Back in college, I usually covered every sporting event from start to finish, but the realities of reduced staffing and strong encouragement not to accrue overtime means that more often than not, I go shoot a game until I have decent options for whatever the outcome. This changes during important end-of-season and postseason games, however, so when the Americans had a chance to close out the Chilliwack Bruins during the first round of Western Conference playoffs last Friday, I was bracing for the long haul.
Still, this wasn't a championship game, so I planned on staying until an end result seemed likely, and since the Americans defeated Chilliwack 8-1 their last home game, I went assuming they'd finish the series.
Apparently the players did too.
I started shooting with a 300mm from up high behind the Bruins' net for the first half. This makes getting a goal shot pretty much impossible with all the plexiglass and dividers, but it does give a cool angle for some on-ice shots. When I captured Chilliwack's Brandon Manning hooking Brendan Shinnimin:
I had a serviceable shot if the Ams lost. Granted, the shot is of a penalty, which counts against the Bruins, but the image of Shinnimin falling short could work if the Ams, well, fell short. And in case you're wondering what that would have looked like from the designated media second high above the sideline, here's a similar play I shot from that position later in the game:
As soon as they took their mid-period break to scoop up the snow, I moved to an empty seat I spotted with a perpendicular view of the Bruin's goal. This angle works well for action at that net, as it did when the Ams scored their second goal of the evening:
This effect is fun to play with, sometimes creating a pseudo tilt-shift-plus-zoom-burst look but ultimately not terribly practical for my job. Still, I like the shots you can get from that angle and the dejected Bruins goalie Lucas Gore laying at the feet of the celebrating Ams players and their fans had me covered for a Tri-City victory.
I moved to the ice-level spot to camp behind the Bruins' goal for the second period, which is equally limiting, but tougher to get a strong shot from. There are some cool scuffles around the net to be shot, but anything on the other side of the ice is far away and often completely blocked. This time around, I captured the third Americans goal, but in a pretty static way:
I moved up to the media area for the final period. Its not the best angle, but it's the safest, and I wanted a good vantage point for whatever celebration or dejection would come toward the end of the game. With the Ams up 3-1, I was feeling pretty good. Even if I failed to get a good jube out of the end, I had that second goal celebration to fall back on, which I was happy with. Chilliwack made it interesting just 2:30 into the third period with a power play goal that I didn't adequately capture:
It's not that I screwed up, the action just didn't work out. Goals are always tough to get good shots of for a couple reasons. First, the puck is tiny and is moving at a lethal speed. Second, at the media box angle, there is often too much separation between the shooter and the goal. This is especially true when a team is on a power play, with players often firing shots from a considerable distance to get the puck into a scoring zone. In this case, that shot slipped in, though you can't see it in any of my shots (see reason #1), and the only hint is Ams goalkeeper Drew Owsley's downtrodden posture.
With the score 3-2, I was pretty committed to staying, but after a couple of Chilliwack penalties, resulting in nearly six minutes of power play (and nearly two minutes of 5-on-3 power play) for the Ams, it looked like the local boys would close out the series. Gore came up pretty big, however, with several blocks including this leg pincher:
The power play ended and the Americans still clung to that one-point lead. As time started running out for Chilliwack, I considered heading back to the office to beat traffic. With about two minutes left, it looked like the game looked all but done. The Bruins, however, played with desperate intensity that's exciting to watch, but ultimately just makes more work for people like me, and with 1:34 left in the game, Chilliwack's Ryan Howse scored:
And he even celebrated close to the net:
It was a photo I knew would be strong as I shot it, but I still found myself rooting for one more goal from either team. Overtime would mean a 20-minute intermission before action resumed, and without a laptop to edit photos, that would not be time well-spent. Of course, thats what happened, as my hopes shifted to a speedy conclusion in sudden death. Shinnimin almost fulfilled my wish early in overtime as he forced the puck in:
but the shot was waved off, a call confirmed by video replay.
A few minutes later, Chilliwack completed its comeback, giving me a couple more shots for consideration:
Of these two, I like the jubilant Bruins in front of stunned Ams fans, but I still liked the photo from the tying shot better. After discussion with sports guys René Ferrán and Kevin Anthony, that was the shot we went with. The exuberance of Howse, who had made the shot, next to a prone Drew Owsley who is looking back at the puck made for the strongest image. There was probably a time that I would have liked to run one of the game winners simply for the sake of proving I stuck it out the whole game, but ultimately, I don't think readers really care about that. And though I was groaning about this prolonged shoot, my dismay couldn't have compared to reporter Annie Fowler's, who ended up having to make another trip back up to Chilliwack.