Feb 28, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A lot of firsts were involved in the Cazenovia ice hockey team’s appearance against New Hartford in Sunday’s Section III Division II final at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
The Lakers were in a title game for the first time since 1992, and were trying to get first-ever championship. And when it went to overtime, it marked the first time since 2001 that any sectional final had gone beyond regulation.
Yet for all those historic possibilities, it ended in a familiar way – with the Spartans holding the championship banner for the second year in a row at the end of a 3-2 classic.
The decisive moment came just 2:25 into the extra period. Cazenovia had received a power play when Alex Fukes was called for tripping, but was unable to convert the game-winner, despite a handful of chances.
Just as the penalty ended, the puck came to Fukes as he skated out of the box. Moving in from the left side, Fukes crossed to the middle, then stuffed a shot past Cazenovia goaltender Mason Powell into the net to end the game.
It was the exact same way that New Hartford had scored the game’s first goal in the second period, Clayton Whittemore converting just after his penalty had ended.
The abrupt ending spoiled what had been a stirring effort by the Lakers against the defending state champions, who had routed Corcoran 9-0 in last year’s title game at the Syracuse War Memorial.
This would prove far closer – and was expected to be. Cazenovia had gone 1-0-1 in two regular-season games against New Hartford, out-shooting the Spartans by close to a 2-1 margin both times.
If there was any single difference, it was experience. New Hartford had been at this stage before, while Cazenovia, with just one senior on its roster, was new to it all.
The Spartans would get the majority of the chances in a 0-0 first period, then pull out in front in the second period with an explosive 75-second sequence.
Whittenmore ignited it with his goal straight out of the box at the 8:15 mark. Then, during a Cazenovia power play, the Spartans broke out two-on-one, Jason Fitzgerald handling the puck until finding Whittemore, who beat Powell again.
Down 2-0, Cazenovia would quickly answer, getting on the board when Joe Nardella scored from the point at the tail end of a two-man advantage, just 1:20 after Whittemore’s second tally.
Nardella wasn’t done, either. Just 1:15 into the second period, he got open on the left point and fluttered a shot just out of the grasp of New Hartford goalie Spencer Landry to tie the game, 2-2.
For the rest of regulation, both sides had abundant chances to pull ahead, but could not, leading to the final overtime drama.
Cazenovia finished with a 16-5-2 mark, good enough to give its head coach, Jon Davignon, league Coach of the Year honors. And with so much talent coming back in 2010-11, that long wait for a championship might soon end.