Feb 07, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Right up until the last week of the regular season, the Cazenovia ice hockey team still did not know whether it would be involved in the Section III Division II playoffs.
However, the Lakers got just the win it needed to earn that sixth and final playoff berth, unleashing all kinds of offense in Tuesday night’s 7-3 victory over seventh-place Whitesboro at the Morrisville State IcePlex.
Cazenovia was fresh and ready to go, having twice seen a trip to Fulton postponed by big winter snowstorms in a four-day span.
And the Lakers weren’t fazed by the game’s high stakes, inching ahead of Whitesboro 2-1 by the end of the first period. But it was in the second period that Cazenovia really took over, putting up three unanswered goals to extend the margin to 5-1, out of the Warriors’ reach.
Jake Stowell had one of his best efforts of the season, getting two goals and one assist to pace a well-balanced offense that also saw Brad Nardella score twice.
Four different Lakers – Connor Cannizzaro, Connor Race, Billy Rankin and Colin McGaugh – earned two assists apiece. Canizzaro and Race tacked on goals, with Jeff Stowell contributing one goal and one assist. Cazenovia’s defense protected that lead, too, holding Whitesboro to just 14 shots.
Now that the playoff berth was secure, Cazenovia could finally play that twice-delayed game at Fulton on Wednesday night and, showing no fatigue, the Lakers romped past the Red Raiders 7-1.
Racing out to a 6-0 lead through two periods, Cazenovia out-shot Fulton 38-17 as A.J. Davis, quiet in the Whitesboro game, roared back to form with a three-goal hat trick.
That fronted a Laker attack where Cannizzaro, Rankin and Alex Hunt each got one goal and one assist, with McGaugh also finding the net. Robby Keever gained two assists as Race, Cullen Franz, Jeff Stowell and Jake Stowell got one assist apiece.
Then things really got interesting, as Cazenovia closed the regular season at Oswego on Thursday, playing its third game in as many nights.
Somehow, the Lakers fought through the fatigue and tied the defending sectional champion Buccaneers 4-4, exactly double the result of their Jan. 17 meeting at the IcePlex that ended 2-2.
Trailing 2-0 after one period, the Lakers made up most of that deficit with a three-goal second-period surge, and then tied it in the final period.
Jeff Stowell had a part in every scoring play, getting a goal and assisting on the other three, two of them by Cannizzaro, who also had an assist. Brendan Whalen recorded a goal as Jake Stowell and Cole Willard put up one assist apiece. Mario Benedetti finished with 23 saves.
Had Oswego won, it was likely to gain the no. 2 seed for the playoffs and a bye straight into the semifinal round. Instead, the tie allowed New Hartford to claim the no. 2 spot, relegating the Bucs to the no. 3 seed.
And that means Cazenovia will have to go back to Crisafulli Rink, better known as “The Fort”, in the opening round of the Division II playoffs. The last two sectional champions will collide to see who gets New Hartford in the semifinals, with the title game Feb. 23 at Utica Memorial Auditorium.