Baldwinsville Long before Valentine's Day, the Baldwinsville ice hockey team received some unexpected love when it moved up from a third seed to a second seed in the Section III Division I hockey playoffs due to the controversial expulsion of Fayetteville-Manlius for playing one too many regular-season games.
Instead of facing New York State’s top-ranked Cicero-North Syracuse (18-1-1) on the road, the Bees played host to middle-of-the-pack Central Square in Thursday night's quarterfinal round.
The hosts didn’t pay that love forward, B'ville eliminating the Red Hawks in clinical fashion by a score of 8-2.
“Some people had the feeling that we may have backed into it or something,” Bees coach Mark Lloyd said. "So I don't know that we were overly excited.
"We knew Central Square would be a quality opponent. They've given some teams fits. I think we were cautiously optimistic (and) excited, but not overwhelmed.”
A night later, the Bees found out that it would face Rome Free Academy (18-2-1) in next Tuesday's Division I semifinal at Kennedy Arena after the Black Knights eliminated Cortland-Homer 4-1. The winner in that game advances to the Feb. 23 final at Utica Memorial Auditorium against West Genesee or Cicero-North Syracuse.
The only meeting between B'ville and RFA this season, on Jan. 15 (also at Kennedy Arena), ended in a 4-2 victory for the Black Knights, though the final RFA goal came with an empty net to double the margin of an otherwise close contest.
"We feel confident, Lloyd said. "They (RFA) are a good strong team obviously, but we feel like if we play our game we can play with anybody.”
Against Central Square, freshman winger Garrett Gray had a hand in each of the Bees’ first five goals, slotting home the second and fifth, and assisting on the other three.
“He's on our number one line with two seniors and he carries his weight on that line,” Lloyd said.