If the Cazenovia ice hockey team wanted a fresh shot of confidence going into the Section III Division II playoffs, it found the best way possible.
The Lakers went to New Hartford Wednesday night and, by inching ahead late, knocked off the defending state champion Spartans 5-4.
In their first meeting Jan. 12 at the Morrisville State IcePlex, Cazenovia took twice as many shots as New Hartford, yet had to settle for a 3-3 tie because Spartan goalie Spencer Landry made 41 saves.
By the time they met again, New Hartford had already secured the Division II East regular-season title. Thus, Cazenovia neded the win more, and would get it.
Here, the disparity in chances was not as great as the first time around. Cazenovia took 28 shots to New Hartford's 22, but again the two sides kept pace with each other through the first two periods as they were even, 3-3, with 15 minutes to go.
In that last period, the Lakers would find the net twice, enough to fend off the Spartans' lone tally and the effort of Clayton Whittemore, who led the Spartans with three goals and one assist.
Brian Gara had two goals and one assist, with Sean Cannizzaro, Joe Nardella and John Gracean also finding the net. Connor Cannizzaro had two assists as Sam Lewis, A.J. Davis and Lucas Catania earned single assists. Mason Powell finished with 17 saves.
As a follow-up, the Lakers beat Whitesboro 5-2 on Friday night, a game that was in doubt until the third period, when Cazenovia broke up a 1-1 tie with a four-goal outburst.
Gara, again, provided the spark, scoring twice and adding two assists. Catania, Gracean and Connor Cannizzaro also had goals, with Nardella and Lewis each matching Gara's two-assist total. Jeff Stowell and Todd Christensen joined Cannizzaro with single assists.
Also on Friday, the Division II playoff pairings were released. By finishing second in the East, the Lakers (14-4-2) will get to host West division third-place finisher Cortland/Homer Friday at the IcePlex. The winner gets Skaneateles or Clinton in the semifinals, with the title game set for Feb. 28 at Utica Memorial Auditorium.