In a hostile setting, against the state's top-ranked team, the Skaneateles ice hockey team was hanging in there, giving New Hartford every bit of a fight during last Wednesday night's Section III Division II semifinal as the second period wound down.
Only trailing by a goal, the Lakers were trying to kill off a power play and head to the dressing room still within range of an enormous upset.
But with one brilliant play, the Spartans doubled its margin, regained control of the proceedings, and demoralized Skaneateles, leading to a 4-1 defeat and the end of the Lakers' reign as sectional champions.
Every conceivable measure gave the edge to New Hartford. Not only did it have that state no. 1 ranking and home-ice advantage, it also had breezed through its Feb. 20 opening-round game over Cortland Homer 8-2 and had won 15 games in a row.
By contrast, Skaneateles needed to go to four overtimes to get rid of Rome Free Academy, as Kyle Christine's goal late in that fourth OT settled it just before a shoot-out would be required.
Somehow, the Lakers forgot all this and, for much of the first period, played New Hartford to a 0-0 draw, waiting for just the right moment to attack.
Before that took place, though, the Spartans got on the board at the 12:53 mark when Tom Fiorentino scored. Just 1:34 into the second period, the margin doubled to 2-0 when Alex Fukes, off great passes from Fiorentino and Mike Zalewski, converted.
Skaneateles briefly recovered when Lex Johnson, off feeds from Sean Cooney and Brendan Major, scored to cut it to 2-1, and that was still the margin as New Hartford went on a power play in the period's waning seconds.
In fact, just 4.2 seconds showed on the clock when they faced off to the right of Trevor Diamond. Zalewski won the face-off, then faked a pass to the point, where Fiorentino would normally be waiting.
Instead, Fiorentino was charging to the net. With perfect timing, Zalewski passed it to Fiorentino -- and in mid-stride, Fiorentino flung the puck past Diamond just as the second-period horn sounded.
The Lakers were stunned by the goal, and never really recovered. Unable to generate many shots in the third period, Sknaeateles watched as Fiorentino added an empty-net goal with 1:07 left to finish off a hat trick.
Overall, Diamond finished with 33 saves, but never got much relief as Skaneateles managed just nine shots all night. For the season, the Lakers would finish 16-9-1.