One goal off the head of Nick Johnas was all Niskayuna needed to advance to the state class AA semifinals.
Johnas converted a pass from Ryan Trauss with 29:47 left in the first half to give the Silver Warriors a 1-0 victory over Section III champion Baldwinsville in Saturday's regional final at Colonie Central High School.
The senior headed Trauss' pass over Baldwinsville goaltender P.J. Goodwin and underneath the crossbar to put Niskayuna (14-4-2) on the scoreboard.
I wouldn't have been able to score without that cross, said Johnas. "Ryan Trauss had been hitting those all year, and I was lucky enough to put it in the back of the net. I think that gave us a big boost of confidence and set the tone for the match."
"I coached him (Johnas) as an under-14 player, and I said to him, 'Some day there's going to be a night in Colonie in November, and you're going to hit a game winning header for me to win the Sectionals,'" said Niskayuna coach Jeff Ormsbee. "We always joked about it. We just didn't know it was going to win the regionals."
Johnas' goal came after Baldwinsville (18-5-1) dominated the first 10 minutes. The Bees generated three quality scoring chances by putting pressure on Niskayuna's defenders and goalie Luke Citriniti.
"I thought we got off to a real good start, but I've got to give Niskayuna a lot of credit. They've got skill all over the park, they get behind the ball real nice and fill the gaps," Baldwinsville coach Tim Scheemaker said.
The Bees sustained offensive pressure the rest of the way as they tried desperately to get the equalizer. Baldwinsville senior Nate Bourdeau had one opportunity as he carried a pass up field from junior Kyle Rodger, but he was stopped by Niskayuna's defense as he tried to make a move to the inside.