On Saturday afternoon, the Skaneateles boys ice hockey team will hit the ice at the Syracuse War Memorial, in pursuit of a Section III Division II championship – chased by the last team to beat them this winter.
The Lakers are facing CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt, who stunned Skaneateles 3-2 at Allyn Arena on Jan. 31 when Ben McCreary scored a third-period natural hat trick, the last two of those goals coming in the final two minutes.
Each of them got there thanks to wins in Wednesday night’s sectional semifinals. While CBA/J-D was beating Cortland-Homer 5-3, Skaneateles found itself in a long scoreless deadlock with Oswego at Allyn Arena, but got out of it late in the second period and went on to shut out the Buccaneers 4-0.
Oswego had spoiled the hopes for a Skaneateles-Auburn neighborhood clash when it beat the Maroons 3-2 at Casey Park in the opening round of the sectional tournament on Feb. 16.
Perhaps that, along with the school break, contributed to a smaller home crowd and quieter student section. Also, the Lakers had handled the Bucs by 7-1 and 9-2 margins in their regular-season encounters, though the third game would prove, by far, the toughest.
Even if Oswego did not have to deal with as daunting a home-ice advantage as Skaneateles normally possesses, the Bucs still found itself in a defensive mode throughout the first period, but Sam Lafond’s 14 saves helped keep the game 0-0.
It stayed scoreless deep into the second period, only now it was the Lakers having to play lots of defense. Oswego took 17 shots in this period, yet Skaneateles goalie Chris Falso stopped each of them, and waited for his teammates to produce something.
That “something” arrived with five minutes left in the second period. Skaneateles had just killed off a Bucs power play when Dimitris Christou took the puck down the left side, split two Oswego defenders and went to the middle, where his wrist shot went between Lafond’s pads and into the net.
An even bigger blow came with 19.4 seconds left in the period, as Patrick Major split defenders and shot at close range, with Lafond making the save, but the puck squirting loose and Matt Benson, at the doorstep, putting home the rebound.
Taking that 2-0 lead to the third period, the Lakers would double that margin as Benson scored again with 11:39 left and Raymond Falso converted less than two minutes later. Matt Leveroni got credit for a pair of assists, while Reggie Buell got an assist and Chris Falso’s 24 saves produced a shutout.