Happy and satisfied, the Skaneateles ice hockey team mobbed goaltender Alex Richichi near center ice at Allyn Arena on Saturday afternoon, as if much more had been gained than just a tournament title.
On one hand, it was just a first-place trophy in mid-January - but the Lakers' 2-1 victory over West Genesee in the finals of its own tournament showed that, young as it was, Skaneateles could still make an impression on a high-quality Division I opponent.
Entering the game, the Lakers were 8-6, a solid record, but far from imposing. WG, meanwhile, was 11-3-1, having come back to life this winter after a pair of last-place Division I finishes.
Yet right from the opening face-off, the Lakers were the aggressor, taking full advantage of the Wildcats' early lethargy and blanketing its goalie, Evan Mazzoni, with scoring chances. All told, Skaneateles had 10 shots in the first period, to the Wildcats' three.
Even when WG got a power play, the Lakers did not back off. Tory Cole took a rebound and charged down the ice on his own, going to the right and beating Mazzoni up top for a goal 8:47 into the game to put Skaneateles up, 1-0.
This aggression continued into the second period. Cole set up the play by taking a shot that Mazzoni could not handle, allowing Sean Morley to swoop in and poke home the rebound.
All game long, the Lakers' penalty-killing was superb, its defense putting up a wall that WG could not breach despite a steady succession of power plays.
That defense came in handy again after Brady Fremont scored with 5:15 left to cut the margin to one. Skaneateles, in fact, faced a five-on-three situation in the final minute after WG pulled Mazzoni, but the Lakers maintained its lead until time ran out.