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Massena, N-N hockey teams open state tournaments on Saturday

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The Massena Central and Norwood-Norfolk Central hockey teams begin chasing New York State playoff honors on the road this Saturday.

The Massena skaters earned a third straight trip to the Division I tournament after pulling away to a 10-1 win over Potsdam Central and is headed south to take on uncontested Section 9 champion Monroe-Woodbury at the Sport-O-Rama rink in Monsey. Norwood-Norfolk advanced to the state Division II playoffs for the first time in 15 years after outlasting defending Section 10 champion St. Lawrence Central 3-2 and will be traveling west to take on Section 5 champion Webster-Schroeder at the Webster Arena.

The first-round winners this weekend clinch bids to the state semi-finals slated for Saturday, March 8, at the Utica Aud.

MASSENA VS. M-W

After skating to an undefeated NAC Division I regular season title, the Raiders survived a double-overtime scare to fourth-seeded Salmon River in the opening round of the sectional tournament before overwhelming Potsdam in the title game to improve to 16-5-1.

Saturday’s state opener at the Sport-O-Rama rink will be a rematch of a first-round matchup between the two teams last winter at the Massena Arena where the Raiders skated to a 3-1 win.

“It’s going to be a seven-hour ride by bus and that kind of travel can present some issues but we’ve traveled before and we’ve been in this situation before. We’re hoping to take the lessons that we’ve learned from going to states the last two years and applying them to this year,” said coach Mike Trimboli. “Having been there before has helped us better prepare mentally for playing in these types of events.”

One of the leading factors for the Raiders success on the ice this season has been their depth. They have been able to skate four lines and three sets of defensemen on a regular basis.

“One of the things we learned from last year in our semi-final game against McQuaid was that they were a very deep team and they were able to use their depth to wear us down,” noted Trimboli. “We have worked hard on developing our depth. We moved players around to find the right combinations. The players have all accepted their roles and that’s made us a better team.”

The line of sophomores Patrick Manning (22-18 40) and Jordan Robert (10-20 30) and freshman Wyatt Wilmshurst (9-5 14) and the trio of senior Tyler Young (17-12 29), sophomore Ben Sprague (8-10 18) and junior Dylan Stone (6-10 16) have produced the majority of the Massena offense this winter. Senior Ryan Thomas (9-9 18) has also made leading contributions skating on a line with juniors Evan Kassian (2-4 6) and Ryan Moffitt while the trio of senior JP Reagan (3-3 6) and juniors Dalton Mullin (4-2 6) and Zach Kozsan (1-3 4) has been an effective checking line.

The blueline pairings through most of the season have featured senior Josh Blair (2-5 7) and sophomore Maddox Merry (3-8 11), senior Cameron Marsh (0-6 6) and junior Devin Page (4-2 6), sophomore Nick Henrie and freshman Jon-Paul Chauvin.

The Raiders also boast strong experience between the pipes as third-year senior Connor Paquin has gone 11-4-1 in 16 starts and has fashioned a 2.25 goals against average and .880 save percentage.

“Connor has had some games where he doesn’t face a lot of shots but he’s come up with a lot of big saves when he’s been called upon,” said Trimboli. “That helps the confidence of the team knowing their goaltender is backing them up.”

Monroe-Woodbury enters Saturday’s game with a 5-7-4 record. As the lone Division I team in Secton 9, they play an independent schedule. They have not played a game since dropping a 5-1 decision to Section 1 champion Scarsdale on February 14. The trio of seniors Case Coughlin and Harry Hill and junior Chris Carey leads the way offensively while senior Ryan Fischer is the Crusaders’ top netminder.

“They have a new coach since last year and he’s brought in a whole new philosophy,” Trimboli noted. “From what I’ve been able to learn, they have a great work ethic and for that reason alone, they are definitely not a team that should be taken lightly.”

Saturday’s first-round game is slated to face-off at 4:45 p.m. The other three quarter-final matchups this weekend will see Scarsdale travel to Section 2 champion Shenendohawa, Niagara-Wheatfield of Section 6 take on Ithaca of Section 4, and Fairport of Section 5 square off against Section 3 champion West Genesee.

