February 22, 2011
Mike Criscitello had seen it executed in YouTube videos and attempted in hockey skills competitions for years: the sneaky shot in which a player lifts the puck off the ice and fires it lacrosse-style at a goaltender.
It was something the Edison High School (N.J.) senior had fooled around with in practice, to the point where his teammates anticipated Criscitello might try one himself during a game.
On Feb. 11, he took his shot. It was a blowout against Colonia early in the third period; an 8-4 victory in which he'd score five goals.
Criscitello picked this spot to attempt a lacrosse-style shot, but the defense wasn't cooperating. This led to one of the most unorthodox and spectacular attempts at the "Michigan Goal" we've seen during the course of an actual game: a spinning whip of the stick from the top of the circles, and an instant classic:
For Criscitello, it's worked out to the tune of 20,000 views on YouTube, an appearance on ESPN and viral video status on several sports sites, including one that called it "the best high-school hockey goal you will ever see."
So where did this shot, and the video, come from, exactly? His inspiration might surprise you.
Turns out that for all the lacrosse shots attempted in hockey, from Mike Legg to Rob Schremp to fellow high school players, Criscitello said his main inspiration was then 9-year-old Oliver Wahlstrom, who scored this goal in a Boston Bruins "TD Bank Mini 1-on-1" tournament in 2009:
Like Wahlstrom, Criscitello is a child of the game, as his father and brother both played hockey. (Criscitello is a lifelong New York Rangers fan as well.)
An undeniable charm in Criscitello's clip is the grainy, low-fi quality of it, which resembles found footage of the Loch Ness Monster. As one of the many YouTube commenters asked: "Was this filmed on a calculator?"
Not quite. It was filmed at the game on a video camera, which Criscitello borrowed, hooked up to a flat screen and had his father film off the television with another camera. Then Criscitello himself loaded the clip to YouTube, with keywords that included "most top dirtiest sexiest finest shot."
So the subject of this viral video is the one who helped make it viral; a perfectly symbolic origin story for a social media generation in which anyone can have his or her moment in the spotlight.
"I thought it was going to be big Jersey-wise. I thought it was going to get around, but not on ESPN," he said. "I've had kids come up to me on other teams who said, ‘You did that, didn't you?'"
Ah, yes, the other team. In the case of this goal, it was Colonia High School, a rival of Edison's and a team filled with players Criscitello knew pretty well. "If that was any other team we're not familiar with, it would have gone completely different," he said, inferring potential retribution.
Once he committed to attempting the shot, Criscitello had to adjust to what the Colonia defense was giving him. "They were collapsing deep, so I couldn't get a breakaway to do it. I decided to take it down the middle and I saw the gap between the defensemen, and tried to pull it off," said Criscitello, who is also an accomplished lacrosse player at Edison.
"You could tell after I scored, I didn't really know what to do. I just put my arm up. I was amazed it went in. Thought it was going to go wide or something. Everybody was in awe."
His coach, Jose Pan, was amazed, as well as concerned -- about sportsmanship.
"My first reaction was to hope that the other team didn't take it as an insult. We weren't trying to embarrass them," he said.
"He figured he'd give it a shot. It was one of those things that you see happen, but you don't believe it until it goes through."
Or until the viral video makes "SportsCenter."
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