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Total team efforts carries Massena Central to historic banner hockey season


MASSENA - Top to bottom, front to back, side to side, line by line from start to finish.

“A total team effort,” said coach Mike Trimboli in describing the record banner season fashioned by the 2013-14 Massena Central hockey team.

“We struggled with consistency early in the season but the players kept working hard. As the season went on, they believed more and more in each other and in the process. You are always going to have ups and downs in a season but the players always supported each other. They showed a lot of heart and determination but I think more than anything, they just worked so hard and did everything we could ask of them as coaches,” he added. “They were a sassy bunch of grinders. I’m very proud of them.”

Coming off a disappointing loss in last year’s state tournament semifinals, the Raiders opened this season with a convincing NAC interdivisional win on the road over Division II rival Tupper Lake on December 4. They went on to lose three of their next five games to stand at 3-3 before reeling off five straight wins before falling to perennial Section 1 powerhouse Suffern for the second time of the season on the second day of their second tournament.

From there, they posted 10 wins and a tie over their final 12 games closing out the season on a six-game win streak after dropping a 2-1 decision to Pelhman on February 8 on the second day of their third tournament.

The Raiders went 12-0 in claiming the NAC Division I regular season banner. They survived a double-overtime scare against fourth-seeded Salmon River Central in the first round of the Section 10 tournament before capturing a 24th sectional crown by surging their way to a 10-1 win over Potsdam Central in this year’s Division I final at Clarkson’s Cheel Arena.

“The Salmon River game was really a wake-up call for us. We responded very well as a team,” noted Trimboli.

The Raiders earned their second straight trip to Utica by outscoring Section 9’s Monroe-Woodbury 5-1 on the road in the first round of the NYSPHSAA Division I tournament. They followed that up with a dramatic 2-1 overtime win over top-ranked Section 5 champion Fairport in the semifinals before grinding their way to a 4-1 decision over Ithaca High in a state final that pitted two teams looking to earn a record sixth Division I title.

“We lost to McQuaid-Jesuit in the semifinals in Utica last year and one of the reasons was their depth and that was something we wanted to address coming into this season,” noted Trimboli. “Our depth was definitely our biggest strength.”

The Raiders regularly skated four forward lines and three sets of defenseman in front of third-year senior netminder Connor Paquin this winter.

“We were able to develop our depth because we had players who accepted their roles. We had two lines that did a lot of our scoring but we also had strong role players on our other lines. Being able to go four lines all year really made a big difference this winter,” said Trimboli.

The line of sophomores Patrick Manning (26 goals, 19 assists) and Jordan Robert (10 goals, 23 assists) and freshman Wyatt Wilmshurst (10 goals, 8 assists) led the Raiders offensively followed closely by the trio of senior captain Tyler Young (18 goals, 15 assists), junior Dylan Stone (8 goals, 10 assists) and sophomore Ben Sprague (8 goals, 11 assists).

Senior Ryan Thomas (10 goals, 13 assists) was the next leading scorer on the team skating on a line with juniors Evan Kassian (2 goals, 4 assists) and Ryan Moffitt (1 goal, 1 assist). The fourth line of senior JP Reagan (4 goals, 3 assists) and juniors Dalton Mullin (4 goals, 2 assists) and Zach Kozsan (1 goals, 3 assists) also made key all-around contributions.

The Raider blueline corps featured a solid mix of seniors and underclassmen. Senior Josh Blair (2 goals, 5 assists) was paired with standout sophomore Maddox Merry, who was the team’s leading scorer on defense with three goals and eight assists. Junior Devin Page, who assisted the overtime game-winner against Fairport in the state semifinals, had five goals and three assists working the blueline along side of senior Cameron Marsh (6 assists) while the duo of sophomore Nick Henrie (1 assist) and freshman Jon-Paul Chauvin (4 assists) showed its potential getting a regular shift throughout the season.

“Our defensive zone coverage really improved this year. I thought our defense played very well in the championship game against Ithaca. Most of the shots we gave up were from long range and we did a good job of clearing things out in front and not giving up any second chances,” Trimboli noted.

Paquin worked the majority of the game between the pipes for the Raiders this winter and finished with a 14-4-1 record in his 20 games. He posted a 2.00 goals against average for the season and a .890 save percentage.

“Connor didn’t always see a lot of action in some games this year but when called upon, he came up with the big saves we needed and that gave the rest of the team confidence knowing that he was back there to make up for any mistakes,” said Trimboli.

Other members of this year’s team included: junior netminder Jeffrey Bain and junior defenseman Jacob Vierno; sophomores Logan Brothers (goaltender), Turner Thomas (forward), Bobby Todd (defense), Patrick Lagrow (forward) and Bailey Hewlett (forward). Ken Hurlbut served as assistant coach while Tim Belile and Andrew Matthews were team managers.

“We got great leadership from our seniors this year. We should have quite a few players coming back and once things settle down, we’ll start preparing for next year,” said Trimboli.

“For now, we just want to enjoy the moment,” he concluded.

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