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Cougars survive three OTs, advance to semifinals

Syracuse needs Thompson goal to stop B'ville, 2-1

Syracuse goaltender Sam Walsh (28) dives to make a save in overtime in front of teammate Sean Eccles (3) in last Thursday’s Section III Division I playoff opener against Baldwinsville. Walsh recorded 28 saves in the 2-1, triple-overtime Cougars’ victory over the Bees.

Syracuse goaltender Sam Walsh (28) dives to make a save in overtime in front of teammate Sean Eccles (3) in last Thursday’s Section III Division I playoff opener against Baldwinsville. Walsh recorded 28 saves in the 2-1, triple-overtime Cougars’ victory over the Bees. Scott Thomas

— For three periods and three overtimes, the Syracuse Cougars ice hockey team wondered if its season would last beyond last Thursday’s marathon Section III Division I quarterfinal against Baldwinsville at Meachem Rink.

Finally, in the early portion of the third OT period, a loose puck slipped off the left side of Bees goaltender Nick Harper, and Collin Thompson had just enough space to squeeze it past him for the decisive goal, giving the Cougars a tough, long and hard-earned 2-1 victory.

As Syracuse had done each of the two times it faced B’ville in the regular season, it attacked with frequency, but couldn’t get much past Harper, who 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, but in Thursday’s playoff rematch, B'ville didn't wait as long to get on the board.

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.

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 quite a while, through two more periods of regulation. Syracuse had its best chance to go in front in the second period, when putting particular heat on Harper, who at one point, had to make four saves in less than a minute to keep B'ville on even terms.

In the first overtime, the Cougars continued to pepper Harper and the Bees with shots and controlled the puck on offense. But B'ville held tough on defense, either rejecting or saving all of Syracuse’s shot attempts.

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