What had seemed, for most of the night, like a joyous occasion turned hazardous for the Skaneateles boys ice hockey team late in last Tuesday’s game against Auburn at Allyn Arena.
Up by three goals in the third period of his latest chapter of the “Route 20 Rivalry”, the state Division II no. 1-ranked Lakers saw things get really tight late before it held on for a 4-3 victory over the Maroons.
Any time Skaneateles and Auburn meets, it’s memorable. The fact that the Lakers sat atop the state rankings, yet still are trying to dethrone the Maroons as sectional champions, only adds to the mix.
They had first played Dec. 11 at Casey Park, Auburn leading at one point before Skaneateles, taking full advantage of a multitude of Maroons penalties, scored three times in the third period and won it 6-3.
Here, in front of the usual large crowd on its home ice, Skaneateles was in no mood to wait. Midway through the first period, the Lakers grabbed a 1-0 lead when Owen Van Holtz pounced on a rebound and converted.
Again, Auburn hurt itself with penalties, and with a two-man advantage the Lakers made it 2-0 as Jack Henry scored, only to have Auburn’s Ty Hlywa answer late in the first period to get his side on the board.
The second period was quite disheartening for Auburn fans, as it had 11 minutes of power-play time, yet saw the Lakers increase its lead.
A Maroons turnover led to Garrett Krieger flying in on a breakaway and scoring short-handed at the 4:30 mark. Then, at the 12:35 mark, Henry returned to blast in a goal from the point, his second of the night.
So it was 4-1 going to the third period, yet the Lakers could not feel comfortable, especially after Johnny Malandruccolo, who assisted on Auburn’s first goal, converted himself off a feed from Hlywa with 10:40 left.
Things got even more nervous when, with 3:15 to play, Austin Black’s shot found its way through several sticks and past Chris Falso, cutting the margin to one.
The last two minutes were frantic. Yet another Lakers penalty left it two players down to Auburn, who had pulled goalie Aaron Kowal after his 34-save effort. Somehow, Skaneateles kept its lead, Chris Falso working his total to 24 saves.
After this tough, physical battle, the Lakers would have to quickly turn around and play Thursday – but motivation wasn’t a problem since Skaneateles was facing New Hartford, the team who knocked them out of the sectional playoffs a year ago.
Only 2-12-1 coming into this game, the Spartans didn’t appear to pose the same threat this time around, but the Lakers didn’t take any chances, unleashing nearly a year’s worth of pent-up frustration on New Hartford while prevailing 8-2.
All that Skaneateles needed came during the first period, Krieger scoring less than four minutes into the game. Three more followed, with Colin Weeks scoring, followed by Lynn and Bauer Morrissey finding the net in the last 90 seconds of the period.
Another barrage came midway through the second period, Morrissey and Van Holtz scoring less than two minutes apart. Van Holtz added another goal in the third period before Morrissey, with 6:59 left, converted for the hat trick.
All the while, Henry kept feeding his teammate, amassing four assists. Lynn and Ryan Gick had two assists apiece as Weeks, Jimmy Liberatore, Charlie Major and Ty Jones had one assist apiece.
There’s another game beween Skaneateles and New Hartford next Friday, on the Spartans’ home ice, following a Tuesday trip north to face Oswego, who at 6-2 in league play (10-2-1 overall) has emerged as the Lakers’ primary challenger for regular-season Division II honors.