Niskayuna ripped several line drives toward the Colonie cage in the first quarter of Tuesday night’s Section II Class A semifinal game, yet none of them hit the mark.
“When we started giving Steve D’Amario the ball, the goals started to fall. Things started to happen,” coach Mike Vorgang said after Niskayuna earned its 11th title-game date in 15 years with a 14-4 triumph. “He’s our best player. He played like our best player.”
D’Amario made Ned Harkness Field his own personal playground, piling up seven goals and assisting on four more, all after a key defensive stand by the top-seeded Silver Warriors (20-0) early in the second period.
“I’ve been in this area for four years, and he’s the best attackman I’ve seen,” Colonie coach Mike Joyce said of the Massachusetts-bound D’Amario, the centerpiece of 4-0,
5-1 and 5-2 scoring runs over the last three quarters. “Even before this game, I thought that.”
D’Amario’s exploits propelled Niskayuna on to Friday’s championship game at 8 at RPI, where tournament upstart Shaker (6-14), the No. 10 seed, will supply the competition. The Blue Bison pulled of another stunner in the first semifinal, beating No. 3 seed Shenendehowa, 9-5.
“Getting back to the final is always a big goal for us. It’s something we talk about at the beginning of the year,” said D’Amario, who in two sectional games has produced 11 goals and five assists. “We’re excited to come back and play Friday.”
Ranked No. 18 on the STX/Inside Lacrosse poll, Niskayuna did just about everything well early in Tuesday’s semifinal except put the ball past Colonie netminder Matt Hamilton.
“I thought we were generating a lot of good shots, but I was not happy with the shot placement,” said Vorgang. “I kept telling the guys, ‘You’ve got to put the ball in the cage.’ ”
D’Amario did that, and then some, assisting on two goals by Will McPartlon and others by Dan McKinney and Mark Panneton. He also scored a rare man-down goal in the final frame as the lead ballooned to 10-3.
“We came out here a played tight. The same thing happened the last time. It happens to young teams,” D’Amario said in reference to Niskayuna’s 7-4 win over Colonie on May 8. “The young kids were looking to the older guys to step up, and I happened to be the guy tonight. In other games, it’s been other guys.”
Yet none of the Silver Warriors have had a performance this season quite like D’Amario’s.
“When you play in a big game, and this was a big game, you’re
going to ask your best player to do ordinary things extraordinarily well,” said Vorgang, who saw D’Amario connect on half of his 14 shots. “Steve did that.”
Colonie No. 4 seed, 15-5) got the only goal of the first quarter with 14.1 seconds left when D.J. O’Connell beat James Manchester. The Garnet Raiders had a great opportunity to add to their lead when Niskayuna faceoff man Mike Hall was called for an illegal stick, giving them a three-minute non-releasable man advantage to begin the second quarter.
Colonie only got one shot through the Niskayuna defense during that span, and Manchester made one of his eight saves to keep it a one-goal contest.
“Our defense went in there and busted it for three minutes,” said Vorgang. “With them [Colonie] not scoring, it was a huge momentum swing.”
“Huge, just huge,” D’Amario said of the defensive stand. “We’ve got guys out there like [Ryan] Alden, [Steve] Abba, [Paul] Sapia and Manchester who stop us in practice. They always come to play. We knew they could stop them.”
D’Amario got Niskayuna on the board with 8:32 left in the second quarter after taking a feed from McKinney, and after McKinney gave the Silver Warriors the lead at the 5:10 mark, D’Amario clicked for two more goals inside the final minute.
Brian Sleasman opened the third-quarter scoring for Colonie before D’Amario fired in a goal, assisted on three straight goals and then pumped in another to give the three-time defending Class A champs a 9-2 lead.
Niskayuna will be playing in its sixth straight final on Friday. Shaker played in a record nine straight
finals from 1989-1997.
bison win again
Shaker scored six unanswered goals spanning the second and third quarters to break away from a 1-1 tie, and eliminated Shenendehowa (No. 3 seed, 12-8) while advancing to its first title game since losing to Niskayuna in 2001. Shaker stunned No. 2 seed Guilderland in the quarter, 7-6 in overtime, and beat No. 7 Schenectady before that.
Sam Cuddeback scored four goals, Ryan Gifford had two goals and five assists, and Shaker netminder Ken O’Connor made several superb stops among his 15 saves.
“This is about senior leadership and determination by this team,” said Shaker coach Shawn Hennessy. “The seniors took it on their shoulders when we lost all those close games, and they’re the big reason we’ve turned it around.”
Shaker turned the semifinal in its direction in the second quarter when Cuddeback, Stefan Dabkowski, Luke Walsh and Parker Armsby scored unanswered goals. Gifford assisted on each of those goals, and his third-quarter tally, after one by Cuddeback, gave the Blue Bison a 7-1 advantage.
“Everyone was looking past us. Now we’re showing everyone who we really are,” said the SUNY-Oneonta-bound Gifford. “Hopefully, we can finish up this run were on on Friday.”
Shaker won its last Class A title in 2000, beating Guilderland.
NISKAYUNA 14, COLONIE 4
Colonie 1 0 1 2 — 4
Niskayuna 0 4 5 5 — 14
Colonie scoring: D.J. O’Connell 1-1, Brian Sleasman 1-0, John Charton 1-0, Garrett Dollard 0-1, Dan Sofia 1-0. Niskayuna scoring: Steve D’Amario 7-4, Dan McKinney 3-1, Will McPartlon 2-0, Mark Panneton 1-1, Seth Berggren 1-0.
Goalkeepers: Colonie, Matt Hamilton, 10 saves. Niskayuna, James Manchester, 8 saves; Stefan Sloma, 2 saves.
SHAKER 9, SHENENDEHOWA 5
Shaker 1 4 3 1 — 9
Shenendehowa 0 1 2 2 — 5
Shaker scoring: Ryan Gifford 2-5, Sam Cuddeback 4-0, Stefan Dabkowski 1-0, Luke Walsh 1-0, Parker Armsby 1-1, Christian Waycamp 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: John Olson 2-0, Anthony Zappone 1-0, Jesse Elliot 2-1, Kevin Bloss 0-1.
Goalkeepers: Shaker, Ken O’Connor, 15 saves. Shenendehowa, Rob Wardwell, 18 saves.
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