honest, during that play, after I saw Giguere at the blue line skating down the ice, I started to get that feeling that something was about to happen, which made me extremely excited and I ended up dropping my camera. From the fall, part of my lens chipped, so I can no longer put filters on it, but luckily that was the only noticeable damage. And that is why I now always use lens hoods and make sure the camera is always secured to my body (by either a strap or harness or something). From all that, I ended up with no photos of the game winning goal and a lens that can no longer fit filters on it, but alas, it was an exciting game nonetheless.
So instead of a shot of the game winning goal, here is a shot of #35 Shea Tiley, along with #14 Savannah Harmon and #15 Amanda Titus. All three of them would go on to play in professional leagues after that season. (Tiley – Toronto Furies, CWHL, Harmon – Buffalo Beauts, NWHL, and Titus – SDE, SDHL. And #17 of Ohio State, Emma Maltais, is still playing for Ohio State.
And now, we’ve made our way back to the final game, to the championship game, a rematch of rematches. The record in the regular season for Clarkson v. Colgate was 1-1, each team having a game a piece. However, just two weeks prior, Clarkson and Colgate faced off for the ECAC Championship, which ended with Clarkson winning 3-0 (2-1 on the season against Colgate). So coming into the National Championship, Colgate was looking to even the score, but Clarkson’s #22 Cassidy Vinkle, wasn’t going to let that happen. Late into the 1st period, she scored off an assist from #26 Kelly Mariani.
Still fighting, Colgate’s #18 Malia Schneider tied it up in 2nd period with assists from #3 Oliva Zafuto and #11 Breanne Wilson-Bennett. After that, the 3rd period came and went with the game still tied. Off to overtime we go. (Games in Overtime Count: 3).
Nearly halfway into overtime, Clarkson’s #25 Rhyen McGill blocked a shot sending the puck into the neutral zone. This then allows #7 Elizabeth Giguere, who was off to the side, to catch up and overtake the Colgate defender and gain control of the puck. In the attempt of defense, the Colgate defender almost trips Giguere, who falls to one knee, but just as smoothly as her quarterfinal overtime goal, gets up (all while having complete control of the puck) and finds herself 1v1 with the Colgate goalie. In one swimmingly smooth motion from the blue line all the way to the goal, Giguere, for the second time in the tournament, finds the puck a new home in the back of the net. This time, with lens hoods attached and camera bodies secured, I was ready for the final moments of the game. Below are some photos of the game winning goal.
All three of Clarkson’s games in the 2018 NCAA Tournament went into overtime. And they won every single one of them. Twice with game winning goals from Elizabeth Giguere (and one from Loren Gabel). But you don’t make it to overtime without the help of the rest of the team, and that team behind them was fantastic.
Above are some photos from the celebration at the end of the game. For the first bit, I stayed in the stands as we already had a Clarkson photographer down on the ice. And I figured I could get some different angles instead of taking the same photo that everyone else was taking. But at the end, I joined in on the fun and headed to the ice for the final team photo.
Next up in this series: The first NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey games played outside of North America. Stay tuned!
Fun fact: That game winning goal was on ESPN’s Top Plays and because of where I was positioned, I was in the video of that play.
Note: If there is any information wrong in this article, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org or by messaging me on any of the social medias. I was going off of memory and what information I could find in the Clarkson Athletics Online Archive.