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For Potsdam U-16s, nationals was five tries in the making

By Russell Jaslow, 03/23/12, 9:45AM MDT


Small towns show a fervent support of their local youth teams. That support is reciprocated by the players. Potsdam, located in the far northern reaches of New York, even farther north than the Adirondack Mountains, is a prime example of that duality.

People on the outside relate sports in Potsdam to the Division I hockey team at Clarkson University and the bygone greatness of the two-time Division III national championship Potsdam State basketball teams. But, for the local population of 16,000, support for the local sports teams is just as strong — if not more so — as it is for the colleges that put the town on the map.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the past month for the Tier II Under-16 girls’ Potsdam Ice Storm as they claimed their first state championship and head to the USA Hockey National Championships in Irving, Texas.

It was a classic case of when you fail, try, try, try, try, try again. Yes, five times. This is the fifth time the core group of girls has tried to win states in their division. They finished as runner-ups three years in a row and then did not make it to the semifinals last season. With most of the girls moving up to the U-19 team, they felt this was their last shot. A shot that was anything but easy.

They started the tournament shutting out the Adirondack Northstars 4-0, with Jordyn Clothier getting a hat trick. Then, they lost to the Brewster Lady Bulldogs 4-1. Their last game was against the Buffalo Hornets, who beat Brewster 3-0. Not only did Potsdam have to win, but they had to do so by three or more goals to advance. It didn’t look possible.

“The loss that we had was a game that we just didn't play well,” Potsdam coach Christin Powers said. “Therefore, the girls were very nervous and didn't think that they could pull it off. However, they hit the ice with so much enthusiasm that they were able to overcome what looked like an insurmountable task and they did it with style.”

The Ice Storm fell behind before taking a 3-1 lead, and then clinched a semifinal spot with two more in the third for a 5-1 victory.

Onto the playoffs, and Potsdam had to survive an overtime game against the host team, Amherst Knights, which they won 2-1. Amherst scored late to tie it and then had a power play at the start of the overtime during a shot hit the post. But Margret Troiano won it for Potsdam with 1:35 left in the extra period.

“The semifinal game was really close, but we wanted it more and kept digging,” Powers said.

Meanwhile, Brewster beat the Troy-Albany Ice Cats 3-2 in a shootout.

Thus, it set up a rematch of the earlier game. By now, both teams knew they were going to nationals since New York got two slots this year. However, for the Potsdam Ice Storm, that was not the point. To them, there was only one goal — win states.

How was Potsdam going to reverse the previous result? By an old fashion pre-game pep talk about small town support and pride.

“We had a talk before the game,” Powers said. “And said something along the lines of, ‘we come from small communities and just think how proud they would be of us knowing that we took home the championship trophy and brought home that banner to hang in Pine Street Arena. How good would it feel to finally hoist that banner that so many of you have been fighting for all of these years, that has been so close yet so far away?’ That seemed to work, and they went out there flying and the other team never had a chance.”

The score was the same, but it was Potsdam who was ahead at the end 4-1, as Clothier notched another hat trick. Potsdam jumped out to a 2-0 first period lead within a 57 second span.

However, the task for Potsdam was not complete. It needed to raise money to get to Texas — lots of it in a very short period of time. Quickly, car washes, can collections, spaghetti dinners, Loot in the Boot, and letters to area businesses were organized in a flash.

That small town support came out in droves. Before the week was out, they already reached their goal of $20,000.

“The support has been overwhelming,” Powers said.

The Potsdam Ice Storm will be going from dairy country to cattle country, bringing with them the support and pride only a small town can offer. And giving that support and pride right back when they hit the ice.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.