Feb 05, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Each of the last two seasons, the Skaneateles girls ice hockey team’s season came to a dramatic, painful end in back-to-back double-overtime defeats to Alexandria Bay in the Section III championship game.
But in the 2014 version of the sectional final Tuesday night at Austin Park Pavilion, there was no pain, and very little drama, as the Lakers finally got to the top by shutting out the Oswego Buccaneers 3-0.
“It’s the greatest relief,” said senior goaltender Amanda Lupo, who was part of both of those title-game losses, but got a shutout this time around, recording 14 saves.
For senior captain Claire Michel, whose short-handed goal in the second period proved a turning point, the victory meant something else.
“It proves that all our hard work has paid off,” said Michel. “It’s a nice feeling.”
All through this winter, as it dominated Section III foes, the Lakers took none of its success for granted and remained hungry for the big prize. Getting it meant beating an Oswego side that it topped 4-1 in both of their regular-season meetings in January.
What helped Skaneateles, besides home-ice advantage, was the fact that the Bucs had to play the night before in the sectional semifinals, edging past Alex Bay 4-3. By contrast, the Lakers’ semifinal (a 5-1 win over Ithaca) had taken place six days earlier, which meant it took the ice rested, energized and ready to atone for the disappointments of the last two years.
A large, enthusiastic crowd braved the cold and saw Lupo make a big stop less than a minute into the game. After that, the Lakers gradually assumed control of the puck, taking eight shots to Oswego’s three, and patiently waiting for a chance to move in front.
It came late in the period, thanks to a Bucs penalty. Though Maddie Whalen made three saves on the enusing power play, she couldn’t keep Riley Donahue from taking Sophie Kush’s pass and drilling a shot from the right point into the net at the 11:05 mark.
But it was the second period that would prove decisive. Oswego got a power play early in that frame and attacked hard – but Lupo kept denying them with a series of big stops to preserve the Lakers’ 1-0 lead.
As a result of those saves, said Michel, “everyone got amped up”, and that energy remained constant even as the Bucs gained another power play minutes later.
Michel, a key part of the penalty-killing unit, went to the point to block an Oswego pass and stole the puck, flying down the center of the ice all alone toward Whalen. She said she moved low and, when Whalen went in that same direction, fired the shot up top – and found the net to make it 2-0.
From there, Skaneateles gradually wore Oswego down, and tacked on one more goal with 9:20 left as Sarah Sauda’s high, floating shot floated past Whalen.
With a sectional title finally secure, the Lakers could look ahead to this weekend’s state final four – ironically, taking place on Alex Bay’s home ice in Clinton. Beekmantown (Section II) and Potsdam (Section X) are also in the field, with the Section VI champion yet to be determined.
Lupo said that, while her team talked about coming together the last two seasons, this was the year that they actually pulled it off.
“This time I can call them a true family”, she said. “We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, and we build off them.”