WILD ONE AT THE “WRECK” CENTER-BUCCANEERS ADVANCE WITH DOUBLE OT WIN
Welcome to the Wreck Center
Jeff Pexton-MHTS-PGI Photo
Not since the 2009-2010 hockey season has the New Hartford “Wreckreation” Center seen a high school hockey game with as many twists, turns, thrills and spills as there were in tonight’s Section III, Division II semi-final game between the second seeded Spartans and the third seeded Oswego Buccaneers.
Back in 2010, New Hartford won a double overtime State Regional thrill-fest over Webster Thomas en route to the Spartans second consecutive New York State Championship.
Tonight, after a couple of relatively tough seasons (by New Hartford standards) the Spartans overcame a two goal deficit in the third period to tie the game at 4-4, before falling to Oswego by a score of 5-4 in double overtime.
Buccaneers senior forward, David Walpole made a move for the ages to split the New Hartford defense just inside the Spartans zone, then broke in alone and beat Spartans goalie Mike Cuchiarele for the game winner with 1:29 remaining in the second overtime period, punching Oswego’s ticket to Saturday’s Section III championship game against Christian Brothers Academy.
CBA/JD, the fourth seed in Division II, gained entry in Saturday’s final with what has to be the upset of the year, a 5-1 win over the first seeded Lakers of Skaneateles on Tuesday.
For Oswego, the confines of the Utica Memorial Auditorium will bring back fond memories, as it was there that the Bucaneers hoisted the 2012 Section III championship banner.
The Spartans jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead this evening, when Christian Nimey, the “N” portion of the Spartans “M-N-M” line of Tom Mandel, Nimey and Cullen Moran, fired a shot past Oswego goaltender Chase Izyk to give New Hartford a 1-0 lead with 10:19 to go in the opening period. Garret Mahoney and Cullen Moran assisted on the Spartans opening tally.
Not to be out done, Oswego’s Jake Anderson finished off a scrum in front of the Spartans net by banging home a rebound off the pad of Cuchiarele, to knot this one up at 1-1, with 6:55 to go in the first period. Zach Zerrahn picked up the assist on Anderson’s goal.
With the score tied at 1-1, the M-N-M’s brought the big home crowd to its feet again when Chrsitian Nimey connected on his 12th goal of the season on a strong backhander that sailed past an outstretched Chase Izyk and into the back of the Buccaneers net, putting the Spartans back on top at 2-1, which is the way we’d go to the first intermission. The M’s, Tommy Mandel and Cullen Moran assisted on the Nimey’s second goal of the game.
At the intermission, Spartans head coach John Cunningham was kind enough to take time out to speak with My Hometown Sports – ESPN Radio 99.1 FM and the longtime New Hartford helmsman said that he was not at all surprised by the play of the youngsters on the M-N-M line, as the freshman and two sophomores have been coming up big in key situations all season long.
The two-time state champion head coach also was quick to point out that it was just time for his kids to play hockey and that any jitters his players might have been feeling should be long gone by now. It is important to note that out of 27 players on the roster, the Spartans played with just 4 seniors this season, as opposed to 23 underclassmen, 9 of which were freshman!
The second period saw the Buccaneers literally fly out of the dressing room, asserting themselves physically at both ends of the rink.
With New Hartford’s Mike Rich serving a penalty for high sticking, Brandon Tracz connected on a power play one timer that beat Cuchiarele and Oswego was suddenly even, with the Spartans at 2-2 with 11:25 to go in the middle frame.
Then less than one minute later, Oswego’s second period blitz continued when Travis Kearns took a pass from Zach Zerrahn and found the back of the Spartans net again, to put Oswego up 3-2 with 10:34 remaining in the second. Justin Clark was also credited with an assist on the Bucs third goal.
The goalies were the stars of the rest of the middle period, each making saves on point-blank shots on more than one occasion to keep the difference at one goal, which is the way we’d go to the third period.
At the second intermission, ESPN Radio 99.1 FM – My Hometown Sports joined Oswego head coach Andy Rozak on the Oswego bench and the coach said that he was very pleased with the play of his goaltender, the MVP of this year’s Oswego team and that he planned to emphasize getting more pucks on net in the third period when he addressed his team during the break.
Sean Mooney, the Buccaneers leading scorer this season, notched his 9th goal of the year, just :35 seconds into the third period, to give Oswego what seemed to be a huge two goal lead over New Hartford 4-2.
With his team trailing by two goals in the final period, Spartans senior captain Greyden Nimey had a night’s worth of hard work pay off when he dragged a Buccaneers defender all the way to the Oswego goal and beat Izyk with 10:39 remaining in the final frame. Nimey’s goal pulled New Hartford to within 4-3 and brought the “wreck” center to life with time slipping away.
The next nine or so minutes saw Izyk and Cuchiarele, both goalies were ranked in the top five in save percentage in Section III, Division II this season, trade saves on mostly quality shots on goal.
Then, with time winding down and Oswego just having killed off a penalty, Tommy Mandel tied the game with a gritty goal from between defenders in front of the Oswego goal to tie the game at 4-4 with just 1:01 to go in regulation.
The teams would skate through the first overtime period in a rather timid style compared to the intensity that we saw in the first 45 minutes of hockey.
Blame it on not wanting to make a mistake or simply exhaustion, but neither team was willing to take the chance that might backfire.
With 52:30 of hockey in the books and the score still tied at 4-4, the two teams hit the ice for a second sudden death period.
The Spartans played a man down for 1:30 in the second O.T. when Alex Vitagliano went to the sin bin for tripping, but Oswego was unable to capitalize.
Moments after the man advantage expired, Oswego’s David Walpole finally broke through, split the Spartans defenders with an incredible dangle and scored the game winning goal with 1:29 remaining in the second overtime to give the Buccaneers the 5-4 win in dramatic fashion.
Chase Izyk stopped 35 shots in the net for Oswego, while Mike Cuchiarele made 37 saves in-goal for New Hartford, which finished a great season at (11-7-2).
Oswego, meanwhile, improves to (14-5-3) on the season, will look to defend its Section III title against upstart CBA on Saturday at the Utica Aud.
Oswego 5 New Hartford 4 2-OT
1 2 3 OT OT Total
Oswego 1 2 1 0 1 5
New Hartford 2 0 2 0 0 4