Somehow, through the wild celebration, the puck that Kevin Mainello poked into the back of the net 23 seconds into the second overtime session ended up in his possession for a certain keeper of a souvenir.
Mainello was the right man at the right time for La Salle as his goal was the final big play in a game full of memorable moments as the Cadets won their first Section II championship since 2001 with a wild 6-5 win over Shenendehowa Tuesday at Union College's Messa Rink.
Logan DiScanio fed the puck into the crease area and with Shen netminder Jared Vandeloo down and the puck sitting near the goal line, Mainello came from the left side of the net to score the winner.
"I saw the puck just sitting on the goal line, it doesn't get much easier than that," Mainello said. "It was the most fun hockey game I've ever played. Any team could have won this game, Shen played great and so did we. Hats off to them on a great season."
La Salle (20-2-2) advances to the state regional Saturday and will travel to play the Section X champion.
"I can't say enough about the guys on my team and the fight," La Salle coach Tim Flanigan said. "Shenendehowa played unbelievable, what a game for both teams. I couldn't be happier for my kids."
In a back and forth game, neither team held more than a one-goal advantage at any time and top-seeded La Salle had to overcome four Shenendehowa power-play goals, including two in the first 1:39 of the third period that gave the second-seeded Plainsmen a 4-3 lead.
La Salle tied the game 4-4 on Ryan Murray's goal at 10:31 and took a 5-4 lead when Sam Mulson scored his second of the game on a tip-in of a pass from Christian Rudd, who got the puck off just before taking a hit at the blue line, with 2:59 left in regulation.
The Plainsmen (12-10-1) battled back and tied it on Tom Relyea's second power-play goal of the game off a rebound from a Forrest Marson shot with 1:48 left to play.
"We just ran out of gas, they are a great team, what an awesome battle back and forth," Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. "Our kids never quit, we got to the point where we didn't have our jump later in the game and neither did they. It was a hard fight."
La Salle took a 1-0 lead on a Mulson goal but Shen roared back on goals from Relyea and Zach Rupert to lead 2-1 after the first period.
Rudd tied the game for La Salle at 9:12 of the second and DiScanio gave the Cadets a 3-2 lead late in the second after taking a pass from Mainello and dashing up the ice for a short-handed goal on the breakaway.
La Salle outshot Shen 6-0 in the first overtime but Vandeloo (31 saves) held his ground, setting the stage for the dramatic second overtime.
"We expected to win but nobody could expect this, it is outrageous," DiScanio said. "We've been through a lot of ups and downs this year and we knew if we kept battling and played our game, it would be under our control."
Sean Martin, a local freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to the Times Union
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