Feb 12, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
In the ideal scenario, the Skaneateles girls ice hockey team would thrill the home fans by claiming the New York State Girls Varsity Hockey championship.
However, Oswego had different intentions – and showed them in one dynamic burst that made the difference as the Lakers lost, 3-0, in Friday night’s state semifinals at the Community Center.
All the efforts to promote the state “Frozen Four” paid off in a big way, as a large crowd jammed into Allyn Arena, with loud partisans on both sides punctuating the event through cheers and even horns.
Skaneateles and Oswego knew each other from two regular-season meetings, which they had split. The Lakers prevailed 4-0 on Dec. 29, but the Buccaneers won the rematch 3-2 in overtime. In both instances, the road team won.
Now came the third and most important encounter, and attention quickly turned to two standouts – Skaneateles goaltender Alex Brown and Oswego forward Tayler Cianfarano.
Entering the contest, Cianfarano, just an eighth-grader, had 53 goals in 19 games, two of them in the Bucs’ state quarterfinal win over Ithaca. Brown had emerged as the league’s top netminder, proving it again by stopping 27 of 28 shots in the Lakers’ 2-1 conquest of Potsdam in that same round.
Skaneateles drew an early power play, but could not convert. In fact, it managed just two shots in the first period, during which time Oswego got all the offense it needed.
It started, naturally, with Cianfarano, who at the 6:35 mark took the puck on her own blueline, maneuvered down the boards, then moved to the center of the ice and, approaching the net, flung a backhand shot past Brown to give the Bucs a 1-0 lead.
Barely two minutes later, Oswego’s Kaitlin Friel forced a turnover right in front of the Lakers’ net, and Cianfarano swooped in and drilled a wrist shot home, making it 2-0.
The biggest blow came just 1:09 before the period ended. Oswego’s other top scoring threat, Devan Hutcheson, attacked and, from the left circle, flung a shot past Brown into the net, and suddenly Skaneateles stared at a three-goal deficit.
To her credit, Brown, along with the rest of the Lakers’ defense, did an admirable job the rest of the way keeping Oswego off the board. For the night, Brown would have 28 saves, many of them point-blank stops that prevented Cianfrano from a hat trick.
The problem, as has often been the case this season, was that Skaneateles could not generate many scoring chances. Three times, Oswego killed off penalties, and the Lakers had just 15 shots, all of them stopped by Bucs goalie Madisyn Whalen.
So Oswego advanced to Saturday’s championship game against Alexandria Bay, who upset regular-season champion Chazy 4-2 in the other semifinal.
Just before that, Skaneateles and Chazy would square off for third place — and the Lakers would lose again, 2-0, giving up a goal to Amanda Kempainen just 2:18 into the game as the Eagles went out in front.
That one-goal margin held for a long time as, try as it could, Skaneateles could not get a shot past Chazy goalie Christina Emery, who made some spectacular saves. Brown, for her part, had 31 saves to keep her team in it, but Chazy clinched the third-place trophy when Amanda Peterson converted with 2:58 left.
Now Oswego would square off with Alexandria Bay for the title — and just like in the semifinal against the Lakers, the Buccaneers would use a single burst of offense to launch toward victory as it beat the Purple Ghosts 4-0 for the championship.
Cianfarano would hit on two goals just 41 seconds apart in the second period to break a 0-0 deadlock, and Hutcheson would add her own goal a minute and a half after the Cianfarano flurry — all told, three goals in 2:16. And Cianfarano would add a third-period tally to complete the hat trick.
As for Skaneateles, it has a good chance to reach the Frozen Four again next season, as just four seniors — Maddy Morrissey, Tori Major, Hannah McKerchie and Kim O’Brien — depart. The return of Brown, Maddy Elia, Taylor Kerr and other top players should make Skaneateles formidable again.