SYRACUSE Baldwinsville ice hockey goaltender Nick Harper had some amazing saves during the first 62-plus minutes of the Bees marathon Section III Division I quarterfinal against the Syracuse Cougars Thursday night at Meachem Rink.
But with six and a half minutes left in the third overtime, the puck slipped off Harper’s left side after a shot, and Syracuse’s Collin Thompson had just enough space to squeeze it past him for the decisive goal, leaving B'ville on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat.
“Nick’s played fantastic all year,” B'ville head coach Mark Lloyd said. “We just couldn’t quite get there to tie up his stick and eliminate that threat.”
Harper finished with 41 saves, eight shy of his season high of 49, ironically set the last time these two teams played on this same Meachem ice Jan. 14. In that game, the Bees came out 1-0 winners, also in overtime.
In Thursday’s playoff rematch, B'ville didn't wait as long to get on the board, jumping out to an early 1-0 lead eight minutes into the first period. Adam Tretowicz collected a pass and scooted the puck past Syracuse goalie Sam Walsh as Matt Monaco and David Mazurkiewicz earned the assists.
Lloyd and the Bees hoped that goal would lead to better things to come, but they knew Syracuse was too good to be shut out again.
“They beat us by one at our place (3-2 on Dec. 6), and we beat them by one at their place,” Lloyd said. "And we knew it was going to be a tight battle.”
The Cougars responded late in the period, as Matt Eccles rifled a 55-foot shot from Harper’s right side that sailed through the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1.
After that, the game would remain tied for another 58 and a half minutes, through two more periods of regulation. Harper took some particular heat during the second period and, at one point, had to make four saves in less than a minute to keep B'ville on even terms.