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Stunning comeback over Potsdam lifts Massena to Section 10 Division I Hockey repeat

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POTSDAM - Two regular season losses to Massena didn’t keep the Potsdam Central hockey team from claiming sole possession of the NAC Division I regular season banner this winter but a stunning comeback win by the Raiders in the Section 10 Championship Game kept the Sandstoners from exacting post-season revenge on Sunday.

“We came out very strong in the first period but we had a major letdown in the second period. We let the game get away from us,” said coach Mike Trimboli after the Raiders rallied with to score a goal in the final minute of regulation then connected in the first minute of overtime to knock off the top-seeded Sandstoners 3-2 at Clarkson’s Cheel Arena.

“Give Potsdam credit. They’re a very good hockey team and they outplayed us most of the game but our guys showed a lot of heart. They never quit and they never stopped working,” he added. “It really is tough to beat a team three times.”

With the win, the Raiders successfully defended their sectional title and will now get set to host Section 9 champion Monroe-Woodbury this Saturday at 7 p.m. in the first round of the New York State tournament.

An evenly played first period saw the Raiders produce the only goal when sophomore Dylan Stone knocked home the rebound of a shot from the left point by junior Josh Blair for a power play tally at the 4:11 mark. Freshman Patrick Manning also drew an assist after passing the puck back to Blair.

The Sandstoners tied the game just 43 seconds into the second period with a transition goal that began with a clearing pass from behind the endline up the from junior Mason Bartell to classmate Trevor Keleher, who controlled the puck just outside the Potsdam zone then rushed it down the right wing before sliding a pass across the top of the slot to senior Robbie Scott who made no mistake depositing it into the back of the net.

The early goal set the tone for the rest of the period as Potsdam outshot the Raiders 12-6.

The Sandstoners continued to control the game to start the third and took advantage of a Raider penalty midway through the period to take the lead at the 8:20 mark when Scott backhanded a rebound from the left slot after a shot from the right wing by junior Josh Locey who had taken a short lead pass from Keleher.

But the Raiders began to generate some late chances and shortly after having pulled netminder junior Connor Paquin, senior Grayson Phillips controlled the puck at the top of the left face-off circle in the Potsdam zone and blistered a shot toward the upper glove side of Potsdam keeper Devon Crary, who got a piece of the puck before it fluttered over his left shoulder and came to rest just across the goal line before he reached back to cover it with just 23 seconds left, sending the game into overtime.

After the short intermission, the Raiders wasted little time completing their comeback in OT with Manning finishing off a centering pass from the right corner by sophomore Ryan Moffitt for the game-winner.

“The puck was in the corner and I kind of duffed on my first pass. I was lucky to get the puck over to Ryan on the other side then I just skated toward the net. I don’t know how I got so wide open. When I saw the puck go in, I just said to myself, ‘Did I just score the winning goal?’ It’s just a great feeling,” Manning recalled.

Paquin stood tall working the crease for 29 saves in the win as the Raiders improved to 14-6-2 on the season.

“Connor made a lot of big saves. We gave up the two goals but we didn’t give up the third one and that was key,” noted Trimboli.

Crary, a senior, finished with 19 saves for the Sandstoners, who went 15-7 on the season.

“I’ve been coaching 20 years. I’ve coached a lot of different sports. I’ve been coaching at the high school level and I’ve coached at the college level. This is the most disappointed I’ve ever been after a loss,” said Al Benda afterward. “Give credit to Massena. I thought we played really well and we had the better of the game but they hung in there.”

“This is one of the best teams that I’ve ever coached. They had great team chemistry. They were all very coachable and they all showed up ready to work hard every day in practice. It was great working with them and for that reason, this is the toughest loss I’ve ever had as a coach,” he concluded.




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