For all the ups and downs in the regular season, the Cazenovia ice hockey team will accept them if, at the end, it still holds the Section III and state Division II crowns it earned a year ago.
As the no. 3 seed in the sectional tournament, the Lakers had to make it through an opening-round test against no. 6 seed Clinton Thursday night at the Morrisville State IcePlex. With discipline, timely scoring and strong defense, Cazenovia eliminated the Warriors 3-1.
These same two teams had met five days earlier at the IcePlex, an 11-2 Cazenovia rout. But that came after Clinton had secured a playoff spot and, knowing it was going to face the Lakers again, the Warriors did not use it front-line players to a great extent.
Adding to the danger for the Lakers was the fact that Clinton was motivated by last year’s sectional final at Utica Memorial Auditorium, where Cazenovia prevailed 6-0 on the way to the state title. It wasn’t going to be that one-sided again.
Indeed, from the opening face-off it was a tough, physical battle. Clinton had all sorts of chances to get on the board, but Laker goalie Joey Vecchiarelli was sensational, stopping everything in the first two periods and getting 31 saves overall. Defenders like Ben Langey, Connor Cannizzaro and Joe Colligan did a superb job, too, getting in the way of other Warrior chances.
Though the Warriors were nearly as stingy, Cazenovia did poke through for single goals in the first and second frames to take a 2-0 lead, and then tacked on a late insurance goal, though Clinton’s Jack Zoller would break up the shutout.
David Marshall and Jeff Stowell led the attack, each of them getting one goal and one assist. Brian Gara also found the net, with Jake Stowell adding an assist.
This sets up Tuesday’s Division II semifinal between Cazenovia (12-7-2) and no. 2 seed Skaneateles (12-2-6) at Allyn Arena.
Skaneateles went 1-0-1 in the battle of Laker sides during the regular season, prevailing 4-2 on Dec. 13 at home and forging a 2-2 tie at the IcePlex a month later.
Now, though, the stakes are a trip back to Utica Auditorium for the Division II sectional final against Oswego or CBA/J-D.