By ALAIN ST. PIERRE
UTICA After falling in the semifinals of the NYSPHSAA Division I tournament last winter, the Massena hockey team took redemption one step further in Sundays state title game at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Last year, for us to make it here and lose the way we did in the semifinals was heartbreaking. But we had a lot of guys coming back and that loss made us more hungry for this year. This is just unbelievable, senior captain Tyler Young said after the Raiders rallied from an early deficit to beat Section 4s Ithaca, 4-1, earning the sixth state tournament title in school history.
The Raiders tied Salmon Rivers record of also six state championships.
Young, who was later announced as the 2013-14 NYSPHSAA Division I Hockey Player of the Year, helped set up the first two goals of the game, while sophomore Patrick Manning, who was named the Division I tournament MVP, generated two goals and an assist.
Our team was all about bonding this year, said senior goalie Connor Paquin, who finished with 16 saves. Weve been a family throughout the entire season. Thats what got us here and thats what got us a state championship.
Ive been on the team for five years and to have things finish this way really means a lot, he added. Ive always dreaded taking off my jersey for the last time, but this makes up for it.
The Raiders (19-5-1) notched their first state title since 2008 by turning back a Little Red squad that was also looking to earn a sixth Division I title.
We got off to a nice start, but Massena wore us down today, d Ithaca coach Paul Zarach after his squad finished 12-10-1. Once they went ahead 2-1, they started trapping us in the neutral zone. They kept getting the puck deep and kept coming as us with fresh legs.
Their third goal was the real back-breaker, he added. Our kids definitely didnt quit, but Massena really didnt let us get back into the game. They were as good as a team we faced all year.
The Little Red, which was looking for its first title since 2007 after advancing to the final by outscoring Section 1s Scarsdale, 6-4, in Saturdays semifinals, got the early jump on the Raiders.
Senior Nate Walker finished off a play set up by Scott Partington and Charlie Estill just 5:02 into the game and Ithaca took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
We gave up the goal, but the mood was still pretty loose in the locker room after the first period. Weve given up the first goal a few times in the playoffs. But weve stressed all season that games arent over after the first period, Massena coach Mike Trimboli said.
We just talked about playing our game and doing the things that got us here, and the kids came out in the second period and did just that, he added.
The Raiders took advantage of the games first penalty when an Ithaca player was whistled for hooking 17 seconds into the second period. Just 16 seconds later, senior Ryan Thomas sent a shot toward goal from the top of the left face-off circle. Manning was parked in front of goalie Brandon Kasel, who made the initial save, and then another, but was unable to stop a second attempt by Manning. He then managed to stuff a backhander past Kasel.
Young drew his first assist on the equalizer, then set up the eventual game-winner at the 7:53 mark by junior Dylan Stone by rushing the puck up the right wing and getting a shot on goal from the right face-off circle.
Kasel made the short-side save and the puck landed on the netting at the base of the goal. Young neatly knocked it back onto the ice and quickly slid a centering pass into the slot to Stone breaking toward goal, and he made no mistake depositing the puck into the net.
I saw Tyler skate down the wing. He went behind the net. I just started going to the net and hoping the puck would pop out. It came right to me, and I got my stick on it just right, Stone said. It hasnt really sunk it yet that that was the game-winner. I just know it was one (heck) of an effort by our whole team today.
The Raiders took a 3-1 lead into the third when Manning one-timed a pass from behind the net by freshman Wyatt Wilmshurst with 4:13 remaining. Thomas later added an empty-net goal with 49 seconds remaining.