From a state championship in 2015 to back-to-back Section III titles in 2016 and 2017, recent post-season history for the Skaneateles boys ice hockey team has been full of celebrations, banners to hang and trophies to take home.
This winter had all the makings of another happy ending, with the Lakers having not lost once in 13 regular-season games against all of its possible opponents in the sectional tournament
Then, in one night, the whole thing crashed down.
New Hartford, the fourth-place finisher in the Division II National Conference, came into Allyn Arena Friday in the opening round of the sectional playoffs and, with a fine all-around effort and strong finish, shocked Skaneateles 4-2.
It was the first time in five years that the Lakers were beaten before the sectional finals. And there was little indication that the Spartans would pull it off.
After all, New Hartford had gone 6-13-1 in the regular season. For a span of nearly two months, the Spartans had claimed exactly one victory, though most of its defeats were by small margins, including Skaneateles beating them 3-1 on Dec. 19.
However, on Feb. 9 New Hartford finally won one of those close games, edging Auburn 2-1 on a goal in the waning seconds of the third period. It cost the Maroons the Division II National Conference regular-season title.
So as the sectional tournament began, Skaneateles and Auburn were on the same half of the bracket, poised to meet in the semifinals if both won their opening-round games. The Maroons handled its part, using four second-period goals to oust Oswego 6-2.
Now it was the Lakers’ turn, and all looked fine in the opening minutes as Bauer Morrissey’s goal gave Skaneateles a quick lead. But New Hartford’s Frank Mondi answered it, and it was 1-1 through one period.
The second period again saw the Lakers go in front thanks to Owen Van Holtz’s goal, but again the Spartans tied it, thanks to Tyler Penree’s goal.
Try as it could, Skaneateles could not get anything more past New Hartford goalie Juliano Macera, who finished with 21 saves. Sparked by his work, and hardened by all the close defeats it too this winter, the Spartans closed strong.
It was Mike Fiorentino’s goal that pushed New Hartford ahead for good, with Penree returning in the final minutes to score a second time and send the Spartans to the semifinals against Auburn.
So a fine season for the Lakers ends, but there won’t be much roster turnover as the roster had just four seniors. The large returning cast in 2018-19 will have a newfound hunger after seeing its two-year sectional title reign ended.