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Caz hockey blanks Skaneateles, goes to sectional final

Now the Cazenovia ice hockey team sits one victory away from a Section III Division II title.

In a battle of Laker teams Wednesday night, Cazenovia went to Allyn Arena and dominated Skaneateles more than the 2-0 final margin would indicate.

With that win, Cazenovia advanced to Sunday's title game against defending state champion New Hartford at Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Spartans beat Rome Free Academy 7-3 in the other semifinal.

Cazenovia and Skaneateles both reached the semifinals a season ago, and both lost - Cazenovia doing so in an overtime decision to Corcoran.

That bitter memory drove Cazenovia as it made the long trip west on Route 20 to meet Skaneateles, who won the Division II West regular-season title and beat Clinton 5-3 in the opening round on Feb. 19 as Cazenovia was knocking out Cortland/Homer.

An overflow crowd at Allyn Arena saw Cazenovia establish control of the proceedings in the first period, getting nine shots to the three that Skaneateles could muster, but not getting on the board.

It remained 0-0 until the 5:56 mark of the second period. Off a pass from Sam Lewis, Connor Cannizzaro saw his shot stopped by Skaneateles goalie Trevor Diamond - but the puck squirted out to the right, and Brian Gara put it home to give Cazenovia the lead.

As time went on, and Cazenovia's scoring chances piled up, the Skaneateles frustration grew, too, leading to back-to-back penalties late in the period and a two-man advantage for the visitors.

Taking full advantage, Cazenovia built the margin to two as Gara scored again, stationed at the left post and taking a perfect pass from Joe Nardella.

Though Cazenovia didn't add to the margin, it maintained the pressure the rest of the night. Were it not for Diamond's 32 saves, it might have proved more lopsided.

Whenever it needed to, though, Cazenovia's defense, led by Nardella and Sean Cannizzaro, got in front of pucks and cleared it out, offering ample protection as goalie Mason Powell earned the shutout, having to make just nine saves all night.

Cazenovia and New Hartford met twice this season. Both times, the Lakers dominated the flow of play, and after a 3-3 tie on Jan. 12 at the Morrisville State IcePlex, Cazenovia beat the Spartans 5-4 on Feb. 10 in New Hartford. The third meeting will mean the most.

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