After an afternoon spent in traffic on the defensive end of the field, Garden City's Brian Fischer couldn't believe it when he actually wound up with an open lane against red-clad Niskayuna Thursday. Just seconds after Niskayuna tied the score early in the fourth quarter, Garden City's rugged Connor Horl cleanly won a faceoff and flipped the ball toward Fischer. That's when the Red Sea parted.
"Usually, the defense slides to me and I give it to the attack. But they never did. So I kept going," Fischer, a Harvard-bound junior defenseman, said. "It was an easy shot, a slam dunk. I've only had one other goal this season and it was on a pass in the crease. I never took it coast to coast before."
Fischer's shot - low and left - hit the back of the net with 8:58 remaining and was the winning goal in the Trojans' 5-4 victory over Niskayuna in a state Class B semifinal at Hofstra's Shuart Stadium.
The Trojans (18-3) will face Jamesville-DeWitt (21-0) in tomorrow's state Class B final at 11 a.m. at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium. Jamesville-DeWitt defeated Irondequoit, 9-5, Thursday.
For the second game in a row, it was the Trojans' defense that controlled the game. "We're always trying to play good on-ball defense," Garden City coach Steve Finnell said. "All four poles played well."
Fischer, fellow Harvard-bound junior Steve Jahelka, Bill Sweeney and J.P. Burnside were a roadblock all afternoon. Niskayuna managed only nine shots on goalie Alex Castronovo, who acknowledged, "In a game like this, all the weight is on your shoulders."
Garden City's offense wasn't shouldering much of the burden early, and trailed at halftime 2-1. But halfway through the third quarter,junior middie Tom Gordon scored twice in 47 seconds, both times on neat feeds from behind the net by sophomore Devin Dwyer. An unassisted goal by Matt Montgomery made it 4-2.
Niskayuna (17-5) tied it on unassisted goals by Mark Panneton and Matt Sexton before Fischer's dash to glory.
"We have no problem with [faceoff wings] Fischer or Jahelka taking the ball to the goal," Finnell said. "They've got the green light if no one picks them up. Obviously, no one came to Fish."
Fischer & Co. still had to play defense for 8:58. There was at least one scary moment. With 1:22 left, Sexton got open on the perimeter and fired a low rocket that Castronovo snared. Seconds later, the goalie got a bear hug and congratulations from the spirited Horl during a timeout.
"When he curled up to shoot, I read his stick head. It's a stop I've got to make," Castronovo said. "I had to come up big for my team."