Mar 03, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Those Skaneateles ice hockey partisans that packed every corner of Allyn Arena last Saturday night fully expected their Lakers to prevail over Queensbury in the Division II regional final and earn a trip to this weekend’s state final four in Utica.
And the Lakers returned that favor by playing with all the heart, skill and desire that it had shown while earning its first Section III title in 25 years.
Yet it was the Spartans that would come out on top, 3-2, in overtime, ending it when Anthony Soprano beat Alex Richichi for the game-winner just 1:32 into the extra period.
This was a showdown of the state’s top two ranked teams — Queensbury sitting at no. 1, Skaneateles at no. 2. The parking lots at both the arena and adjacent Austin Park filled quickly, and the noise level inside the rink never let up from the moment the puck dropped.
Unlike so many previous playoff games, the Lakers did not wait to take the lead, thanks to Keith Buehler, its leading offensive weapon.
After separating his shoulder 10 days earlier in the team’s Section III Division II semifinal win over Clinton, Buehler had, in the best hockey tradition, played through the injury to help his team beat Whitesboro 5-2 for the sectional title, then stepped up his game even more for Queensbury.
Buehler sneaked a shot past Spartan goaile Patrick Murphy in the first period, giving Skaneateles a 1-0 lead that stood until the second period, when Queensbury tied it on Kevin Valenti’s tally.
During all this, Buehler again banged up the shoulder in a drive to the net. Unfazed, he returned and, answering Valenti, posted his second goal of the night to put Skaneateles back in front 2-1. Matt Wood and Tory Cole both got credit for assists.
Again, Queensbury tied it, Kevin Valenti taking the well-placed ricochet of Corbett’s slap shot and slipping the puck past Richichi to make it 2-2 late in the second period.
And it would remain 2-2 for the rest of regulation. Each team would take 27 shots on the night, but gradually the well-conditioned Spartans began to mount more attacks as the third period dragged on, forcing the Lakers to the defensive.
Richichi handled everything thrown at him during this stretch, including a breakaway with just three minutes left in regulation when Soprano, coming in alone, could not control the puck and Richichi snatched it.
The only problem was that, early in OT, Skaneateles would get caught in the exact same situation, Soprano breaking in alone on Richichi at the net. This time, Soprano would not miss.
As Queensbury moved on to a state semifinal against Webster Thomas this Saturday in Utica, Skaneateles ended its season with a record of 21-5-2, having won both the Division II West and sectional titles along the way.
Seven seniors depart, including Cole, Wood, Anthony Navaroli, Sean Morley and Kaj Beck-Andersen. But the return of Buehler and Richichi in 2008-09 gives the Lakers enough reason to think it can be champions again.