NEW HARTFORD – Both Clinton and New Hartford came into Saturday’s rivalry game really needing a victory. Neither wanted a tie.
However, after the teams battled for 56 minutes, both squads will surely take away plenty of positives from Saturday’s 1-1 tie at New Hartford Recreation Center.
The Warriors (0-3-2, 3-3-2) played the majority of the game on their terms, controlling puck possession and outshooting their rivals 44-25. Meanwhile, the Spartans entered Saturday’s tilt on an eight-game losing streak and proved they can compete against good competition.
Clinton got a first-period goal from Aiden Walter, while New Hartford’s Logan Kraft knotted the game in the second period, before goaltenders Josh Trask (24 saves) and Juliano Macera (43 saves) stood strong in net the rest of the way.
Trask made nice glove saves on Tyler Penree, Kraft and New Hartford’s other playmakers throughout. On the other end, ‘Juice’ Macera made several highlight-reel saves to give his team every chance to remain in the game.
“It was a good effort by everyone,” Macera said. “They were out there blocking shots and I was doing whatever I could to keep the puck out of the net at all cost. I really was just trying to play my game. Lately I’ve been getting kind of frustrated with myself, so I was trying to keep my mindset and focus.”
Clinton struck first 9:23 into the first on a counterattack. Following a save by Trask, the Warriors quickly moved the puck into the Spartans’ zone and Nick Frank found Walter in front for the goal.
The Warriors had several chances to extend the lead, but Macera came up big to stop shots by T.J. Elsenbeck, Corbin Melie, Nolan Provost and Josh Doris. Macera also had the aid of some iron as Clinton rattled a handful of shots off the post. Doris found iron on one rebound attempt and moments later, Antonio Femia snapped one off the pipe with a minute left in the period.
“We hit too many posts,” Trask said. “It just wouldn’t go our way. Their goalie played amazing, but the bounces didn’t go our way.”
The Spartans had to feel energized coming out of the locker room down just a goal after being outshot 15-6 in the opening 17 minutes. Early in the second, New Hartford nearly tied it on the power play, but Trask stuck out the right pad to rob Kraft, who appeared to have the tying-goal.
Midway through the period, Kraft would get his goal. Aidan Joy started the play by taking the puck along the right boards back toward his blue line. Before reaching the blue line, Joy turned and found Kraft at the right side of the net. Kraft took the pass and quickly moved in front and backhanded a shot over Trask’s left pad and under his arm to knot the score 8:31 into the second.
“Whether we got down early or got up early, our mantra was we were going to work hard for 51 minutes,” New Hartford head coach Carson Cunningham said. “We played a little bit better offensively. We don’t have any pure goal scorers, so we’ve been working on getting the puck in deep and work from below the circles.”
The third period and overtime were each fast-paced and filled with plenty of great scoring chances by both teams.
Melie, a sophomore defense, skated coast-to-coast multiple times, but was turned away by Macera. Elsenbeck had another shot deflect off Macera’s glove and then rattle off the post, while Brenden Karuzas also had a nice chance stopped with 2:42 remaining.
The Spartans also had their share of offensive flurries as Will Gall, Joy, Penree and Will Hilton each had good scoring chances either stopped by Trask or just miss the net.
“(Defenders) moved their players away from me perfectly so I could see every single shot,” Trask said. “I just didn’t get that one. But we’ll start winning league games and should win more now. We are a good team.”
In overtime, the Warriors really dominated, outshooting the Spartans 9-1, but Macera sprawled to stop Elsenbeck on two occasions.
Clinton head coach Mike Tesak, a New Hartford grad and coached Macera in the past, wasn’t surprised by his performance.
“(Macera) is a very sound goaltender,” Tesak said. “He works hard and is athletic and he kept them in it. Any time you’re putting 44 shots on goal, that’s a lot of saves. (New Hartford) plays well here. They’re used to this (smaller rink). There are more individual battles and turnovers … I think it was just a little wrap-around (goal) that kind of got us, but it came down to us not being able to capitalize on the chances we had.”
The Spartans were backed deep into their zone for most of the overtime period, but did break out in the final seconds, but Penree’s shot flew over the crossbar and Clinton’s last-second counter ran out of time.
Macera liked the way the team competed throughout the entire game, which bodes well for making a late-season charge.
“This breaks us out of the funk and shows we can play with some good teams,” Macera said. “We’re going to build off that for our next game against West Genny.”
Cunningham knows there’s a tough road ahead for the Spartans (0-3-1, 1-8-1), but remains optimistic.
“We certainly dug ourselves a deep enough hole, but we have a lot of league games left,” Cunningham said. “After a couple of days off we’ll be ready to go. Our goal is to compete every game and turn those tough losses into some good wins.”
The Warriors are starting to play their best hockey of the season and look forward to the stretch run after the break.
“We play every team tough,” Tesak said. “We give everybody a game and that goes for Cortland-Homer and Skaneateles. We are in it to win every game. No one is going to out-work us. We want to out-shoot, out-work and out-play you and that’s our goal every game. I’m encouraged with our effort and we’re focused on who’s up next.”
Having Elsenbeck, a four-year player, returning from a thumb injury that kept him out of the past five games, can only help. The Warriors went just 1-3-1 in Elsenbeck’s absence, and the senior is excited to be back and hopes to help this young Clinton team peak in time to qualify for sectionals and possibly make a long postseason run.
“Me coming back is just another piece of the puzzle and hopefully we can start winning more,” Elsenbeck said. “We’re just a young team. We don’t have a lot of players who are used to scoring goals at this level, and once they figure out how to do that, we’ll be tough.”
Section 3, Division 2
Clinton 1, New Hartford 1 (OT)
Clinton (0-3-2, 3-3-2): Aiden Walter 1-0, Nick Frank 0-1. Josh Trask 24 saves.
New Hartford (0-3-1, 1-8-1): Logan Kraft 1-0, Aidan Joy 0-1. Juliano Macera 43 saves.