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Lakers' season ends in OT regional final defeat

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.

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