Like never before in its history, the Cazenovia ice hockey team has commanded respect, so much that it shares the top billing in the state Division II rankings.
With a record of 8-0-1, the Lakers hold that top spot with Queensbury, the Section II team it played to a 1-1 tie back on Dec. 13. Cazenovia also hangs close to Rome Free Academy and New Hartford atop the Division II East league standings, having won all three of its league games.
Before league play resumed Monday night at Westmoreland, the Lakers played against two more Section II opponents in last week's Cicero-North Syracuse Optimist Tournament at Cicero Twin Rinks, and beat them both.
First, on Friday night, the Lakers handled Bethlehem, beating the Eagles 5-1. By scoring three times in the first period, Cazenovia took quick command, then let its tough, physical defense wear Bethlehem down, limiting them to just 16 shots all night.
On the offensive end, the Lakers were, as usual, well-balanced. Carter Franz scored twice, while Seth Goldacker, Sean Dougherty and Sean Cannizzaro each produced one goal. Brian Gara, Ben Lewis, Zach Bonavita and Tom Colligan joined Cannizzaro in the assist column.
Since host Cicero-North Syracuse beat Burnt Hills 8-3 in the other half of the opening round, the final was set to pit the Lakers against the Northstars.
However, since Burnt Hills and Bethlehem play in the same Albany-area league and didn't want to have a game far removed from its home fans, it was agreed that Cazenovia and CNS would simply switch opponents.
As a result, the Lakers ended up playing Burnt Hills on Saturday afternoon and once again came out on top, beating the Spartans 5-3.
They were tied, 1-1, after one period, but Cazenovia went out in front in the second period and kept answering every time Burnt Hills tried to catch up.