All of the pressure was off the Skaneateles boys ice hockey team in the wake of its late rally to tie New Hartford 3-3 back on Feb. 2.
That’s because the tie gave the Lakers the clinching point to lock down first place in the Division II regular-season standings and the top seed for the upcoming Section III playoffs.
The good part was that the first-round playoff bye gives Skaneateles a chance to rest, heal injuries and get plenty of practice time before the post-season starts.
Yet that same rest could prove a problem, as nearly two weeks will pass between the Lakers’ regular-season finale and its sectional semifinal game at Allyn Arena – and that could be against the Maroons, who as the no. 4 seed will host no. 5 seed CBA/J-D in the opening round.
Both of the regular-season meetings between Skaneateles and Auburn ended in ties, including that regular-season finale Wednesday night at Casey Rink where the Lakers and Maroons deadlocked at 1-1.
With first place locked down, the Lakers had nothing at stake, other than getting the upper hand in a long and colorful rivalry. Auburn needed at least a tie to break out of the fourth-place tie with CBA/J-D, whose league schedule was complete.
For two periods, it remained 0-0, though the Lakers got more than twice the amount of shots as the Maroons, constantly stymied by Auburn goaltender Jeff Gardner, who finished with 33 saves.
Finally, Skaneateles got to him with Jake Cooney’s third-period goal, assisted by Owen Kuhns. But Auburn got on the board, too, as Jake Wood beat Ethan Kupp off a pass from Mike Tarby.
Neither team would score in the five-minute overtime period, meaning that the result exactly matched the 2-2 tie Skaneateles and Auburn shared Jan. 2 at Allyn Arena.
Should the Maroons get past CBA/J-D late this week, a third encounter would have to be decided, one way or another, so that someone would make it to the Feb. 23 championship game at Utica Memorial Auditorium.