The NY Stars Bantam AA traveled to Buffalo on March 16th-18th to play for the NY State Championship. Needing to come in first or second place to advance out of pool play, it was imperative that they notch a win in their initial contest. And that they did in a hard fought game as the team battled back from a 2 goal deficit to win against the Center State Stampede by a score of 5-4. Despite being down 2-1, the second game yielded another win against Cheektowaga by a score of 4-2. This was huge as the team clinched the top spot in their pool regardless of what they did in the last game. In a penalty filled affair(27 in all), the Stars were in control the whole game and closed out pool play with a 3-1 win against Plattsburgh.
After their successful run in the qualifying games, the team and coaches knew they would be facing a more formidable opponent in perennial favorites Massena/St. Lawrence. It was a dogfight with both teams each notching a goal on the power play with the difference being the opposition cashing in an even strength goal midway through the 2nd period for a 2-1 lead. It would stay that way thanks in part to goalie Michael Grima who stopped 38 shots and kept his team close until late in the 3rd period. That is when the Stars were awarded a power play and with their backs against the wall methodically worked it around the offensive zone with Matt Cardi as the quarterback on the blue line. He was able to draw the defender to him as he slid it over to Connor Harrison on the left side boards. Harrison proceeded to work it down low to Richard Montello where he deked a defender and placed a perfect pass in front on the waiting stick of Anthony Divita who one timed it between the goalie's legs to knot the score with 30 seconds left on the clock. With their opponent stunned, the Stars wanted to strike again before regulation time expired and continued buzzing which enabled them to draw another penalty with 20 seconds left in the period. It carried over to OT and they made Massena/St. Lawrence pay dearly for it as once again Cardi, Harrison and Montello worked the puck around meticulously but this time Montello(from his office down low) spotted defenseman Franco Caminitti sneaking in from the point where he again placed a perfect backdoor pass on his stick for a game ending goal that set off pandemonium from the Stars players and supporters. On to the Final!!
As with everything, it gets harder as you advance and the team knew they had a daunting task ahead of them as they prepared to face the Skaneateles Lakers who finished first in their pool. After falling behind 2-0 and finding it tough to sustain any prolonged offensive pressure, the lead was finally cut in half on a power play goal by Anthony Divita with a few minutes left in the 2nd period. However, Skaneateles quickly answered back with a power play score of their own 90 seconds later to enter the third period leading 3-1. Again the game stayed close thanks in part to Michael Grima who faced 41 shots in the match. The LIAHL champs battled hard to try and overcome the 2 goal deficit but to no avail as they were unable to tally again as the clock became their enemy leaving them as the state runner up. Special mentions to Defenseman Franco Caminitti who led the team with 5 goals and the trio of Anthony Divita, Richard Montello and Connor Harrison for racking up a combined 27 points(mostly as a unit) in the 5 games.
Alas, the clock may have run out on their quest for a state championship but the dream to do battle with the rest of the country lives on. Both teams(the champion and the runner up) will be representing NYS in Nationals also to be held in Buffalo on April 5th thru 8th. Congratulations to the players, parents and Coaches Matt Davie Jr, Brendan Tracy and Jeff Vanzant, on their magical journey to the state final. Good luck in Nationals!! To be continued.....