Once Brian Hamilton took over, the Cicero-North Syracuse ice hockey team was on its way to a victory over its neighbor and rival.
Hamilton achieved a natural hat trick in Wednesday night's game at State Fair Coliseum, which proved to be the difference in a 4-1 victory over the Liverpool Warriors.
This was the league opener for both teams. Liverpool was trying to improve following a 2008-09 season where it went 5-16 and, like CNS, had missed the Section III Division I playoffs.
Both teams had played twice on Thanksgiving weekend, CNS going 1-1 at its own tournament while Liverpool accumulated two losses in the Amherst Tournament near Buffalo - 3-2 to Geneva, then 7-1 to Amherst.
The Warriors were short-handed, as five players sat out due to illness. Inevitably, it led to a ragged start, as Liverpool rarely got good chances to score in the first period, even with a pair of power plays.
The only saving grace was that CNS was just as shaky, and the teams went to the second period 0-0, just as the Northstars entered a power play.
A mere 27 seconds into that period, Hamilton began to take over. Coming off a two-goal, two assist effort against CBA/J-D in a 4-2 win on Nov. 28, Hamilton converted on the power play, drilling a wrist shot from the right point past Liverpool goalie Mike Sportelli.
Less than four minutes later, CNS got on a breakaway. Cody Spadaro sped down the right side and delivered a perfectly-timed pass to the middle - where Hamilton converted again.
Liverpool's best chance to get back in the game came with a two-man advantage midway through the period. Despite a series of point-blank shots, CNS goalie Zach Hall held firm, and the Warriors remained off the board.
Hamilton finished off his hat trick on a delayed penalty late in the period, exploiting a Warrior defensive breakdown that produced a two-on-none break and an easy goal. Again, Spadaro got the assist.
Brad Monroe added another goal 27 seconds into the third period, and Liverpool needed a goal from A.J. Lamacchia with 4:24 to play in order to avert a shutout.
As the Warriors await a trip to Baldwinsville next Tuesday night, the Northstars take a weekend trip to the northern reaches of the state to play Canton and Potsdam.