New Hartford – With the top seed in the Division II National secured, the result wasn’t going to affect New Hartford’s standing, one way or the other. But when you’re surging into the final regular season game on a four game win streak, why let off the gas pedal?
Their opponent, Clinton, never made it easy, but the Spartans certainly kept moving forward Saturday. In a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams have a seemingly endless amount of answers for one another, with three lead changes, but in the end, it was the hosts who would pull it out, and head into the playoffs riding high on a five game win streak that has planted them firmly atop the division.
Alec Bard punched home his second of two goals on a rebound generated by Zach Cole with 12:30 to go, and the Spartans kept a tight lid on their own net the rest of the way as they prevailed, 5-4 over Clinton at the New Hartford Recreation center.
After letting up the early goal, Clinton netminder Brian Saunders settled in nicely, finishing with 15 saves on 16 shots in the period and robbing several Spartan chances. All the while, his offense picked up at the other end to get the Warriors a first period lead. Tyler Frank got on the board with 10:22 left, and Ian Schaff bolted one home, with Orlando getting the assist, with 4:11 to play to give the Warriors a 2-1 lead after one period, despite being outshot 16-11.
The Warriors kept rolling into the second period, as Davis Storey blasted his second goal of the season to push Clinton to a 3-1 advantage. The Spartans, facing a two goal deficit, came out fighting to close the period, scoring three goals in 1:12. Holmes scored on a backhander with 3:35 to go, Srassberger followed that with a power play rebound tally, and Mahoney fired in a tight wrister from the right side to give the Spartans a 4-3 lead.
Even still, the Warriors would have the last word in the second. 16 seconds later, John Conway pasted a cross crease feed to the twine behind New Hartford’s Tyler Hansen to knot the game at four apiece after two periods.
2 and a half minutes into the third, the Spartans notched the go-ahead, as Bard smacked in a rebound on a misplayed puck by Saunders to put New Hartford in front for good.
Top-Seeded New Hartford wraps up the regular season at 15-4-1, and will host Cortland Homer, the fourth seed in the American, Wednesday. Clinton, the three seed from the American Conference, finishes at 8-9-1, and will visit Auburn, the No. 2 seed out of the National, Thursday.
Clinton 2 – 2- 0 4
New Hartford 1 – 3- 1 5