With the NJCAA’s No. 2 team occupying the other bench, the Herkimer County Community College Generals picked a good night to play up to their No. 1 national ranking.
The Generals got the jump on Bunker Hill Community College early in Friday’s Division III semifinal and earned their spot in Sunday’s Division III championship match with a 3-0 victory at Wehrum Stadium.
“We wanted to come out strong right from the beginning.” said coach Pepe Aragon whose Herkimer squad pulled out a 1-0 victory with a goal in the 82nd minute of Thursday’s quarterfinal match against Brookdale Community College. “It paid off. We scored early and to get the second one a few minutes later always helps.”
The Generals (19-2-0) have relied on their defense and goals late in games lately. Not so Friday night. Craig McCabe was credited with the first goal 13 minutes into the match and Charlie Anderson, who had the lone goal against Brookdale, tallied five minutes later. Anderson got around the defense and behind the goalie after receiving a pass from Brian Coyt and scored into an open net.
McCabe added a second goal late in the first half on a give-and-go with Jimmy Calderon. McCabe played the ball outside to Calderon on the right wing, stepped around his defender to receive a return pass and blasted a shot from close range past Bunker Hill keeper Estive Sosa.
The early lead — Herkimer was up 3-0 with almost 14 minutes remaining before halftime — afforded some of the Generals more rest than is customary. Anderson sat for final 20 minutes of the first half; McCabe and Coyt joined him on the sideline a short time later.
“It gives a few of our first-team players a chance to get some rest so we have fresh legs,” said Anderson who scored two goals last when Herkimer defeated Genesee Community College to claim the program’s eighth national championship.
“We’re ecstatic to be back,” Anderson added. “We had two hard-fought games but it’s nice to be back in the championship game.”
Bunker Hill (19-3-1), trailing 3-0 at halftime and already beaten 6-0 by Herkimer in a previous meeting, did not let up in the second half. Triston Henry made three of his four saves in the second half to keep Herkimer’s postseason shutout streak intact.
“He doesn’t have to make many saves,” Aragon said of the freshman goalkeeper who was the most valuable player in the Region III tournament two weeks ago, “but when he does he makes all the plays.”
Sosa made three saves for the Bulldogs who were outshot 11-9.
Herkimer’s opponent in Sunday’s title match will be the winner of Friday’s second semifinal between Montgomery College of Maryland and Long Island’s Suffolk County Community College. The match kicks off at noon.