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Massena skates into finals

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UTICA – By taking care of business against top-ranked Fairport on Saturday, the Massena Central hockey team created more work for itself at the NYSPHSAA Division I Championship.

“Now we regroup and get ready for tomorrow. We have one more step to take,” said coach Mike Trimboli after the Section 10 champion Raiders gained a 2-1 overtime decision the Section 5 champion Red Raiders 2-1 in the semifinals at the Utica Aud.

“I’m very proud of our kids. This season and this game have all been the result of a lot of hard work on their parts. They believe in each other and they believe in the process and now they’ve put themselves in position to win a state championship. That’s what we came down here to do,” he added.

The Raiders improved to 18-5-1 with the win and will now get set to take on Section 4 champion Ithaca today in the Division I final. Ithaca advanced by outlasting Section 1 champion Scarsdale 6-4 in the other semifinal round game earlier in the day. The Division I championship game is slated for today at 12:30 p.m. and features two programs that share the lead for most state Division I titles with five apiece. Massena won its last title in 2008, the year after Ithaca last skated away from the Utica Aud with top honors.

“Someone is going to take over the lead for most Division I championships and they are going to tie Salmon River for state tournament wins with six,” Trimboli said. “We videotaped Ithaca’s game today. We’re going to go back to the hotel tonight and watch it to see what we can pick out and come up with a game plan against them.”

In the win over Fairport, the Raiders got off to a slow start and found themselves trailing 1-0 after sophomore defenseman Cameron Gebhardt stepped into a pass back to the blueline from the left wing by senior Quinn Weidemer and fired a slapshot into the top right corner of the net for a shorthanded goal at the 10:58 mark of the first period.

Massena regrouped to tie the game when some strong forechecking by freshman Wyatt Wilmshurst behind the Fairport net created a turnover and he worked the puck back to sophomore linemate Jordan Robert on the right wing. Robert was able to control the puck away from a Fairport defender and centered it to classmate Patrick Manning, who quickly darted toward the top of the slot then fired a shot just below the crossbar and into the back of the net with just 3.2 seconds left in the opening period.

“That goal was huge,” said Trimboli. “It gave us confidence and momentum going forward.”

A tight-checking second period saw the teams generate seven shots apiece and the third period produced a total of just seven combined shots as neither squad was able to break through again in regulation.

After trading shots to open the overtime session, Massena junior defenseman Devin Page got control of the puck near the Raider blueline and rushed up the right wing until reaching the Fairport blueline. He then sliced toward the middle of the rink and quickly wristed a shot on net that handcuffed sophomore netminder Ethan Kaiser, who made the initial save but was unable to handle the rebound. The puck bounced to Kaiser’s right and senior Tyler Young was there to fire it home with 3:40 left in the seven-and-a-half minute overtime.

“It was the end of a shift and I was tired,” noted Page. “I was thinking of just dumping the puck in deep to get a line change but I saw Scotty (Young) skating into the zone with me and I had an opening to take a shot. The coaches always say that when were in that position, to try to shoot the puck against the grain and that’s what I tried to do.”

“I saw Devin take the shot and I just wanted to skate toward the net. The rebound popped right up and it was right there,” Young added. “That’s definitely the biggest goal I’ve ever scored.”

Senior Connor Paquin made 15 of his 19 saves through the first two periods but made its biggest stop late in the third. A defensive zone turnover created a close range chance for senior Nicholas Musshafen but Paquin calmly slid to his right to block the one-timer from the middle of the slot with his chest to keep the game knotted a 1-1.

“This was a total team effort and Connor really played his part well. Whenever we had a slip-up in our defensive zone coverage, he was there to make the save and I don’t think any of his saves were bigger than the one he made late in the game,” said Trimboli.

“We showed some nerves early in the game but one of the things that we always stress with this team is that it’s now how we start but how we finish,” he added.

Kaiser, meanwhile, finished with 19 saves for Fairport, which was making its first trip to the state final four since the 2008 season.

“We lost a lot of seniors from last year and nobody expected too much from us this year,” said Fairport coach Chris Moretter after his squad closed out the season with an 18-6-1 record and took over the top spot in the New York State Sportswriters Association Division I hockey rankings by knocking off number-one ranked Section 3 champion West Genesee in the first round of the state tournament. “We started to find our groove as a team the second half of the season and we played our best hockey over the last three week.”

“We knew Massena was the kind of a team that really likes to grind things out and looks to capitalize on mistakes. Both teams had chances today. They were able to take advantage and we just came up short,” he added.

Ithaca 6, Scarsdale 4: In the first Division I semifinal Saturday morning, the Little Red (12-9-1) built a 3-1 lead by the end of the first period and were ahead 6-3 to start the third before holding off the Raiders (21-4).

Jacob Grippen led the way with two goals and two assists. Sunghyun Won tallied another two goals. Nate Walker and Eli Gordon netted the other goals while Charlie Estill logged three assists and netminder Brandon Kasel stood tall making 31 saves backstopping the win.

Devon Schell generated a goal and two assists in the losing effort. Gabe Harousseau posted 17 stops as the Raiders fell short in their inaugural trip to Utica for the state semifinals.

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