STEP ONE COMPLETE-RFA TOPS CORTLAND-HOMER 4-1
RFA’s Michael Jensen (10) follows through perfectly on a first period slapper.
After RFA’s 4-1 Section III, Division I playoff win over Cortland – Homer tonight, Black Knights goaltender Andrew Ross made it perfectly clear, “We are not taking anything for granted, we are taking this one step at a time, we want to win it all and to do so we have to win one game at a time.”
Ross’ words, as well as his goaltending skills rang true loud clear tonight as the #1 seeded Black Knights broke open a one goal game with two goals in the third period to dispatch the Cortland Homer Eagles by a score of 4-1 to advance to the semi-final game against Baldwinsville, next Wednesday right back home at John F Kennedy Arena in Rome.
Tonight’s game couldn’t have started any worse for Cortland-Homer, or any better for Rome Free Academy. Just 10 seconds into the contest RFA’s Mike Seifert put a shot on the Cortland net, which deflected off a skate in front of Cortland-Homer goaltender Ryan Gabriel and right into the back of the net to give the home club a very quick 1-0 lead.
Ten seconds, one shot, one goal. Things looked pretty grim for Cortland-Homer, the Western Division’s 4th seeded team, before the team bus even had a chance to cool off.
Rome continued a relentless offensive attack for the remainder of the first period, doing an especially good job of forechecking, which kept the puck in the Cortland-Homer end for most of the first 15 minutes of the contest.
Eagles goaltender Ryan Gabriel, just a freshman, proceeded to put on a clinic between the pipes for the remainder of the opening frame.
The small in stature – big in net minding ability goalie stopped the next 15 RFA shots he faced to keep his team within striking distance at 1-0 as the teams went to the locker room .
At the first intermission, RFA head coach Greg Cuthbertson joined My Hometown Sports – ESPN Radio 99.1 FM and said that he was very pleased with his team’s effort in the first period and it was obvious that his Knights were going to have their work cut out for them given the way Eagles goalie Gabriel played in the first period.
The second period started out the same way the first period came to a close, as Cortland-Homer had a very difficult time breaking the RFA pressure.
In fact, within an eight minute span of the middle frame, Rome’s “baby boomer” line of JT Entelisano, Cameron Mecca and Jeremy Bereza, all of whom are freshman, blitzed the Eagles net and created multiple scoring chances from point-blank range.
Entelisano was on top of his game tonight dishing out a team high three assists to aid the Black Knights cause.
Ryan Gabriel stayed hot however, and Cortland-Homer was still down just one goal midway through the second.
Then, with 5:55 to go in the second stanza, Joey Rutkowski finally beat Gabriel to give the Black Knights at 2-0 lead, sending the huge home crowd into a frenzy.
Well maybe not a frenzy, but definitely a big collective roar.
Just 1:39 later, Cortland Homer got on the board when Alex West put one past RFA goalie Andrew Ross to pull the Eagles to within 2-1, which is the way we would head to the second intermission.
Cortland-Homer head coach Don Armstrong took time out to chat with My Hometown Sports – ESPN Radio 99.1 FM during the second intermission and said “What more can you ask for our kids are playing their hearts out, our goalie (Ryan Gabriel) is having a heck of game and to be down 2-1 to this RFA team in their building in the playoffs is something else, we are going to keep doing what we’re doing.”
Coach Armstrong’s words couldn’t have been more meaningful, given the fact that his Cortland-Homer team was a last-minute entrant into the Sectionals when the Western Division’s original #2 seed, Fayetteville-Manlius, was disqualified from post season play because the Hornets were found top have played 21 regular season games instead of the 20 game maximum.
So, playing with house money, so to speak, the Eagles hit the ice for the third period, sticking like velcro to the #1 seeded Knights, in a rink far away from home, with a freshman goaltender who stopped 26 of the first 27 shots he was faced with.
The first six minutes of the third period saw both teams trade offensive blows and RFA’s Andrew Ross reminded everyone in attendance that he came to play as well, kicking aside five Cortland-Homer shots in that time frame.
Then with 9:02 remaining in the game, the Eagles suffered a blow that would take the collective wind from beneath their wings.
RFA’s Nick Mecca collided with goalie Ryan Gabriel causing an apparent head injury to the young goaltender and forcing him out of the game.
Eagles goalie Tyler Wallace, just a sophomore himself, came off the bench and directly into the pressure cooker.
To make matters worse for the visitors, just :32 seconds into Wallace’s journey into the game, RFA went on a power play after Alex Wallace went to the sin bin for tripping.
With 8:05 to go in the game, Mike Seifert connected on a wrist shot to give RFA a 3-1 lead and breathing a huge sigh of relief into the Black Knights faithful.
Joey Rutkowski iced it with another Black Knights goal with 5:52 remaining and that’s the way this one would end.
RFA goaltender Andrew Ross stopped 15 of 16 shots he faced this evening, earning himself Monster Energy Drink Player of the Game honors.
Before being injured, Ryan Gabriel stopped 29 of the 32 shots he faced. Cortland-Homer finished the season at (6-13-2).
With the win, RFA, the State’s #1 ranked team along with with Cicero-North Syracuse, improves to (18-2-1) and will next host Baldwinsville, an 8-2 winner over Central Square, on Tuesday.
RFA 4 Cortland Homer 1
1 2 3 Total
Cortland-Homer 0 1 0 1
RFA 1 1 2 4
MHTS Scoring Summary:
Alex West-1 goal
Rome Free Academy:
Mike Seifert 2 goals
Joey Rutkowski-2 goals
JT Entelisano-3 assists
Keegan Richie-1 assist
Justin Hussey-1 assist