February 19, 2011
Corcoran takes sectional opener 3-1 —
Golden Eagles ousted early
A tendency that that cropped up from time to time this season ended up being very untimely for the Cortland-Homer hockey team Friday night in its Section 3 Division I quarterfinal contest with visiting Corcoran at the J.M. McDonald Sports Complex.
The fourth-seeded Golden Eagles led 1-0 after the first period, thanks in large part to the play of junior goaltender Cory Broyles, but it was the fifth-seeded Cougars that took the game over in the second en route to a 3-1 victory that sent coach Don Armstrong’s team packing with a final overall record of 9-9-1.
“You could see from the first shift in the second period that we weren’t ready to play,” Armstrong said, his squad 15-6 in the middle stanza and 16-2 in the third after having a 10-5 shot advantage in the first.
“We’ve shown that before, including our game against Cicero-North Syracuse,” he added, recalling a 3-2 overtime home loss on Jan. 25. “I don’t know what it is. There was a lack of intensity. We were fighting the puck all night long and there were defensive misplays that we haven’t been making.”
On the flip side, Cougars coach Matt Caron noted that “All three of our units played pretty well and stuck to our game plan. We came in with four straight losses, and everyone worked hard.
“I wasn’t worried about frustration setting in, because we’ve been through it,” he added after his team was stoned by Broyles’ goaltending in the first period and into the second. “Don does a nice job and their goalie played well. Plus, Cortland is a tough place to play. It’s frustrating any time you have to drive 35 miles south for a game.”
Caron smiled while making that last observation, a by-product of a victory that came with an untested goalie between the pipes.
“Our regular goalie, (senior) Gavin Gretsky, was injured in an off-ice accident, and (senior) Matt Fortin was a last-minute replacement,” Caron said. “I didn’t tell Matt that he was starting until we got here. He’s been with us four years, and I told him to just go out and have fun.
“He weathered the storm in the first period and the team rallied around him a little,” he added, Fortin with 14 saves over the opening period compared to eight over the final two stanzas.
“The defense picked it up,” said Fortin, who was making just his fifth start of the season. “They were fantastic, and helped out a lot. I just wanted to fill in the best I could, to be there for the team. We all knew that if we worked hard good things would happen.”
THE GOLDEN EAGLES’ relative lack of productivity in the first 15 minutes was another important factor in the final outcome, according to Armstrong. “We had 15 shots and one save,” he noted. “There were two or three excellent scoring chances, and as it turned out that was our best offense of the game, The fact that we didn’t score a second goal in the first period was big.”
C-H junior center Tim Walsh had the lone first-period goal, his eighth of the season, and it came just after the hosts had narrowly missed a three-on-one chance, the puck jumping just over the net. Junior left wing Aaron Zimmerman stayed with it, however, and passed to junior right wing Zack Daniels, who in turn found Walsh for a close-range shot, the only one that eluded Fortin all night.
Broyles, meanwhile, stopped all 10 Corcoran shots in the first, including a sprawling save and a point-blank block in a 30-second span shortly after Walsh’s tally. The visitors, still scoreless, broke out on a penalty kill in the second, Broyles first having to slide out to beat an oncoming Cougar to the puck seven minutes into the stanza and then making a nice glove save 30 seconds later.
Right after that, however, Corcoran senior forward Dilon Brown lashed a shot home from high in the slot with 7:02 left, the goal unassisted. The game remained deadlocked as Broyles stopped a point-blank shot by Cougars junior forward Steve Young with 1:51 left, but 23 seconds later Young came in alone, cut to his left and put a shot past Broyles for what ended up being the game-winner, senior defenseman Dan Standford with the assist.
Facing the one-goal deficit, Cortland-Homer was unable to mount much offense against a strong defensive effort by Corcoran, with just the two third-period shots. Broyles, meanwhile, kept his team within striking distance with 15 saves in the period, giving him a total of 38 in the game as the winners had a 41-23 shot advantage. Young, however, closed things out with 1:07 left, coming right down the middle and scoring his 19th goal of the season on a high shot off assists from junior forward Andrew Jackson and junior defenseman Mike Downs.
“I LET OFF MY stick a little on the first goal but gave it enough lift to score,” Young said. “I just came in on the second one and was able to put it by him. It felt good to score, and it picked everybody up. The defense had the best game I’ve seen them play, and Matt stepped it up in goal for us. It was one of his best games ever.”
As for Broyles, Armstrong noted that “The shots and goals allowed speak for themselves in terms of how Cory played. He played his heart out. He’s a great kid and works hard. He knows that he has to try to stop every shot that comes his way, and there’s no quit in him. Sometimes he makes a save and the coaches will just look at each other on the bench and shake our heads.”
Corcoran, now 11-7-2, advances to play top-seeded West Genesee, the defending Division I sectional and state champion, in the semifinals, the details to be determined. The Wildcats (17-2-2) advanced with a 7-0 blanking of No. 8 Baldwinsville Friday night. The other semifinal matches No. 2 Rome Free Academy (17-2-2), a 5-2 winner over seventh-seeded Solvay Friday, and third-seeded C-NS (13-7-1), which beat Hamilton 4-2. The Division I sectional championship game will take place a week from today in a 1 p.m. start at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
“We’re looking forward to going back there,” Caron said of his team’s facing West Genesee again. “They beat us 8-0 the first time, and we’re going to approach this next game the way we did tonight’s. We’ll go in and work hard. We have nothing to lose; the pressure’s on them to beat us.”
“This is a good group of kids, and they did pretty well,” Armstrong said in summing up Cortland-Homer’s season. “Some might say they exceeded expectations. It’s hard to hang your hat on now because of the disappointment, but this team earned the program’s first home playoff game in over a decade (since 2000, to be exact). It just didn’t happen tonight. It was a tough loss.”
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