Teagan Ketchum lined up at the blue line for the national anthem Saturday, and the senior defenseman never noticed the figure hidden in the penalty box.
Only after she was called to center ice for a ceremonial faceoff before the Sacred Heart women's hockey team's game against St. Anselm did she see who emerged.
Ketchum, an Averill Park native and Albany Academy grad, dropped her gloves and stick, put her hands over her mouth and hunched over.
Her brother, Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Trevor Ketchum, just had come home from deployment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
Teagan didn't know he'd be at the game, let alone dropping the puck at The Rinks at Shelton. They embraced for about 15 seconds, and then Teagan went back in for another hug.
"I didn't want to let go," Teagan Ketchum said, watching the moment again on video after the game.
"There were a lot of emotions," she said. "I haven't seen him in a while. Hockey has always been our common bond. I started playing hockey because of him. He's always been that figure for me, who I aspire to be."
Trevor Ketchum, who played at Daniel Webster, dropped the puck between his sister and St. Anselm co-captain Victoria Shea, who gave Teagan a pat on the left shoulder.
Teagan then had to go play a game.
Coach Tom O'Malley gave her a couple of shifts to catch her breath.
"It was unbelievable. I was quite emotional myself," O'Malley said. "It was a great thing to see. You could see how much it hit Teagan.
"She's a great kid. She works hard every day and has a smile on her face all the time."
The puck-drop came together at the last minute.
First, Trevor needed approval to come home for a few days rather than reporting straight back to his home base in Honolulu.
He only arrived in town around midnight Friday. He has to leave Tuesday morning for Hawaii.
"Just being away, I haven't seen her in over a year, two Christmases ago, 14 months," said Trevor, who'd been deployed for nine months. "Stationed in Hawaii, I can't afford to come back a lot. I missed Christmas."
Teagan said she didn't expect to see him until her graduation.
She said she didn't know what was going on in the pregame ceremony and at first didn't hear her name called to take the faceoff.
The Pioneers honored St. Anselm goalie Logan Knip, who is in the Army Reserves, before bringing the Ketchums together.
"It was really just so much joy at finally being able to hug him. We have a strangely close bond for siblings," said Teagan, who's five years younger than her brother. "It's been hard not being able to see him or talk so much."
St. Anselm won the game, 5-1, in the semifinals of the New England Hockey Conference Open.
Michael Fornabio writes for the Connecticut Post.Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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