MASSENA The Massena Central hockey team will be looking to avoid a repeat performance as it makes a return trip to the NYSPHSAA Division I championships at the Utica Auditorium this weekend.
Last year we had a young team. It was the first time being in that kind of atmosphere for everyone and we didnt wind up responding very well. We became undisciplined and we stopped playing our game, coach Mike Trimboli said, as the Raiders get set to take on top-ranked Section 5 champion Fairport in Saturdays semifinals at noon.
Having been there before, the players know better what to expect and whats expected of them. Were certainly hoping for a better outcome, he added.
The Raiders (17-5-2) are making their third straight appearance in the state tournament and are headed to the semifinals the second year in a row after breaking away to a 5-1 win on the road over Monroe Woodbury of Section 9 in the quarterfinal round last weekend. They enter the game as the third-ranked team in the latest New York State Sportswriters Association Division I poll.
Fairport (21-3) earned its first trip to Utica since 2007-08 by knocking off previously top-ranked Section 3 champion West Genesee, 1-0.
The other Division I semi-final between Section 1 champion Scarsdale (21-3) and Ithaca (11-9-1) of Section 4 is slated to face off at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Scarsdale, ranked second in the poll, heads into this weekend, after edging Section 2 champion Shenendehowa 4-3 in quarterfinals last weekend while Ithaca, ranked sixth, outlasted Section 6 champion Niagara Wheatfield, 4-3.
Massenas biggest assets this season have been depth and balance with four lines getting regular shifts at forward and three pairs of defensemen.
One of the things that helped McQuaid Jesuit against us last year was their depth and thats something we wanted to address for this year, Trimboli said.
The line of sophomores Patrick Manning (23 goals, 18 assists) and Jordan Robert (10-21) and freshman Wyatt Wilmshurst (10-6), and the trio of senior captain Tyler Young (17-13), junior Dylan Stone (7-10) and sophomore Ben Sprague (8-11) have accounted for the majority of the offense this winter.
Senior Ryan Thomas (9-12) has also made steady offensive contributions.
Senior Josh Blair and sophomore Maddox Merry, and the tandem of senior Cameron Marsh and junior Devin Page have handled the bulk of the workload on defense.
The Raiders have also gotten steady play between the pipes from third-year senior netminder Connor Paquin. He is 12-4-1 in 17 starts. He has posted a 2.12 goals against average and .890 save percentage.
Weve had a lot of internal support all year and the players really believe in each other, Trimboli said.
Senior Quinn Weidemer was Fairports leading scorer through the regular season with 18 goals and 21 assists, but classmate Cody Howatt, who generated 13 goals and 12 assists before the playoffs, led the Red Raiders in scoring through three Section 5 tournament wins with three goals and three assists.
Junior Alex Schoepfel, who tallied 12 goals and 17 assists during the regular season, is another leading offensive threat. Sophomore Ethan Kaiser has emerged as the starting goalie, recording all four postseason wins, including two shutouts.
The Division I championship game is slated for Sunday at 12:30 p.m.