Published Nov 26, 2018 at 4:00pm
STEVE JONES Staff writer
The Rome Free Academy Black Knights won the Bobby T. Ciccotti hockey tournament at Kennedy Arena Saturday night by beating New Hartford 2-1.
Sophomore goalie Isaiah Nebush backstopped the team to both victories, including a 4-2 win over Whitesboro Friday night.
The tournament Most Valuable Player was Danny Mecca, a senior defenseman for RFA. Sophomore forward Logan Dorfman netted the game winner each each RFA win.
RFA had numerous close calls that kept the game close and both teams failed to convert any power plays, with RFA going 0-for-4 and New Hartford 0-for-3.
After a first period where RFA players rung several shots off the post and missed shots on multiple breakaway opportunities, it was senior forward Aaron Simons who finally got the team on the scoreboard. With 32 seconds left in the first period, a shot from the point caromed off the back boards and trickled back toward the goal. Spartan goalie Juliano Macera sprawled out to grab the puck but it bounced around and sat on the goal line as players scrambled for control of it. Simons managed to jam it over the line for the game’s first tally. Senior defenseman Michael Bostwick earned an assist.
New Hartford would knot the score at 1-1 with a goal with 6:28 left in the second period. Jack Darby scored on assists from Logan Kraft and Aidan Joy. The Spartans broke out after a defender cut down Mecca at the point, and though Nebush stopped the first shot, the rebound shot got past him.
RFA answered 58 seconds later to take the lead they would hold the rest of the night. Senior forward Kyle Clark forced a turnover then carried the puck into the Spartans’ zone, then dished it off to Dorfman, who shot low and had the puck bounce off a defender’s stick and past Macera, who was moving in the wrong direction after the ricochet.
In the third period, RFA again failed to convert two more breakaway chances, but the defense had clamped down and Nebush stopped all four shots he faced. The Knights shut down the only power play opportunity they allowed that period and the final was 2-1.
“It’s a good step in the right direction,” said RFA coach Jason Nowicki, who has been at the helm for the last five of the six Ciccotti Tournaments, winning his first. “We knew right from the get go that we didn’t have our best stuff,” he said, but, as he told the team during the intermissions: “Great teams find a way to get it done when you don’t have your best.” New Hartford, he said, “threw everything they had at us.”
Nowicki said there are things the team will look to improve on even as it starts 2-0. “We got a little bit away from our systems,” he said. He noted that he was pleased with the performance of the third line, which played more minutes Saturday than Friday and “played tough.” He said the use of four defensemen is a work in progress and that he’d like to see one more defender step up and earn playing time.
“Again, he was really tough tonight,” Nowicki said of Nebush in goal. “His athleticism and determination to keep it out of the net is his strength.”
“We played hard,” said Dorfman of the win. “We didn’t want New Hartford to win.” He said he likes the team’s style this season, his second on varsity. “It’s a lot more speed and more physical.” He said the team is just starting to gel, and that his line is having success running plays and using their speed.
The team will now start its league schedule, and there are no breaks. The team will hit the road and play defending Section III Division I champion Syracuse at 7 p.m. Tuesday. The game, Nowicki said, will be “a really good challenge early to see where we’re at.”
Mecca was the tournament MVP, and Nebush and Dorfman were named to the all-tournament team with him. Also named to the team were New Hartford forwards Kraft and Matt Nerber, as well as Whitesboro forward Andy Hadasz and Mohawk Valley goalie Dylan Lasalle.
Whitesboro beat Mohawk Valley 12-0 in the consolation game Saturday.