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Manhasset brings home first state hockey championship

The Manhasset boys hockey team poses after winning

The Manhasset boys hockey team poses after winning the state title (Credit: Paul Becker)

It was a goal Matthew Cecchini will never forget -- ever.

After all, it put Manhasset in position to win its first state hockey title in the Mixed Open/Division.

“I was able to get a shot on net from the top of the circle, and to see it go in was an amazing feeling,'' said Cecchini, who scored 30 seconds into overtime to give the Indians  a 7-6 state semifinal victory over Jamestown in a game in which they had trailed 6-2 early  in the third period.  ''That goal was one of the most exciting moments I’ve had in my hockey career.”

Manhasset then captured its first state championship by defeating defending county champion Lynbrook-East Rockaway, 6-3, earlier this month at IceWorks in Syosset.

Kevin Smith, who is in his ninth season as the Indians' coach, called the state semifinal victory the turning point.

“The way they played after making it 6-4, I felt we were going to come back and win that game,” Smith said. “Losing this tournament wasn’t an option at that point. That’s how motivated they were playing. These kids wanted this championship.”

“Without Michael [Brzozowski], I don’t think it could have been done at all,” Cecchini said of his linemate, who had 25 goals and 22 assists to Cecchini's 19 goals and 26 assists as Manhasset (15-6-2) placed third in the regular-season standings.

“We dug deep the entire season and we did that in that game,” Cecchini said. “Sometimes, in moments like this, teammates turn on each other, but we came together more.”

Manhasset defeated City Honors/Cardinal O’Hara and Olean in the earlier rounds en route to the state title. In the state championship game, the Indians avenged their 7-1 loss to Lynbrook-East Rockaway in the county tournament semifinals.

Cecchini credited the resiliency of sophomore goalie Lance Tennenbaum for keeping the team’s cohesiveness intact. The Indians went 4-1 in the state tourney, their only defeat coming to Jamestown.

“We couldn’t have done it without him,'' Cecchini said of Tennenbaum. “Just the saves that he made, I don’t think any other goalie could make those saves with that amount of pressure on them. He played amazing.”