WARRIORS OUTDUEL RED RAIDERS 2-1-HIGH SCHOOL HOCKEY ACTION
Fulton’s Casey Holden (13) battles with Whitesboro’s Zach Gnatek (27) for a loose puck in the neutral zone.
On paper, tonight’s Division II high school hockey matchup between the Whitesboro Warriors and the Fulton Red Raiders didn’t look too appealing.
When Whitesboro skated to a (2-1) win over visiting Fulton it looked a pretty as a team picture.
At this point in the season, both clubs are all but out of the post season picture, with Whitesboro holding a slim chance at the 6th and final playoff spot, 5 points behind Clinton entering tonight’s action.
In fact, if the season were to end today, the only Utica-Rome area teams in Section III that would be included in the post season would be RFA in Division I and Clinton in Division II.
For the thirteen seniors (7 on Fulton and 6 for Whitesboro) who suited up for tonight’s game at the Whitestown Community Center, the game was way more than appealing, it was one of the last five games of their final hockey season.
For most, these final five games will be the last truly organized hockey they will play. Ever.
As is usually the case whenever there is a sense of urgency in athletics, the game, no matter the sport, is spirited. Such was exactly the case tonight in Whitestown.
Throw out the records, toss away the playoff prospects, the Warriors and the Raiders played a hockey game tonight that proved one thing; nobody wants their hockey season to end. Especially the seniors.
Whitesboro senior Zack Gnatek knocked home what would be the game winner with 5:53 to go in the third period to give the Warriors a hotly contested (2-1) victory.
The first period saw both clubs come out playing a very physical brand of hockey, so physical in fact that Whitesboro spent the majority of the opening stanza in the penalty box.
Despite playing one man down, the Warriors held a (1-0) advantage after one. The home team grabbed a (1-0) lead just 1:14 into period one when Corey Henderson rifled a slapper from the point past and screened Fulton goalie Brandon Ladd.
The Red Raiders tied the game at (1-1) while on a 5 on 3 power play with just :53 seconds to go in the first period, when senior Dylan Holden beat Whitesboro netminder Joe Tartaglia.
Whitesboro outshot Fulton (9-8) after one period of play.
The second period was scoreless, but no less physical, with each team taking three and killing three penalties. Fulton grabbed the lead in shots, (18-16), but the score remained (1-1) after two.
The third period saw the Warriors finally steer clear of the penalty box and as a result they were able to mount added pressure on the Fulton net.
Gnatek’s game winner came from some hard work in front of the Raiders goal. Corey Henderson picked up the assist for Whitesboro.
Fulton thought they had it tied with :13 seconds remaining and their goalie pulled for a sixth attacker, but the officials disallowed what appeared, to many, to be the tying tally.
Joe Tartaglia finished with (24) saves, while Brandon Ladd stopped (18) shots for Fulton.
With the win, Whitesboro improves to (3-9-1) in league play, and is just three points out of the final playoff spot following Clinton’s loss to Oswego,(5-3).
Fulton dropped to (1-11) with the loss, despite a tremendous effort on the ice.
Whitesboro will look for another win a week from tonight when they entertain Clinton in what is a must win game for Whitesboro.
Unfortunately, the Warriors will be without senior captain Dan Cecelia, who must serve a one game suspension for fighting this evening.
Hats off to both clubs, especially the seniors, for showing up to play and showing everyone in attendance, including this writer, how much this great game means to those who lace up the skates.
Someday you will look back and take pride in the effort you gave in games, just like this one, which wasn’t too appealing. On paper anyway.
Whitesboro 2 Fulton 1
1 2 3 Total
Fulton 1 0 0 1
Whitesboro 1 0 1 2