Just when it was needed, the Fayetteville-Manlius ice hockey team put together the good performances required to get to the Section III Division I playoffs for the first time in the program's history.
With Liverpool (chasing F-M for the fourth and final playoff spot) winning at the same time over Oswego 6-2, the Hornets went to Lysander Arena last Tuesday and used a solid effort on all fronts to beat Baldwinsville 4-2 and officially end the Bees' playoff hopes.
Nick Zappia pushed F-M to a 2-0 first-period edge, then stayed patient as the Hornets waited until the third period, and a possible Bees comeback, to add to its total.
By the end, Zappia had two goals and one assist, with Billy Kent and Matt Esposito gaining the other goals. Ronnie Caputo had two assists as Kent added a single assist.
This was an evenly played game, with Mike Poppleton and his B'ville counterpart, Mark Miller, each finishing with 33 points.
Good as this was, the actual clinching of a playoff spot did not come until Thursday night, when F-M went back to the Cicero Twin Rinks and tore up Auburn in the course of a 5-0 shutout of the Maroons.
Fittingly, Zappia made it another personal showcase, scoring four goals to bring his total to 49 on the season (tops among Division I players) and assisting on the other, by Kent.
Esposito, as vital a piece to the attack as Zappia, had three assists, raising his league-leading total to 43. Kent earned two assists as Caputo and Buddy Leathley gained single assists.
Best of all, F-M's defense gave Poppleton wonderful protection, as the Hornets netminder had to make just 14 saves for the shutout -- as compared to the 46 shots F-M put up.