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Massena hockey team takes on McQuaid in state Division I semi-finals

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MASSENA - The Massena Central hockey team will look to apply a familiar formula to a new environment on Saturday in the semi-finals of the New York State Division I tournament.

“This is a new experience for everyone. It’s going to be a completely different atmosphere than what we’re use to but we have to try to treat this like any other game,” said coach Mike Trimboli as the Raiders get set to take on Section 5 champion McQuaid Jesuit at the Utica Aud.

“We’ve watched videos of them with the kids and we’ve been able to break some things down. The kids know what they’re going up against. We just want to see them doing what they’ve been doing all season. It’s all going to come down to execution,” he added.

The Raiders head to Utica at 15-6-1 and are ranked third in the lastest state sportswriters Division I poll. The earned their third trip to the state tournament in Trimboli’s four years at the coaching helm with a dramatic 3-2 overtime win over NAC regular season champion Potsdam in the Section 10 final. They followed that up with a hard-fought 3-1 state quarter-final round win at home over Monroe-Woodbury of Section 9 last Saturday night.

The senior core of captain Zach Robert, assistant captain Jordan Hart, Grayson Phillips, Anthony Cortese, Brantley Adams, Ian Wilson and Tyler Simms has provided outstanding leadership throughout the season but the Raiders have come to rely on a strong group of upperclassmen this winter.

Junior Tyler Young leads the team in scoring with 13 goals and 13 assists for 26 points followed by Robert with 22 points on six goals and 16 assists, Phillips (7-9-16), Cortese (8-8-16), freshman Patrick Manning (5-6-11), who netted the game-winning goal in overtime in the Section 10 final, sophomore Dalton Mullin (3-5-8) and Adams (3-5-8).

Hart, Brantley and Cortese anchor a blueline unit that has gotten outstanding efforts from junior Josh Blair, junior Cameron Marsh and freshman Maddox Merry while junior netminder Connor Paquin (1.30 goals against, .940 save percentage) has stood tall in his second season as the starting netminder.

“We had some key injuries on defense and we thought they would be a minus. We had to rely on some of the younger kids and they’ve really stepped up. It’s helped build their confidence and now with the older guys back, we’ve got more depth and more options on defense and that’s made us a better team,” noted Trimboli. “Our seniors and veterans have set a great example for the younger kids to follow all year.”

“Connor has made a steady progression in goal for us. He’s worked hard all year and he’s peaking at the right time. He probably had his best game of the year against Monroe Woodbury. He played a pivotal role for us in a game where a lot of other players made pivotal plays. All our guys have a job to do when they’re on the ice and for us to be successful, they all have to do their jobs well,” he added.

McQuaid (17-5-1) is ranked second in the state entering Satuday’s semi-final, which is slated to start at 5 p.m. They are led offensively by the trio of forward Michael Capicotto (21-15-36), blueliner Jared Tallo (11-13-24) and forward Michael Campbell (11-10-21). Defenseman Nate Pennington has also made an offensive impact with 19 points on 10 goals and nine assists.

Brian Kick has handled the majority of the workload between the pipes where he’s fashioned a 1.49 goals against average and .918 save percentage.

The Knights also have a local connection. Forward Brian Wade is the son of assistant coach Pat Wade and the grandson of Massena Sports Hall of Famer Brian Wade.

“They’re a fast, quick, efficient hockey team,” noted Trimboli. “Hopefully, we’ll keep working together as a team and when the puck drops on Saturday, we’ll be ready to play.”

The other Division I semi-final between top-ranked Section 6 champion Niagara Wheatfield (18-4-2) and fourth-ranked Section 2 champion Saratoga (19-3-1) at 2 p.m. The Division I championship game is slated for Sunday at 3:30 p.m.

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