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Massena Central hockey team skates to sixth state Division I title


UTICA - Having already won the NAC regular season and Section 10 playoff championships, a close-knit Massena Central hockey team finished stitching a banner 2013-14 season by winning a sixth NYSPHSAA Division I title over the weekend.

“Our team was all about bonding this year. We’ve been a family throughout the entire season. That’s what got us here and that’s what got us a state championship,” said senior netminder Connor Paquin after backstopping the Raiders to a 4-1 win over Ithaca High of Section 4 on Sunday at the Utica Aud.

“I’ve been on the team for five years and to have things finish this way really means a lot,” he added. “I’ve always dreaded taking off my jersey for the last time but this makes up for it.”

With the win over the Little Red, the Raiders (19-5-1) took redemption one step further after having suffered a lopsided loss in the semifinals of last winter’s state tournament.

“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,” said senior captain Tyler Young after the Raiders rallied from an early deficit for the second time in as many days over the weekend.

Young, who was later announced as the 2013-14 NYSPHSAA Division I Hockey Player of the Year and was named to the All-Tournament Team, 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 as the Raiders notched their first state title since 2008 but turning back a Little Red squad that was also looking to come away from Utica with a sixth Division I championship. Paquin, who only allowed three goals in three state tournament games and turned aside 16 of the shots he faced in the championship game, earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team along with junior defenseman Devin Page.

“We got off to a nice start but Massena wore us down today,” said Ithaca coach Paul Zarach after his squad finished the year at 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.”

The Little Red, who earn an automatic bid to the state tournament as the lone Division I program in Section 4, were looking for their first title since 2007 after advancing to Sunday’s final by outscoring Section 1 champion Scarsdale in the semifinals on Saturday. They got the early jump on the Raiders when senior Nate Walker finished off a play set up by Scott Partington and Charlie Estill just 5:02 into the game and Ithaca was able to take the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

“We gave up the goal but the mood was still pretty loose in the lockerroom after the first period. We’ve given up the first goal a few times in the playoffs. But we’ve stressed all season that games aren’t over after the first period,” said Massena coach Mike Trimboli, who was later named the state Division I Coach of the Year. “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.”

“This team has been a family all year. They supported each other in good times and in bad. They committed to playing as a team. They committed to the the process and they all accepted their roles,” he added. “This team really did deserve everything they’ve accomplished this year.”

The Raiders broke through for their first goal by taking quick advantage of the first penalty of the game. An Ithaca player was whistled for hooking 17 seconds into the middle frame. Massena gained immediate control of the puck on the ensuing face-off and eventually worked it to senior Ryan Thomas at the top of the left face-off circle. Thomas sent a low shot toward to goal. With Manning parked just ouside the crease, netminder Brandon Kasel (26 saves) managed to make the initial stop and then another on the first rebound try but was unable to stop a second attempt by Manning, who reached out and stuffed a backhander around the left leg pad of the Ithaca keeper just 17 seconds into the power play.

Young, who slid a pass across to Thomas, drew his first assist on the equalizer then set up the eventual game-winner by junior linemate Dylan Stone after 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 back of the net with 7:07 left in the second period.

“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,” said Stone. “It hasn’t really sunk it yet that that was the game-winner. I just know it was one hell of an effort by our whole team.”

The Raiders took the 2-1 lead into the third period where Manning helped seal the win when he one-timed a pass from behind the goalline by freshman linemate Wyatt Wilmshurst into the back of the net with 4:13 remaining. Sophomore Jordan Robert also drew an assist on the insurance goal.

“We were feeling pretty good being down just one goal going into the third period. We were one good bounce away from tying the game but their third goal was the real back-breaker,” said coach Zarach. “Our kids didn’t quit but Massena really didn’t let us get back into the game. They were as good a team as we faced all year.”

The Raiders were able to breathe their final sigh of relief when Thomas put the game out of reach with an empty-net goal set up by Manning and Evan Kassian with 49 seconds remaining.

“This has definitely been very emotional for all of us,” Trimboli noted. “And, I can’t say enough about our fans. Their great show of support down here really made a difference.”

Other seniors closing out their careers as state champions on Sunday included defensemen Josh Blair and CameronMarsh along with forward JP Reagan. Juniors contributing toward the team’s success also included; forwards Ben Sprague, Evan Kassian, Bailey Hewlett, Zach Kozsan, Ryan Moffitt and Dalton Mullin along with goaltender Jeffrey Bain. Also aiding the Massena effort as sophomores were; defensemen Maddox Merry, Nicholas Henrie and Bobby Todd, forwards Turner Thomas and Patrick Lagrow, and netminder Logan Brothers. Ken Hurlbut served as assistant coach. Tim Belile and Phillip Sharpe were team managers.

POST-GAME NOTES: Young was joined on the All-State First Team by Manning. Salmon River defensmen Tye Terrance earned a spot on the Second Team and Paquin gained Honorable Mention status.....Section 5 champions Webster-Schroeder, which outlasted Norwood-Norfolk 6-5 in the first round of the state tournament, beat Section 7 champion Beekmantown in the Division II final on Sunday for its first state championship.....Norwood-Norfolk junior Zeb Brown and St. Lawrence Central junior Lukas Arquiett were both named to the Division II All-State First Team as forwards. OFA netminder David Prudhomme earned a spot on the Second Team along with freshman forward Kaden Pickering of Norwood-Norfolk. N-N junior defensman Brandin Cousineau and SLC junior forward Kody Kocsis garnered Honorable Mention status......Former Franklin Academy standout Jay Quenville was inducted to the New York State High School Hockey Coaches Association Hall of Fame along with the 1997 Canton Central Division I state championship team.

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