A two-goal lead, a home crowd in full roar, and a confident attack that was answering every challenge thrown at them – with all that going for them, the Skaneateles boys ice hockey team had every reason to think it would skate past St. Lawrence and return to Buffalo’s HarborCenter for a shot at a second state title in three years.
But the Lakers never got there.
The Section X champion Larries fought back with a pair of third-period goals in Saturday night’s Division II regional final at Allyn Arena and then prevailed, 5-4, on Drew Rose’s goal 4:39 into overtime.
Instead of celebrating a third straight trip to the state ‘Frozen Four’, Skaneateles slowly trudged off the ice, stunned by the turn of events in a game where it had out-shot St. Lawrence 40-19 in regulation and had never trailed until Rose decided it.
With its no. 2 state ranking, the Larries aimed, at the outset, to make sure Skaneateles did not overwhelm them, even after Patrick Major put the Lakers in front 3:19 into the first period, converting after shots by Ryan Gick and Nate Squires got turned away.
St. Lawrence got on the board less than two minutes later on Jack Pullano’s goal, but the 1-1 tie didn’t last long, either, since Reggie Buell’s goal off a terrific feed from Raymond Falso put Skaneateles back in front at the 8:02 mark.
When Buell returned on a breakaway up the right side to beat Larries goalie Rico DeMatteo on a wrist shot with 1:04 left in the period, the Lakers had a 3-1 advantage, and had taken 15 shots to St. Lawrence’s six.
The second period included another quick Skaneateles answer to a St. Lawrence tally. Andrew Lantry had scored on a breakaway at the 8:33 mark to cut the Lakers’ margin in half, but Falso restored it less than two minutes later off a feed from Buell.
No one could have imagined that the Lakers would get shut out the rest of the way.
A turning point came at the end of the second period, when St. Lawrence killed off a Skaneateles power play, preventing a possible runaway. Energized by that effort, the Larries again pulled within one, 4-3, when Luke Collins pounced on a rebound of a shot Lakers goalie Chris Falso could not hang on to and converted.
The tension built as the final period went on, Skaneateles unable to reclaim its earlier margin and constantly stuffed by DeMatteo, who finished with 38 saves.
Meanwhile, St. Lawrence, displaying its depth, steadily built up its pressure, which paid off when, with 2:10 left, Rose got open at the right circle and fired a wrist shot past Falso.
Even here, Skaneateles had a terrific chance to win it when the Larries got whistled for a penalty seconds after Rose’s tying goal. Again, though, the St. Lawrence penalty-killing unit proved effective, and the game went to overtime.
The back-and-forth play in OT almost guaranteed a quick resolution. It came when Rose, gathering the puck in the corner, flung a shot that deflected off Falso’s pad and into the net.