For the Skaneateles ice hockey team, just getting to the Section III Division II championship game was sweet enough.
In front of an overflow crowd at Allyn Arena last Wednesday night, the Lakers ended Clinton's three-year reign as champions, using strong play on both ends of the ice to beat the Warriors by a score of 3-2.
With this victory, Sknaetaeles advanced to Saturday's Division II final against Whitesboro, to be played at 1:30 at Utica Memorial Auditorium. Whitesboro beat Corcoran 2-1 in overtime Wednesday in the other semifinal contest.
Given the big place ice hockey holds in the hearts of both the Skaneateles and Clinton communities, it was little surprise that the crowd overflowed the bleachers and filled the parking lot beyond capacity -- to the point that some had to go to Austin Park just to get a spot.
Once inside, they witnessed the Lakers doing exactly what it could not do in 2005, 2006 or 2007 -- namely, topple the Warriors in a post-season setting.
Clinton appeared to get the upper hand when, early in the first period, Steve Abdoo pounced on a rebound of Chris Snyder's shot and flung it past Skaneatles goaltender Alex Richichi.
But that would be the last Warrior goal for a while. Clamping down hard on defense, the Lakers' back line got in front of pucks and did a terrific job of net protection, when Richichi wasn't making one of his 25 saves.
Still, Clinton clung to that 1-0 lead until the second period, when the Lakers' attack, already putting lots of opportunities, finally converted, thanks to a familiar face.
Just 2:40 into the period, Keith Buehler, whose two-goal, one-assist second-period blitz keyed a 3-1 win over New Hartford in the Division II quarterfinals on Feb. 15, took a fine pass from Tory Cole and ripped a wrist shot past Clinton goalie Ryan Basset to tie it, 1-1.