Far up north, and far from its home environment, the Cazenovia ice hockey team made sure that its season will extend beyond the first full week of February.
The Lakers went to Haldane Arena in Pulaski last Tuesday night to face Ontario Bay, and would keep the Storm off the board on its way to a 3-0 victory.
With that win, Cazenovia completed a regular-season sweep of Ontario Bay and secured no worse than fourth place in the five-team Division II National Conference. Those four teams – Cazenovia, New Hartford, Clinton and Oswego – will go to the Section III tournament, which starts in mid-February.
Having blanked Ontario Bay 2-0 back on Dec. 4 at SUNY-Morrisville IcePlex, the Lakers found it a big stressful in the rematch, only leading 1-0 through two periods. But it put the game away by twice beating Storm goalie Dan Nicholson in the third period, overcoming Nicholson’s 38-save effort.
Jake Stowell, with one goal and one assist, led a well-balanced attack. Billy Rankin and Brendan Whalen also found the net, while Lucas Bonavita, Adam Race, Trevor Cross and Will McCrink each got assists. Mario Beneditti earned the shut out, stopping all 28 shots he faced.
Again on the road Saturday, the Lakers visited New Hartford, where for most of the afternoon it stayed right with the National Conference-leading Spartans, only to falter late in a 5-3 defeat.
Just 1:14 into the game, the Lakers went up 1-0 on Graham Demo’s goal, fed by Rankin, but New Hartford with two goals 20 seconds apart late in the period to go in front.
Bonavita hit for the tying goal 2:14 into the second period. Exactly one minute later, Bonavita’s deft pass set up Whalen, who scored to give Cazenovia a 3-2 edge.
Again, the Spartans answered, scoring late in the period, and that 3-3 deadlock held until New Hartford notched the go-ahead goal with just 1:06 left, adding an empty-netter seconds later.
Grant Romeo, with two goals, and Tom Mandel, with a goal and two assists, led a well-balanced Spartan attack that overcame Benedetti’s superb 40-save effort.
Cazenovia (4-9-2) meets Fayetteville-Manlius Monday at Cicero Twin Rinks before hosting Clinton Friday night.