The Game to End All Disputes
by Keith VeronesiApr 5, 2016
Shortly after the Utica Comets and Syracuse Crunch cleared the ice and fans exited the building, The AUD’s lights stayed on, as a different stage was set for Sunday evening on April 3rd. The AUD’s ice played home to the first Alumni game between Whitesboro High School and New Hartford High School, featuring some of the area’s best home grown talent over the last few decades. The goal of the game: to settle the crosstown dispute once and for all.
What started out as a friendly proposition by New Hartford Alumnus John Massoud – former St. Lawrence grad and Utica Blizzard player – turned into a reality, as Utica Comets President Robert Esche and Montreal Canadians Pro Scout Mark Mowers were more than willing to accommadate. “When John Massoud kept it up, Mark and I knew this was not only going to happen, but that it would not end favorably for John,” Esche explained. After a long night at Ocean Blue, Massoud, Esche and Mowers agreed on a date and how construction of each team’s roster would unfold.
Esche and Mowers would immidetely go to work building a dream team from Whitesboro’s past great athletes. With the challenge accepted, Esche and Mowers also had to pull their equipment out of storage and take part in the game. “There is no way we could be bystanders in an event like this” Esche said. With fellow NHL alum Mark Mowers having 278 NHL games under his belt and years of additional professional experience, Whitesboro quickly established a duo that would be unmatched by their New Hartford counterpart. Filling out the Whitesboro roster was Andy Starczewski, Army (Division I) graduate, John Emery (SUNY Cortland and Utica Blizzard Alum), J.P. Prevost, SUNY Oswego and son of Clinton Comet Pierre Prevost, Mark Hagan (SUNY Cortland). Kirk Chevrier, Ron Nutty, Ryan Williams, Joe Longo, Kyle Bostic, Matt Potrzeba, Tim Schoen, Jim Engler, Derek Farley, and Ryan Bostic rounded out the Whitesboro team.
Despite the named players serving as the opposition, Massoud believed he could put a New Hartford product on the ice that could equally match the Whitesboro Warriors alumni. Massoud, a Division I graduate from St. Lawrence University as well as a quick stint professional, constructed a lineup that relied heavily on the younger generations. Leading the way for New Hartford would be Tom Fiorentino, Hobart (Division III) and current professional player in the French 2nd League, and Chris Luker, recently finishing a four-year career at SUNY Brockport. Mark Kotary and Scott Usmail provided professional experience with Eric Gooldy, Ontario Hockey League grad and former 6th round draft pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Rich Zalewski, a graduate from SUNY Oswego and brother to current Utica Comet Mike Zalewski. New Hartford rounded out their lineup out with additional NCAA grads as the stage was finally set for the rivalry to ensue.
In what spectators and players would call an extremely high tempo game (given the circumstances and ages of many participants), Whitesboro ultimately wore down the Spartans of New Hartford and came out victorious, with a final score of 10-7. Just as Esche predicted months ago, the Whitesboro lineup proved to be too much, putting the dispute to an end once and for all.
Putting the rivalry aside, the event proved to be a great success. From the player participation to the friends and family members looking on, it was a memorable experience for all, especially the players who had the chance to put on their respective sweaters one more time. The area should be extremely proud of the players that have come up through the system and have ultimately moved onto bigger stages in the hockey world. “Although any outsider could have predicted the outcome of this game,” Esche joked, “what couldn’t be predicted was the commraodary after the game as both teams enjoyed a few beers in the locker room and did a full play by play recap of the game jabbing each other, which continued with both teams carrying on at Lukins.”