POUGHKEEPSIE, N.Y. -- The play started with the ball in the hands of Garden City's best player and one of the best attacks in the country, Justin Guterding. It was no surprise that coming out of a timeout, the Trojans would call on No. 1 to make something happen.
But what did happen seconds later was a surprise -- a very pleasant one for Garden City.
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"We called 'X-switch.' It was something we saw that we thought would work," Garden City coach Steve Finnell said of the formation his team was in on a play that started from the end line behind the net with 11 seconds left. "But it didn't work on the winning goal."
Guterding couldn't beat his man off the dodge and couldn't find either of his teammates open at the crease. So he fed Cody George, who also couldn't shake free of the defense. With the clock ticking down, George found Dale Stasco open in the high slot. Stasco, a junior middie who has been hot in the playoffs, fired a laser that hit the back of the net with two seconds left giving Garden City a 10-9 victory over Niskayuna Wednesday in a state Class B semifinal at Marist College.
"Dale is a great shooter and he let it go," Finnell said. "We just kept the ball moving on the play."
Stasco said he "wasn't nervous" when he scored his only goal of the game. "I was wide open. I was calling for the ball," he said. "I just aimed for the top of the goal."
The game-winner sends Garden City (17-3), the defending state champion, into the final against Jamesville-Dewitt on Saturday at St. John Fisher College in Pittsford, which is near Rochester.
"We're the team that couldn't, shouldn't, wouldn't be going back and we're going back. I'm fired up," Finnell said of Garden City's status as the nominal underdog against a team that had won all 21 of its contests and featured three Division I players on attack. One of them, Mike D'Amario, scored four goals; another, Luke Goldstock, had three goals and two assists.
But Garden City has its own D-I star, Guterding, who will attend prep school next year before attending Duke. He had two goals and four assists. Guterding set up all three of George's goals and took a pass from George before launching an overhand rocket that tied the game at 9 with 4:14 left. On that play, "X-switch worked," George said.
Everything worked early for the Trojans, as they shocked the Silver Warriors by taking a 5-0 lead after one quarter. But Niskayuna unleashed its vaunted attack to net seven of the next eight goals and grab a 7-6 lead with 7:52 left in the third.
At 9-9, something had to give. Niskayuna had not scored fewer than 10 goals in a game all season and Garden City hadn't allowed more than nine. One way or another, it was going to be a surprise ending.