1978 – Thomas Wertimer
My CCS Hockey memory is of the game the Clinton Courier queried in covering of the events that unfolded. Was it the greatest hockey game ever seen at the Clinton Arena?” March 3rd, 1978, needless to say a Friday night, the NYS Section III Championship, Clinton Warriors vs. Ithaca Little Red. As luck would have it, the game had been moved from Utica Memorial Auditorium only that week. The Arena was packed with a capacity-plus crowd of 1,800 fans, and yes, the rafters became a much-needed seating option.
This would be our third meeting of the season with the Little Red, who had gotten the better of us during the season. First posting a 3-1 season opening win at Cornell Lynah Rink, and then a 3-2 overtime victory mid-season at the Arena. From there, however, we had ripped off 10 wins behind Gary Peck’s stellar net minding (1.7 GAA on the year) and the offense of a maturing Dan Kane, then a sophomore, our leading scorer. The team included 8 senior skaters, a complement of six solid defensemen anchored by Ted Fauss, and we entered the night 18-2, averaging 8 goals a game. Little of this mattered, however, as we were 0-2 vs. the Petite Red, and they were ranked #1 in the State.
The game was best described in The Courier coverage by Coach Bernie Burns (and who better): “This is the way hockey is supposed to be played, and the game was a classic.” Scoreless first period, then midway through the second, Tom Lane connects with Ron O’Neil for the lead, as this duo had done time and time again in their four-year tenure as CCS Varsity line mates. At the end of two periods, we carried a shots-on-goal advantage of 29-18 into the locker room, but no joy. Then a very tight third period, and with five minutes to go, Joe Marsit of Ithaca scored on a blistering blue line slap shot, the same Marsit who forced overtime in our previous game. Déjà vu?
During the break, I found myself, along with long-time line mate Lou Lorenz, in front of John Hughes, head down quietly tapping his stick against the boards. “What up, Hughsie?” “There is a goal in this stick, Werts, I feel it”. So after Babe Ruth, but well before Mark Douglas Messier, John Hughes called his shot, and it rang true. Coach Burns stuck to his guns and rolled the lines, and Ithaca waited for the mistake to come, but no mistake. Hughes shoots, scores … pandemonium!
So this ended my undefeated season (as I call it), as I only returned from injury to play the last 10 games of the season, on a team Coach Burns rated as the “finest in his 23-year tenure at Clinton”, which is nice. So thank you, Albert Prettyman!
– Thomas Wertimer