GLOVERSVILLE — Mechanicville has scored exactly 300 goals over its last two boys’ soccer seasons, but No. 300 was easily the most memorable.
Coach Mike Ciulla’s team dominated Wasaren League play during its spring season, running off 15 straight wins, but a league championship was as far as Mechanicville could go with the Section II tournament called off due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Back on the pitch this fall, Mechanicville picked up right where it left off, with a draw against Class AA Guilderland as the team’s only blemish. But, for all that dominance — which included the team breaking the Section II single-season scoring record on Wednesday — things still felt incomplete until the second minute of overtime of Wednesday’s Section II Class B semifinal against Broadalbin-Perth at Gloversville High School.
That’s when senior midfielder Justin Manion rose up to head an Andrew Kraszewski cross past Broadalbin-Perth goalkeeper Ian Schwartz, sending Mechanicville into Saturday’s Class B championship game with a hard-fought 2-1 win.
“They were hurt in the spring that they didn’t get that chance,” Ciulla said. “Now, to get to the show, we’ve been talking about it all season. Get to the show, that’s our goal.”
For a Mechanicville (No. 1 seed, 18-0-1 overall) team that hasn’t been challenged much this season, Wednesday’s win was immensely satisfying.
“It’s surreal,” Manion said.
“It’s crazy,” Kraszewski added. “It feels like I’m in a dream.”
Mechanicville will face No. 2 seed Greenville in the championship game on Saturday at 5 p.m. at Colonie High School. Greenville advanced to the final with a 1-0 win over Cohoes in the first game of Wednesday’s doubleheader at Gloversville.
It was a fast-paced, physical contest between Broadalbin-Perth and Mechanicville, with Kraszewski scoring the breakthrough goal in the 30th minute when he received a ball from Colin McNutt, turned past a defender and curled a shot past Schwartz.
That goal was Mechanicville’s 169th of the season, breaking the Section II record of 168 set by Schalmont in 2018.
That it was Kraszewski who produced the first moment of magic was fitting.
“He’s such a special player,” Ciulla said. “He’s in the box scoring 40% of our goals this year, and with 170 goals on the season, that’s hard to say. He’s dangerous, and he’s got the horses around him.”
Mechanicville’s lead lasted barely five minutes, as Broadalbin-Perth (No. 4 seed, 15-4) equalized when a low corner kick squirted through a mess of players in front of the goal before Nick Bianco nudged it to Luke Barnhart for the tap-in.
The second half saw Broadalbin-Perth’s tough-minded defense repel a flurry of Mechanicville attacks. The Patriots even had to last five minutes early in the half with Schwartz on the sideline getting treated after a collision left him bloody.
Barnhart dropped back from midfield to hold down the fort, and once Schwartz returned the senior immediately made two saves to keep the game deadlocked.
“To have Ian come back after a pretty violent injury just speaks volumes to the character of him and to the group that we have overall,” Broadalbin-Perth coach Brian Henry said. “To keep [Mechanicville] in check as long as we did, they’re a scoring machine and we took them into overtime — and we had our chances.”
“Their defensive guys played unbelievable,” Ciulla said. “Their goalie [Schwartz], he’s got blood all over him. It’s unreal. They made us work.”
Ultimately, 80 minutes wasn’t enough to settle things, but Mechanicville was able to get its golden goal 1:56 into overtime. Kraszewski took the ball wide and drove in a perfect cross that Manion was able to rise up and knock home to set off Mechanicville’s celebration.
“These kids deserve it,” Ciulla said. “All year long, we don’t see games like this, but every tough game we see, we seem to step up.”
Now, one more tough game stands between Mechanicville and an area title. And a win against Greenville will mean more than all of the team’s record-setting offensive exploits.
“As long as we get one more than Greenville,” Kraszewski said, “that’s all that matters to us.”
Halftime score: Tied 1-1. Broadalbin-Perth scoring: Barnhart 1-0, Bianco 0-1. Mechanicville scoring: Kraszewski 1-1, Manion 1-0, McNutt 0-1. Goalies: Broadalbin-Perth, Schwartz, 13 saves, Barnhart, 0 saves. Mechanicville, Raucci, 10 saves.