BY KEN SCHOTT
SCHENECTADY — LaSalle’s Kevin Mainello will never score an easier goal than he did Tuesday night against Shenendehowa.
And it will be one he will remember for the rest of his life.
Mainello put the rebound of a Logan DiScanio shot into an open net 23 seconds into the second sudden-death overtime, lifting LaSalle to a thrilling 6-5 victory over Shenendehowa in the Section II Division 1 championship game Tuesday before a packed house at Union College’s Messa Rink.
It’s the first title for the Cadets (19-2-2) since 2001, and they move on to state play with a regional game this weekend.
It also gave LaSalle coach Tim Flanigan a championship on the ice where he played his college hockey as a goalie for Union in the mid-1980s.
Mainello was to the left of Plainsmen goalie Jared Vandeloo, who had stopped a DiScanio shot from the right side. The puck squirted through Vandeloo’s pads.
At that point, Vandeloo appeared to lose sight of the puck. But Mainello didn’t. With him staring at a yawning net, Mainello buried his shot, setting off a wild celebration.
“Just hard work and effort,” Mainello said. “We got the puck in the corner. My captain Logan DiScanio, he’s been a gritty player all year. Coach always teaches us to throw it on net, and good things [will] happen. He threw it on net. It hits the back post, comes right out to the goal line and I just throw it in.
“It’s the easiest goal of my career. I really couldn’t mess that one up. Easiest goal I ever scored, and it happened at the best time.”
DiScanio, who was the Capital District Hockey League’s Co-Player of the Year, said Mainello was in the right place at the right time.
“I saw that the goalie was coming over, so he wouldn’t be edge work perfectly,” DiScanio said. “[I] threw it on net, [there was] a big rebound to Kevin Mainello and the rest is history.”
The championship victory is special to Flanigan.
“I love this rink,” Flanigan said. “I played a lot of hockey here in my day. But this is just a great time for the kids, and they worked so hard for it. They’re so exhausted. I’m just elated for them.”
Mainello’s goal capped a wild game that saw the teams trade the lead. There were also six special-teams tallies.
LaSalle took a 1-0 lead on a Sam Mulson goal just over four minutes into the game. Tom Relyea scored the first of four Shenendehowa power-play goals midway through the first period. Zach Rupert gave the Plainsmen (12-9-1) the lead on their only even-strength goal with 21.1 seconds left in the period.
The Cadets got their special-teams goals in the second period. Christian Rudd got a power-play tally with 5:48 left to make it 2-2. DiScanio scored a shorthanded on a breakaway with 2:31 to go in the second.
But the Plainsmen, who started the season 1-8-1, showed why they had a strong second half and got to the championship game. Power-play goals Forrest Marson and Brennan Alheim gave them a 4-3 lead.
That didn’t last. Ryan Murray tied it for LaSalle with 4:29 left. Then with 2:59 to go, Mulson broke the tie.
But Shenendehowa got another power play, and Relyea tied it with 1:48 left in regulation.
“We just ran out of gas,” Shenendehowa coach Juan De La Rocha said. “[LaSalle’s] a great team. But what an awesome battle back and forth. Our kids never quit. We got to the point where we didn’t have our jump later in the game, but neither did they. It was just a hard fight.”
It was a tough way for Shenendehowa to end its season, but De La Rocha couldn’t be more proud of his team.
“What can you say? They have every reason to keep their heads up,” De La Rocha said. “In December, we were 1-8-1. Look where we are, in an overtime game in the sectional final with one lose since then, and now two. Unreal.”
Shenendehowa 2 0 3 0 0 — 5
LaSalle 1 2 2 0 1 — 6
First Period — 1, LaSalle, Sam Mulson (Tom Ryan), 4:04. 2, Shenendehowa, Tom Relyea (Forrest Marson, Adam Doescher), 7:39 (pp). 3, Shenendehowa, Zach Rupert (Marson), 14:38..
Second Period — 4, LaSalle, Christian Rudd (Logan DiScanio, Kevin Mainello), 9:12 (pp). 5, LaSalle, DiScanio (Mainello), 12:29 (sh).
Third Period — 6, Shenendehowa, Marson (Brennan Alheim, Relyea), :56 (pp). 7, Shenendehowa, Alheim (Hayden Haldane), 1:39 (pp). 8, LaSalle, Ryan Murray, 10:31. 9, LaSalle, Mulson (Rudd), 12:01. 10, Shenendehowa, Relyea (Marson), 13:12 (pp).
First Overtime — None.
Second Overtime — 11, LaSalle, Mainello (DiScanio, Murray),: 23.
Shots on goal — Shenendehowa 12-6-7-1-0 — 26. LaSalle 6-14-10-6-1 — 37.
Goalies — Shenendehowa, Jared Vandeloo (37 shots-31 saves). LaSalle, Zac Rentz (26-21).