Feb 07, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
An entire season of build-up, augmented by a further delay caused by weather, added to the buzz that surrounded Wednesday night’s ice hockey showdown at Kennedy Arena between Cicero-North Syracuse and Rome Free Academy, the state’s top two-ranked Division I teams.
And a whole lot happened – except somebody actually winning the game.
The Northstars and Black Knights ended in a 2-2 tie, which was not the result C-NS wanted. In fact, the tie has now made its path to a first-ever Section III title much more difficult.
All of those concerns were in the future, though, as a large crowd jammed into RFA’s home rink, and much of it had nothing to do with the fact that it was Senior Night.
C-NS arrived in Rome sporting that top ranking and an 18-game win streak. Yet it carried one important blemish – a 3-1 loss to RFA way back on Nov. 30, in the season opener at the Twin Rinks.
Despite rising to no. 1 in the state polls, the Northstars found itself with the same amount of points (24) as the no. 2-ranked Black Knights in Division I East. This meant that, in order to finish first, C-NS had to win the rematch with RFA, a game that got pushed back from its original Feb. 1 date due to a winter snowstorm.
It would go back and forth all night. C-NS needed just 3:45 to move in front 1-0 as Danny Rush, from an odd angle on the left side, lofted a shot past the shoulder of RFA goalie Andrew Ross into the top right corner of the net.
Barely three minutes later, it was 1-1, the Black Knights pulling even when Drew DeBlasis executed a perfect wraparound shot that Northstars netminder Alex Johnston could not stop.
Twice in the latter stages of the period, C-NS had breakaways and point-blank shots, only to have Luke Keyes and Nick Schneid miss those chances.
Given a reprieve, RFA went out and dominated most of the second period, seizing a 2-1 lead at the 9:45 mark when Mike Seifert pounced upon the rebound of Keegan Richie’s shot and put it home before Johnston could react.
Not only were the Black Knights controlling the puck, it was doing a terrific defensive job on C-NS’s main line of Eric Hamilton, Jesse Farabee and Matt Fiume, as the trio rarely got any real looks during the first two periods.
Trailing, and getting outworked, C-NS roared out of the gate in the third period, forcing a power play and tying it again when Connor Doren, off crisp passes from Schneid and Keyes, converted with 12:51 left in regulation.
A lot of time remained, and as the third period wore on the Northstars continued to apply pressure. Twice in the last four minutes, Farabee found himself open on the right side for a go-ahead shot, only to have Ross gobble up the puck with glove saves both times.
So the game went to five minutes of overtime. Now it was RFA applying heavy pressure, but one loose slid across the crease untouched with Johnston out of position, and Hamilton made an impressive block of another hard slap shot.
Farabee got one more chance before the horn, but again Ross stopped it, his 22nd save. Johnston finished with 20 saves.
That tie means that C-NS goes in as Division II East’s no. 2 seed. If the Northstars win its opening-round home playoff game against Syracuse Friday night at 8:45, it would likely have to travel to Shove Park to face four-time defending champion West Genesee (who will face Watertown IHC in its first-round game) in the semifinals. The title game is Feb. 23 at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
A bizarre turn of events created the match-up with the Cougars. Syracuse originally had finished fourth in Division I West, but moved up a spot (as did Baldwinsville) when second-place Fayetteville-Manlius was disqualified from the sectional tournament for having played one too many games, 21 instead of the maximum 20. Cortland-Homer took F-M’s place in the field and now meets RFA in the opening round.