With the playoff defense of its Section III Division II title looming ahead, the Cazenovia ice hockey team played three times in six days to close the regular season – and by the end of it, its offense started to resemble the juggernaut that captured a state title one year ago.
Of those games, two were against Division II foes, starting Wednesday with a trip to Whitesboro and a chance to avenge a surprising 3-2 defeat to the Warriors at home back on Jan. 3.
And the Lakers got that payback in a fearful manner, crushing Whitesboro 10-2. Already with a 2-0 advantage, Cazenovia unleashed its real attack in the second period, burying the Warriors with seven goals from a variety of sources.
A.J. Davis led the way with his first hat trick of the season, finding the net three times. Brian Gara and Billy Rankin each had two goals, while David Marshall, Alan Baldwin and Ben Langey earned single tallies.
Joe Colligan led with three assists as Baldwin managed two assists. Connor Cannizzaro, Jeff Stowell and Connor Race notched single assists.
This led to Saturday’s regular-season finale against Clinton at the Morrisville State IcePlex, where the Lakers, with another second-period scoring eruption, crushed the Warriors 11-2, but the result came with a caveat.
Since the Lakers were third and the Warriors sixth in the Division II standings, it was likely the two were to meet again on the same ice in the first round of the Section III playoffs.
So while Cazenovia (11-7-2) again broke a tight game open in the second period with an impressive total of eight unanswered goals, Clinton could write off the result and await the more important contest ahead.
Still, it was a fun afternoon for Gara, who amassed five goals and two assists, and Marshall, who added two goals and four assists. Baldwin, Race, Colligan and Jake Stowell also found the net, with Jeff Stowell joining Colligan in earning three assists. Billy Rankin and Kyle Murray had assists, too.
All of this followed a 3-0 defeat to Hamilton last Monday in a non-league game at Colgate University’s Starr Rink, which was simply a matter of the Lakers running into a red-hot goaltender.
Cazenovia had twice as many shots as the Emerald Knights, but could get nothing past Brady Carroll, who finished with 42 saves.
Inspired by that, Hamilton landed a goal in the second period and two more in the third period to pull out in front. Jacob Mercer scored twice, while Alex Brink had a goal and assist. Zach Sampson and Dan Buehler earned two assists apiece.