GLENS FALLS — Austin Gordon just wanted to get his hands on the Stick.
While the rest of the Spartans celebrated his shootout-winning goal at the other end of the ice, the Queensbury forward sprinted to the officials’ box, where the Stick was waiting.
Queensbury hadn’t held the Stick in four years and Gordon didn’t want to wait for a ceremony to award it.
“I got butterflies,” Gordon said. “It was a little redemption because I missed twice in the game before on breakaways. I was overwhelmed. I wanted to cry; I wanted to smile. I just wanted to get the stick in my hands.”
Officially, Wednesday’s game was a regular league matchup against Tri-Falls that ended in a 5-5 tie after the scoreless overtime. But emotionally, that’s not what matters. The shootout decided the Stick and that’s what this game was about.
“The problem with this game is we tied the game, we got a point, but you don’t feel like you tied the game,” Rivermen coach Mike DiFiore said. “I’m going to use that as a motivator.”
High school games end in ties. There’s no need for a shootout. With a trophy on the line, they played one. Neither coach really had a game plan, since they don’t usually play shootouts.
DiFiore went with his veteran players. Queensbury coach Dean Williams picked his top scorers, but he didn’t know who he would have gone with fifth had the shootout gone the whole way.
Neither team truly practices shootouts either. DiFiore likes it to mix things up every once in a while. Williams sometimes throws in a breakout drill and the Spartans fool around with the backup goalie for fun.
The Stick Game has come down to a shootout three times. In 2004, the game ended in a 2-2 tie and they didn’t know what to do. Queensbury retained possession of the Stick just because it already had it. The next year, it came up again and the first shootout was played (a 2-1 Glens Falls win). Queensbury won the shootout 3-2 in 2010.
Tri-Falls was 7.9 seconds away from the win. Tyler Vogel scored a power-play goal to force overtime.
“I did not think I’d be the one to score,” the Queensbury defenseman said. “They lost me in the confusion. I just hit the puck and hoped for the best.”
Vogel didn’t even see the puck go in, but he saw his teammates celebrate and knew it must have.
The Rivermen led 5-2 to start the third period. Williams called the Spartans out during the second intermission, as a team and as individuals, he said some of what he told them isn’t fit for print.
“We got too wrapped up in all the emotion,” he said. “But we came up and right off the bat, we started playing hockey.”
Queensbury scored 44 seconds into the third and then pulled within a single goal on a power play midway through the period. They forced Tri-Falls to take penalties. The Spartans dominated the first four minutes of overtime and then had to kill a penalty of their own in the final minute, but they managed it.
These teams are guaranteed to meet in the sectional final on Feb. 28 as the only Division II teams in Section II. Right now, Queensbury has the momentum.
“Hopefully this teaches us a lesson,” DiFiore said. “(Queensbury) was excited. They haven’t had the stick in four years and they won it on a shootout, so it certainly does that (gives them momentum). But you can’t dwell on that, because there are still games to be played.”
The Stick Game
Queensbury 2 0 3 0 — 5
Tri-Falls 3 2 0 0 — 5
Queensbury wins Stick in shootout
First period: 1, Queensbury, Gabe Smith, 1:31. 2, Tri-Falls, Jared Thomas, 2:30. 3, Tri-Falls, Andrew Rizzo (Jordan Willis, Jared Thomas), 3:21, pp. 4, Tri-Falls, Jordan Willis (Jared Thomas), 7:26. 5, Queensbury, Gabe Smith, 13:59.
Second period: 6, Tri-Falls, Andrew Rizzo (Jordan Willis), 7:31, pp. 7, Tri-Falls, Jordan Willis (Noah Benson), 7:53.
Third period: 8, Queensbury, Ryan Mosher (Jack Merkosky), 0:44. 9, Queensbury, Patrick Williams, 7:34, pp. 10, Queensbury, Tyler Vogel, 14:52.
Overtime: No scoring.
Shootout: Queensbury (Ryan Mosher G, Jack Merkosky G, Gabe Smith G, Austin Gordon G). Tri-Falls (Andrew Rizzo G, Jordan Willis NG, Drew Nizolek NG).
Goalie-saves: Owen Smith (Q), 31. Brendan Meehan (Falls), 39.
Records: Queensbury 1-6-3. Tri-Falls 4-4-1.