Raiders’ Coach: ‘This Is Where We Wanted To Be’
This is it, everything that the Jamestown Raiders hockey team has worked for is on the line today.
“We win we go to the state championship final and we lose we go home,” said head coach Joe Gerace after his team picked up a 7-6 win over Wantagh-Seaford on Saturday night.
That win marked the third of the weekend for the Raiders in round-robin play of the Mixed Division at the AAU New York State Hockey Tournament hosted by Northwest Arena, and gives Jamestown the No. 1 seed in today’s semifinals.
That ranking means that the Raiders will now have a noon rematch with No. 4 Manhasset after posting a 2-1 win over the Indians on Friday afternoon. The winner of that game will meet the winner of Roy-Hart and Iroquois in the Mixed Division finals at 5:30 p.m.
After an evening of back-and-forth play on Saturday night, it was an empty-net goal by Cole Snyder that lifted the Raiders to victory over Wantagh-Seaford.
Needing a win in order to advance to today’s semifinals, the Baymen were forced to pull their goaltender in the final minutes of play, allowing Snyder to weave his way around a defender for the open finish.
The Raiders began the night in a 2-0 hole after Sean Nertney picked up two of his four goals on the evening in the opening period.
“It was a really good team. We played wide open,” said Gerace. “They had some really fast skaters, they kept stretching us and they were very successful getting behind our defense. We had to make adjustments, but they were a fast-breaking team. We tried to slow them down in the neutral zone, that was our game plan. We weren’t as successful as I had hoped for, but it was a back-and-forth exciting game to watch.”
The Raiders were able to respond to the slow start with a huge five-goal second period that included an opener by Jack Brinkley with an assist from Snyder before Jadon Barron was able to cash in on assists from Josh Spontaneo and Snyder to pull things back to even at 2-2.
The Baymen responded with another tally from Nertney in the second, but goals by Blade Ellis, Barron and Snyder gave the Raiders the lead at 5-3 entering the third, with assists coming from Brian Burns with a pair and one from Brinkley.
Wantagh-Seaford pulled within a goal after Kieran Baisley was able to finish off a wraparound on the power play, while Nertney was able to earn his fourth goal of the night on a short-handed breakaway that was finished high glove side on Jamestown goalie Tommy Chapman to pull things even at 5-5.
Responding to that goal was Snyder, who was able to walk into the zone, fire a shot on net and then dish his own rebound to Cade Poston to make it 6-5 Jamestown. Just two minutes after that tally at 4:09 remaining in the third Nicolas Esposita was able to finish off a loose puck near the crease to make it 6-6 before Snyder’s game winner.
“I’m very proud of this team and this is where we wanted to be. So tomorrow is do or die,” Gerace said.
RAIDERS 5, ROCKVILLE CENTER 1
It was early in the second period on Saturday morning and the Jamestown Raiders gave their fans — yes, there was a nice gathering at Northwest Arena for the 7 a.m. start — a little wake-up call.
First, Jacob Gerace deposited the puck into the back of the net at 13:26 to give Jamestown a 1-0 lead over Rockville Center. Barron and Spontaneo were credited with assists. Exactly 26 seconds later, Brinkley tallied an unassisted goal, followed less than a minute later by another lamplighter off a rebound by Will Steen, courtesy of helpers from Barron and Ben Bloomquist.
For those keeping score of Jamestown’s second Mixed School Division game in 15 hours, the offensive explosion transformed a 0-0 tie into a 3-0 lead in exactly 1 minute, 20 seconds.
Welcome to the Raiders’ world.
Using a delightfully entertaining system of dumping the puck in the offensive zone and then forechecking like heck, Jamestown dominated play in the final two periods on its way to a 5-1 victory in the round-robin portion of the tournament.
And given the number of scoring chances the Raiders had — Snyder hit a post and two crossbars in the second period alone — the final could have been even more one-sided.
It was that kind of game for the local teenagers.
“We started a little slow, looked a little sluggish,” Jamestown head coach Joe Gerace said. “Then we turned it on. We dominated the game. The score really wasn’t reflective of how much we controlled the puck today.”
For good measure, Brinkley scored on a rebound, assisted by Snyder and Cade Poston, at the 9:30 mark of the third period; and, seven minutes later, Poston tapped in another rebound on assists by Barron and Snyder.
“I think once we put the puck in the net, it just energized the team,” Gerace said. “They knew they could do it. It was just a matter of getting one by the goaltender and we just opened up.”
Fittingly, in the final minute, the puck never left the Rockville end of the ice as the Raiders continued to apply the offensive pressure that makes them so difficult to beat. And when the horn sounded to end the game, the team raced to greet goalie Chapman, who has allowed a goal in each of Jamestown’s first two games.
The Raiders went on to beat Wantagh-Seaford, 7-6, on Saturday evening, giving them a 3-0 record in the round-robin portion of the tournament.
“I’ve had the pleasure and honor of coaching a lot of young people,” said the 60-year-old Gerace. “This is among the best groups that I’ve coached (because) of how cohesive they are and how they support each other. I’ve had it at other levels, (but) this is really special. I love coaching the high school level. These guys really put it out for each other.
“We’re a team, we play as one and there’s no ‘I’ in team. That’s how the boys have treated the whole year.”