Even with the top state ranking, the Skaneateles boys ice hockey team had to win last Friday’s game against Cortland-Homer to assure itself the Division II regular-season championship and the top seed for the Section III playoffs.
And that’s just what Skaneateles did, roaring out to a tremendous start and using that momentum to push itself to a 4-2 victory over the Golden Eagles.
All season long, Skaneateles and Cortland-Homer had held the top two spots in the state Division II rankings – in that order. Now they were tied for the no. 1 ranking, a rare occurrence.
That was because Cortland-Homer enhanced its own stature by handing state Division I no. 3-ranked Syracuse its first loss of the season in a 7-3 romp on Feb. 2, even though a loss to Ithaca followed.
Meanwhile, Skaneateles had a big test at home last Tuesday against Oswego, the same time it fought past 2-1 on Jan. 22. Exactly two weeks later, the rematch was going in that same direction until a second-period surge allowed the Lakers to bash the Buccaneers 7-1.
Helped by Ryan Bartlett’s goal, Oswego played Skaneateles to a 1-1 tie through one period, but that only seemed to focus the Lakers, who proceeded to score five times in that second period without an answer from the Bucs.
Keying that outburst, Bauer Morrissey and Jack Henry each had three assists, with Charlie Major adding two assists and the defense making all the key stops, too, Chris Falso finishing with 19 saves.
Those seven Skaneateles goals came from seven different players – Morrissey, Ryan Gick, Charlie Russell, Owen Van Holtz, Cole Heintz, Garrett Krieger and Luke Lynn. Russell, Van Holtz and Gick also picked up assists.
All of this led to the game with Cortland-Homer, with league bragging rights the sole motivation since they were already guaranteed the top two seeds in the sectional tournament and a bye into the semifinals.
Within 12 minutes, Skaneateles had all the production it needed.
It started with a turnover on a Cortland-Homer power play that Lynn converted into a short-handed goal. Yet another goal with a man down occurred when Morrissey charged in and, when Brandon Ludwig couldn’t corral the puck, Russell put in the rebound.
With five minutes still to play in the first period, another loose puck in front of the Golden Eagles’ net at even strength was converted into a goal, this time by Heintz.
Even though Cortland-Homer cut the deficit to 3-1 before the period ended, the damage was rendered and, for the rest of the night, the Lakers’ defense ably protected its lead in front of Adam Casper, who stopped 25 of 27 shots he faced.
Krieger set up the fourth and final goal in the second period with a deft move to the net that lured out Ludwig, giving Jimmy Liberatore room to put in the goal.
Despite 39 saves from Ludwig and goals by Jake Prunier and Jed Brazo, the Golden Eagles could not get closer, hurt by late penalties as the two sides skirmished plenty late, hinting at more tension should they meet in the Feb. 25 sectional final at the War Memorial.
For now, though, the Lakers would get some much-needed rest – 11 days worth, in fact – before the Feb. 19 sectional semifinal against the lowest remaining seed among Whitesboro, Auburn or Clinton.