With an all-out fury, the Cazenovia ice hockey team took aim at New Hartford, the reigning state Division II champions, in a classic showdown Tuesday night at the Morrisville State College IcePlex.
And by most measures, the Lakers dominated, taking twice as many shots as the Spartans and enjoying a full array of opportunities.
Yet when the final horn sounded in overtime, Cazenovia found itself settling for a 3-3 tie. On the one hand, the Lakers had proven it could beat New Hartford -- but on the other hand, the big prize remained elusive.
Cazenovia was coming off a third-place finish at the Cicero-North Syracuse Tournament on Jan. 8-9. After losing in the opening round to Penfield, it had beaten Burnt Hills 4-2 in the consolation game, leading all the way as Brian Gara, Sean Cannizzaro, Jeff Stowell and Connor Cannizzaro notched goals.
That same balanced, formidable attack now dealt with New Hartford. Despite the loss of stars like Mike Zalewski, Tom Fiorentino, Andrew Kelleher and Dylan Smith, the Spartans were still first in the Division II East standings, so it remained Cazenovia's prime target.
The action was hot right from the opening face-off. They played to a 1-1 first-period draw, but Cazenovia's relentless attack started to pay off in the second period as it seized a 3-2 lead.
Connor Cannizzaro led the way, scoring twice, as Sam Lewis also scored, adding an assist. Gara, Sean Cannizzaro and Todd Christensen took turns earning assists.
All told, Cazenovia took 44 shots to New Hartford's 21. Still, it could not pull further ahead, and got shut out in the third period and overtime as Spartans goaltender Spencer Landry proved sensational, earning 41 saves.
Indeed, New Hartford would tie it in the third period and hang on through the OT session as Mike Critelli, with two goals, led the way. Cazenovia will face the Spartans again in the regular-season finale on Feb. 10.