It’s all new to them.
And, oh, so sweet.
Buoyed by three second-period goals, the John Jay Indians advanced to the Division 2 state hockey semifinals, defeating Queensbury 4-2 Saturday at the Lake George Forum.
John Jay, now 22-1-2, was making its first appearance in state play.
“Sometimes it’s good to know nothing is guaranteed. We have to try to live in the moment here,” coach Alex Smith said before the game.
And absolutely nothing seemed guaranteed until Jack Grimm’s empty-net goal with five seconds to play.
Queensbury, playing on its home, Olympic-size ice, jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first period when Joey Moore snuck his own rebound past Indians’ goalie Matt Lanza.
Meanwhile, John Jay peppered back-up Queensbury goalie Joe Robinson (subbing for injured starter Teddy Nolan) with 15 first-period shots but couldn’t score despite, as senior forward Frazier Bostwick later noted, Robinson yielding “juicy rebounds.”
But that changed dramatically in the second period.
Shawn Smith beat Robinson (22 saves) with an under-the-crossbar wrister with 7:33 left in the period. Less than a minute later, Robinson stopped a shot by Mark Leprine but the puck squirted behind him and Bostwick poked it in to put John Jay up 2-1.
“I was just going in to check in case (the puck was loose), ” Bostwick said. “It was huge for us to get a goal and then another.”
The Indians’ third goal came with 3:15 left in the second period when Jack Wertz’ shot through traffic beat Robinson high.
That proved to be a big goal as Queensbury, a team with multiple trips to states in recent years, came right back in the third period.
Senior Shane Kanaly, who was on Lanza’s doorstep all day, scored off his own rebound just 10 seconds into the period.
And Queensbury, which entered the game 11-7-3 but with four straight wins, maintained a lot of pressure down low throughout much of the period.
Lanza, who had 15 saves, had two consecutive good stops with just under 14 minutes left.
John Jay dodged a huge bullet with about seven minutes left when Kanaly couldn’t corral a rolling puck on the backdoor with Lanza down at the other post. Then, seconds later, a tip by Evan Conlin just went wide.
“It’s just having that bounce,” Queensbury coach Dean Williams lamented. “We out-chanced them but they out-scored us. I’m not disappointed with the effort.”
John Jay’s effort included a big penalty kill with 3:26 left. Defenseman Anthony Scapperotti had a big clear during the kill, which included a save by Lanza with 2:11 left and two Spartans in front.
Smith praised his team’s penalty kill and its ability not to fold with the early third-period score.
“What a nightmare that was,” he said. “But we shrugged it off and kept playing our game.”
“We just didn’t give up,” said Lanza, who added from the season’s first day his team’s goal has been to “create something that has never been done before.”