Though assured of going to the Section III Division II playoffs, the Cazenovia ice hockey team still needed a boost of confidence in the penultimate week of the regular season.
And no bigger opportunity arose than Friday’s home date against Clinton, who was tied for second in the Division II National Conference and still in the running to earn a home playoff game or even claim the league title.
Cazenovia managed to spoil all of those plans, starting fast and, when the Warriors charged at them, responding with cool offensive precision to register a 6-3 victory.
It took just four minutes for the Lakers to go in front, 1-0, as Will McCrink scored off a feed from Nate Morgan. Then, at the 12-minute mark, that margin doubled to 2-0 as Billy Rankin converted.
Rankin struck again for his second goal a scant 13 seconds into the second period, but that 3-0 lead did not last long.
Clinton dominated the rest of that period, using Ben Owen’s pair of goals, along with a tally from Peter Burke, to tie it, 3-3. Now it was the Lakers’ turn to offer a spirited response, going back in front 4-3 as McCrink delivered his second goal early in that last frame, assisted by Rankin.
The Lakers protected that lead as goalie Mario Benedetti made several key stops, finishing his night with 29 saves. Then, with 5:40 left, Jake Stowell tacked on a crucial insurance goal, and when Rankin finished off his hat trick, the Lakers were safe.
Colin McGaugh and Brendan Whalen joined Rankin and Morgan in the Lakers’ assist column. Clinton got 29 saves from its goalie, Joe Bonanza.
Following a 48-hour weather delay, the Lakers did get to go to Cicero Twin Rinks Wednesday night to face Fayetteville-Manlius, but once again a poor start doomed Cazenovia as it took a 5-2 defeat to the Hornets.