For the first time in five years, the Shenendehowa hockey team was on the brink of losing a Sectional game.
The No. 1 seeded Plainsmen needed a Steve Caruso goal with less than five minutes left to defeat No. 5 Guilderland 5-4 in Saturday's Division I semifinal at Union College.
It's a relief without a doubt, said Shen coach Juan de la Rocha. "I don't know what to say " it's just a prime example of how Sectional games are like nothing else. I think they're tougher than the state playoffs because teams play with so much emotion, and that's what Guilderland had tonight."
It appeared that the Dutchmen took a 5-4 lead with 6:58 left in the third period when a shot through a swarm of players beat Shen goalie Greg Hitchko. The goal was taken away after the Shen bench questioned the call. The referees conferred and decided that it was tipped in with a high stick, negating the goal.
"There's no way a bench should influence a referee's call," said Guilderland coach John DeRubertis. "He (the referee) shouldn't be entertaining complaints from the (Shen) bench as far as I'm concerned, and those complaints warranted a discussion with the other ref. That's nonsense."
Caruso, who finished with four goals, netted the game winner two minutes later when he converted a pass from A.J. Mangino, who was behind the Guilderland net.
"This was by no means a one man show. My linemates, Adam (Hitchko) and A.J. (Mangino), played excellent. It was a lot of me being at the right place at the right time," Caruso said.
"He's got so much heart and never gives up" said de la Rocha. "He's a senior, and he epitomizes what a Shen hockey player should be in the way that he's playing right now. He carried this team on his back tonight without a doubt, and I would have liked to have him out there every shift for the entire game."