The police kept knocking on the door over and over again during a bruising 45-minute battle. But the fire department let them in only three times.
That’s why, despite 57 shots on goal for the police compared to about half that for their opponents, the firefighters prevailed in the annual Chief’s Cup game, a fundraiser and family reunion for the city’s uniformed services. The fac-eoff between New Haven’s cops and firefighters drew about 400 people to Ingalls Rink on a rainy Saturday afternoon.
It was the 18th game in the friendly but hard-fought rivalry. Fire’s victory makes the tally now read 10 to 8 in the firefighters’ favor.
After last year’s loss, top Fair Haven cop Herb Johnson predicted the guys in blue would come back.
After the stirring opening rituals of the event—bagpipers, officials and honorees in street shoes gingerly walked out onto the ice by the players; the kids from the Saint Bernadette School nailed the national anthem—Johnson unveiled his strategy to even the score: “They’ve got some fast forwards. We’ve got to add some speed and defense and take care of the puck in our zone.”
Alas, it was not to be, this year.
The police had speed and were continually in front of the fire department goal. What they didn’t count on was the beyond-stalwart defense provided by fire goalie Pat Cannon (pictured).
His girth combined with fearless, sprawling, horizontal saves, and solid-as-a mountain overall defense, made all the difference.
Cannon received the most valuable player award for his side, even though Brian Leddy scored two of fire’s seven goals. For the police, laurels went to Dan Sacco, who scored two of the three.
The first getting-to-know-you five minutes were played fairly evenly, with many shots on goal. None went in until about the ninth minute in the period, when fire’s Joe Prunier scored asn police goalie Joe Woznyk stepped out to clear the puck.
The police responded energetically, sending the puck to Cannon’s stick, his mask, his glove, his gut. Each time, the goalie in effect said: No thank you. The police extended so much energy to score, they were not always back in sufficient numbers on defense. Result: With five minutes left in the first period, Brian Leddy scored the first of his two goals, a straight shot from the wing, at about 20 yards out.
With only two minutes left in the first period, the police came close. But Cannon made a spectacular body-stretching stop that elicited a moan—of relief or ofd isappointment—from the hundreds of spectators.
At the end of the first period, the police had ten shots on goal to fire’s five, but the guys with the hoses had made theirs count.
The first half of the second period was looser for the police. They used the wings more, and took longer shots. Maybe they figured if they couldn’t get at Cannon up close, some long laser jobs would do the trick.
Still, Cannon was everywhere. At 7:42 in the second period, Cannon fell on one of those long shots and was slow getting up when it appeared one of the police players laid in an unwelcome and unnecessary love tap. That resulted in the first of five penalties doled out during the game (some for district managers!).
“Funny,” joked police union President Lou Cavaliere, Jr., who was sort of coaching in the wings: “These guys are supposed to mediate. It gets hot out there!”
A few minutes later something else happened out there: Brian Leddy scored his second goal of the game. One of fire’s other dominating players, forward John Twohill, also hit, making the score four to zip.
Dan Sacco responded with the police department’s first score after a hard-hitting rally with a minute left. At the end of the second period, the numbers were all lopsided. Shots on goal for the police: 35. For fire: 17. And yet fire was ahead four to one.
Already the powers that be must have been thinking Cannon is the most valuable player here. If he were human, the police would have at least one more goal.
Dan Sacco Fulfills His Own Prediction
Right before the third period started, Sacco and Johnson conferred. No surprise: They had Cannon on their minds. “We’re all over it [the goal], but Pat ... ” Sacco’s voice trailed off. He recovered and added, “He plays once a year. You see how awesome he is!”
As the final period began, the questions were: First, would Cannon be able to continue his daunting defense? And would a frustrated PD be able to continue knocking on his door?
As he put on his helmet I asked Sacco his team’s strategy for the third period: “We’re going to score a goal every five minutes. We’re going to keep the pressure on [Cannon].”
True to his word, Sacco did precisely that, knocking the puck past Cannon’s skate at just one minute into the final period.
Trying to build on that momentum, Mike Hurley fired a shot right at Cannon. Sorry, said the goalie. As Hurley swung around, he looked at the rejected puck that Cannon let drop from his glove; you could see the frustration on his face.
This might have been the turning point. Two minutes later there were suddenly two more goals by fire, including a nifty slap shot by Marc Gianelli; at the halfway point in the final period it was six to two. Still the police kept coming, with a goal by Steve Torquati on a nifty assist by Hurley. Make it six three, with about two minutes left.
You could see Cannon was exhausted, but he still “gloved” at least one ferocious shot, fed the puck to a teammate, as fire moved into a full prevent defense, while the police pushed up to try to create a miracle run of goals.
Not only was it not to be—With the police goal left open, another of fire’s long shooters, Mike Pomichter, slid in the final goal of the game, bringing the score to seven to three.
The charity event honored firefighters of the year Edmond Prunier, Jr. and Salvatore Camera along with police officer of the year Paul Kenney.
The beneficiaries of the event were the daughter of police Detective Mark de Carvalho and the wife of firefighter Ivan Perez, both of whom are battling cancer.
The fire department also prevailed in the Elm City Cup game, which precedes the Chief’s Cup contest and fields the uniformed services’ “B” teams. The score in that game was five to three.