The winner of the game between Massena and Monroe-Woodbury would take on the winner of the Fairport/West Genesee game in the semi-finals on March 8 at 12:30 p.m. The Division I final is scheduled for the following Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

N-N VS. W-S

The Icemen stand at 17-4 overall after completing their sweep of the NAC regular season and sectional playoff championships with the win over SLC last Sunday at Clarkson’s Cheel Arena.

“We’re all really excited to be making the trip. We’ve proven ourselves up here and we want to treat this like any other game,” said coach Paul Durant as the Icemen get set to take on the Warriors (16-7-2) in their first state tournament appearance since 1998. “This is something new for the kids so the unknown is the biggest thing to deal with. They’ve never been in this situation before but I don’t think it’s going to take very long for them to get a feel for the environment”

“The key is, we can’t get intimidated. We’ve had a great season. We’ve beaten a lot of good teams and we beat a very good team to get here. We’re expecting (Webster-Schroeder) to be very good too,” he added.

The Icemen are led offensively by the trio of juniors Zeb Brown and Austin Cousineau and freshman Kaden Pickering, one of several Madrid-Waddington students who have contributed strongly toward the team’s success this winter. Brown had a team-high 59 points through 20 games on 19 goals and 40 assists while Pickering generated a team-high 28 goals to go along with 25 assists for 53 points and Cousineau has tallied 14 goals and 18 assists for 32 points.

The Icemen have also gotten steady offensive contributions from the line of junior Coby Munson (14-10 24), senior Jeff Mott (6-7 13) and junior Tristen Harvey (1-7 8). The line combined to produce two of the goals in the sectional final. The third line of junior Connor Fulk and sophomores Josh Reed, Tristen St. Andrews and Conner Fulk has provided quality shifts throughout the season as well.

Junior Brandin Cousineau (1-15 16) and sophomore Shane Cryderman (6-7 13) have been a steady all-around leaders as a members of the N-N blueline corps along with sophomore Tyler Fobare (0-7 7) and freshman Zeb Zagrobelney.

The Icemen have also gotten solid goaltending all season from the duo of junior Brandon Richards and senior Kyler MacIntire. Richards has played between the pipes for the majority of the time this winter, posting a 12-3 record, a 2.19 goals against average and .910 save percentage while MacIntire is 5-1 in six starts with a 1.58 goals against average and .930 save percentrage.

“Brandon has come with big saves for us all season and Kyler has done a great job when called on so we have a lot of confidence in our goaltending,” noted Durant.

Webster-Schroeder enters the state tournament at 16-7-2 overall after reeling four impressive wins in their sectional playoffs, including back-to-back shutout victories in the semi-finals and championship game (4-0 over Victor). The Warriors also feature two lines with scoring potential led by Joe Schuler (16-13 29), Matt Montgomery (11-14 25) and Jeremy Caulkins (3-13 18) while defenseman Ryan Winn (5-14-19) has also made lead offensive contributions. Netminder Ryan Beautel has emerged as the leader between the pipes. He stopped all 28 shots he faced in posting the two consective shutouts leading up to Saturday’s state tournament game as the Warriors outscored their four sectional opponents 15-2.

“I really don’t know much about them but from what I’ve been able to learn, they’ve been playing solid defensively and they’ve been scoring the goals when they’ve needed to in the playoffs,” said Durant.

“What’s nice about our team is how they really support each other. They’ve got each other’s backs and they’ve accepted their roles,” Durant added. “They are also very resilient. They don’t hang their heads when things don’t go their way and that’s been another big key for us.”

The winner of Saturday’s game, which is slated to face-off at 5:15 p.m., will take on Section 2 champion Queensbury in the semi-finals on March 8, at 5:45 p.m. The state Division II final is scheduled for the following Sunday at 3:30 p.m. at the Utica Aud. Queensbury drew a first-round bye in gaining an automatic bid to the semi-finals.

The other two quarter-final matchups this weekend will pit Pelham Memorial of Section 1 against Section 7 champion Beekmantown and Williamsville-East of Section 6 against Auburn of Section 3.

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