Skaneateles forward Matt Benson (5) is perfectly placed to score a third-period goal wiith CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt's Peyton Bowler looking the other way in Saturday's Section III Division II final at the Syracuse War Memorial. The Lakers shut out the Brothers 6-0 to earn its second consecutive sectional title.
Put Reggie Buell, Raymond Falso and Matt Benson on the same rink at the the same time, add the likes of Patrick Major and Adam Lupo to the mix, and there’s little that most opponents can do to contain the Skaneateles boys ice hockey team.
In Saturday’s Section III Division II final at the Syracuse War Memorial, the Lakers, with its top scorers together and in top form, took less than a minute to jump in front of CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt and never let up on the way to a 6-0 victory over the Brothers.
“This is the best we’ve played all year,” said Buell, who scored twice. “We know we are talented and we know our potential, and (today) we were ready to go.”
“Every game we are getting stronger,” said Falso.
For all of its long and glorious history, Skaneateles had not won back-to-back sectional championships since 1982 and ’83. Not only did the Lakers repeat its 2016 sectional crown, it did so with a splash and style that suggests a third consecutive trip to the state title game might also lie ahead.
Skaneateles and CBA/J-D had played twice in the regular season. Both times, the road team won, the Lakers prevailing 5-3 in early December at Onondaga Nation Arena, the Brothers rallying to win 3-2 on Jan. 31 at Allyn Arena with Ben McCreary’s third-period natural hat trick.
There was also the two sides’ recent history of post-season games, from 2013, when the Brothers won the state Division II title, to 2015, when Skaneateles lost the sectional final to CBA/J-D, but avenged that defeat as an at-large entry in the state semifinals on the way to winning it all.
In short, they knew each other well, and that familiarity would lead to an extra intensity that, combined with the stakes of a sectional title and the grand setting of the War Memorial, promised an exciting battle – until the puck dropped, that is, and it was all Lakers.
The featured battle was supposed to include the Division II American Conference co-players of the year, Falso trying to solve CBA/J-D goaltender Peyton Bowler, whose 40 saves were a key part of that win at Skaneateles a month earlier.
Falso got the best of it just 31 seconds into the game. Heavy Lakers pressure, which included a Dimitris Christou shot off the post, culminaed with Falso finding the net off feeds from Reggie Buell and Patrick Major.
Bowler would settle in for a while and minimize the early damage to that one goal, but while CBA/J-D relieved some pressure, it couldn’t pull even, and at the 9:31 mark Buell’s hard shot from the right circle connected and made it 2-0, Falso joining Matt Benson in the assist column.
The wide-open flow of play gave the Brothers a fair share of chances, too, but Chris Falso stopped all nine shots he faced in the first period, which was half of the Lakers’ shot total of 18.
Despite the great start and a power play to start the second period, Skaneateles could not relax because CBA/J-D had come back on them before, so it kept on attacking.
That paid off at the 5:31 mark of the period when Major won a face-off in his own end and fed it to Adam Lupo. Going two-on-one to the net from the right side, Lupo chose to shoot, and that proved wise when his wrist shot flew past Bowler into the top left corner of the net.
Less than five minutes later, the margin grew to 4-0 as Buell was sprung loose up the middle off a perfect feed from Major and put home his second goal of the afternoon.
CBA/J-D was not rallying this time, and after Benson and Major scored 41 seconds apart midway through the third period (Falso assisted on both of them), the Lakers were off to the state tournament.
And they go there off a sectional run that included three consecutive shutouts. Goaltender Chris Falso stopped all 22 shots he faced, and coach Mitch Major said his team’s overall defensive effort is the foundation for everything else that is working for the Lakers.
Next Saturday at 7 p.m., Skaneateles will face Section X champion St. Lawrence in the Division II regional final, with a win taking Skaneateles back to Buffalo’s HarborCenter for the March 11-12 state “Frozen Four”.
“We know what we have to do to get there (to Buffalo),” said Falso.