BY TIM TAYLOR
Tioga County Sports Report
OWEGO — Owego mastered the muck Monday evening, defeating Elmira, 12-5, in a senior game quagmire at the OFA Island here.
Normally, the Indians would be playing on the new artificial surface at Christy J. Valvo Stadium. With the new track still under construction, the home team was back on natural grass — albeit a very rain-drenched surface. However, Owego was able to make the necessary adjustments to come away with an impressive victory.
“It’s an unbelievable difference,” Owego head coach Andy Race said. “There’s a good inch of slop on top of the ground. The ball doesn’t bounce the same. It stops a lot quicker. On defense you’ve got to be breaking down sooner and making sure that you’re staying over your feet and not extending, because then you’ll slip and fall, so there’s a ton that they had to adjust to.
“We practice on grass now that the stadium’s closed, but our practice field is even in better shape than this, so it was great. All the way from the face-off X to the goalie, every single person out here did a good job.”
Owego went on a five-goal run that began midway through the third quarter and ended about four minutes in to the fourth, and that definitely helped the Indians seal things up.
Luke Maslin started the burst with unassisted goals with 5:30 and one minute left in the period.
Owego added two more goals in the final second of the quarter when Justin Brown scored on a pass from Tyler Phelps at 17.9 seconds and Connor Kinney found the back of the net with a buzzer-beating shot with just one-10th of a second on the clock.
Tyler Phelps capped the run with an unassisted goal at 8:37 of the final period.
“That definitely did add a good amount of separation,” said Race, who noted the surge was ignited by a pair of goals just before intermission.
“It really started at the end of the second quarter I thought,” Race said. “We got some momentum there right at the end. We scored two times in the last minute and that really got us excited and going, and that kind of started it.”
Clinging to a 3-2 edge, Tyler Phelps tallied on a feed from Kinney with 26.6 seconds on the clock and then Ben Miller scored on a pass from Cole Tyler with 6.4 ticks remaining in the half.
The Express tried to climb back into the game on a Nate Latshaw goal at 8:31 of the third period, but the Elmira defense wasn’t able to shut the home team down.
“We battled in the third quarter,” Race said. “They did some different things out there that we had to adjust to, and once we did that’s when we kind of got that run going. It was good to get those consecutive goals into the fourth quarter and put it away.”
With his team trailing, 10-3, Bobby McCarrick tried to get his team back in the game with an assist on Hunter Argetsinger ’s goal 5:51 and an unassisted goal of his own with 3:26 left in the game, but Jo Race and Jaden Buckingham scored insurance goals at 2:56 and :53.3, respectively. Kinney assisted on the final tally.
Owego came out strong to start the game, building a 3-0 advantage. Cooper Phelps scored the only goal of the first quarter at 7:26 with an assist going to Maslin.
The Indians wasted little time adding to that lead in the second period as Kinney scored unassisted at 11:38 and Cooper Phelps scored on a pass from Tyler Phelps at 10:02.
The Express made a game of it as Argetsinger scored on a feed from Clayton Ahern at 6:42 and Adam Arnold tallied on a pass from Latshaw at the five-minute mark.
Owego has qualified for the Section IV Class C tournament, along with defending champion Johnson City and Maine-Endwell. The Indians split with both.
With the General Brown game being canceled due to GB reaching its game limit, the Indians’ regular season comes to a conclusion. Race feels like the team is in a good spot heading into the postseason.
“The Maine-Endwell loss was one of the toughest to stomach that I’ve had in a while,” he said, “but I almost think that that gave us the reality check that we needed to see that we’re not unstoppable by any means and they started to really work on the little things in practice. They showed against the last two teams that they can really get down and dirty and get a win.”
Maybe that’s why they celebrated with numerous belly slides after this triumph.
IN PHOTO 1: Owego’s Tyler Phelps. … PHOTOS BY TIM TAYLOR.
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