Now the Skaneateles ice hockey team is in a familiar place - the Section III Division II playoff semifinals - and against a familiar, and formidable, obstacle standing in the way of a championship opportunity.
The Lakers, who earned the no. 4 seed in the six-team Division II tournament bracket, turned back the challenge of no. 5 seed CBA/J-D Friday night with a 3-1 victory at Allyn Arena.
And by winning, Skaneateles advanced to face 20-0, state no. 1-ranked Cazenovia in Tuesday night's sectional semifinals at the Morrisville State College IcePlex. Cazenovia knocked out Skaneateles 2-0 in this same round a year ago, and also won two regular-season Laker clashes this winter.
Of course, Skaneateles was also familiar with CBA/J-D from a pair of meetings on consecutive nights Jan. 21-22. The Lakers won the first time 2-1 at Onondaga Nation Arena, only to have the Brothers come to Allyn Arena and prevail 5-2 in the rematch 24 hours later.
Now, with much higher stakes in the third meeting, Skaneateles, who had finished the regular season with three consecutive wins, quickly went out in front. Just three minutes into the game, Scott Longtin flashed open and, off a pass from Tyler Stanton, beat CBA/J-D goalie Dan DiStefano to put the Lakers up 1-0.
Late in the period, the margin doubled to 2-0 when Mitchell Jones notched his fourth goal of the season, with Tom Bronk getting the assist. For a long while, that margin held up as the Lakers' defense flicked away most of the Brothers' charges and, once again, Trevor Diamond stood out in the net, eventually earning 27 saves.
Only once did Diamond miss, as CBA/J-D's Scott Firman beat him at the 9:41 mark of the second period to cut the Lakers' lead to 2-1, just as senior captain Rory Callahan went to the locker room with a knee injury.
Despite this, the Lakers' defense really clamped down in the third period, holding the Brothers to just three shots. And after CBA/J-D pulled DiStefano, Skaneateles clinched it when Dan Tarolli, off feeds from Jake Rogalia and Brendan Major, fired the puck into the empty net.
In the previous two encounters with Cazenovia, Skaneateles lost 4-1 at the IcePlex on Dec. 21 and 7-0 on Jan. 28. Just like with CBA/J-D, though, the whole season will be at stake the third time around.