BUFFALO — The Skaneateles boys hockey team kept Salmon River from relaying the top spot in the Division II rankings into the top prize at the state championships Saturday.
“They’re good, we’re good. Both teams forechecked well. Both teams played hard. Both goalies played well. It’s real hard to get to this game and a lot of things fell into place for us on the way here this year. It just happen for us today,” coach Tim Cook said after the Section 10 titlist Shamrocks dropped a 3-2 decision to the Section 3 champion Lakers at HarborCenter.
“We had our chances and did what we could,” he added.
Skaneateles (21-3) set up a rematch of the last two teams to claim state championships, after Section 1 champion Pelham earned a chance to defend its title with a lopsided 8-2 decision over Section 7’s Saranac, which had earned an at-large bid to the state tournament.
The Lakers claimed top honors in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out the 2020 and 2021 state playoffs.
Against Salmon River, second-ranked Skaneateles opened the scoring and then rallied from a 2-1 deficit and struck for the eventual game-winner on the game’s only power play opportunity for either team. Senior captain Chad Lowe made 28 saves in helping to preserve the win.
“This game went the way our games have gone all year,” Lakers coach Mitch Major said. “We rely on Chad (Lowe) to make the saves and we convert on our chances.”
“Salmon River is a hell of a team and we passed a big test today,” he added.
The Lakers broke through for the first goal when sophomore Henry Major controlled a loose puck along the right boards at Salmon River blueline. He then raced past the defense and swept across the crease from the right circle and wristed a shot past senior netminder Rick Chatland (22 saves) for an unassisted goal at the 8:52 mark.
The Shamrocks countered just 12 seconds later when junior Dylan Johnson finished off a play set up by seniors Kade Cook and Chase Lewis.
Salmon River took its only lead of the game when senior Evan Collette skated in from the left wing with the puck then converted on the rebound of his own close range shot for an unassisted goal at 6:59 of the second period.
The lead lasted less than two minutes, however, after Major collected another loose puck along the right boards in the Shamrocks’ zone to start a 2-on-1 one break that ended with him sliding the puck across to freshman linemate Alex Whitlock, who a delivered one-timer with 8:40 left in the middle frame.
Good scoring chances were hard to come by in the third until late when the Shamrocks were called for the only penalty of the game with 3:03 left in regulation.
Salmon River actually had the best chance to score when Collette stripped a Laker of the puck at the blue line then skated in from center ice on a clear breakaway.
Lowe held his ground to preserve the tie but with seven seconds left in the same power play, junior Andrew Gaglione pumped home the rebound of a shot by Major to put Skaneateles back on top to stay with 2:29 left.
“We have 12 seniors and as a group, they’ve had a lot of success in their high school careers,” Cook said after his squad closed out the season at 21-3. “It’s been a while since we gotten this far in hockey.”
“It’s real hard to say goodbye. They’ve just been such a good group to coach,” he added.
Skaneateles 3, Salmon River 2
First period: 1. Ska, Major, 8:52; 2. Sal, D. Johnson (K. Cook, Lewis), 9:04.
Second period: 3. Sal, Collette, 6:59; 4. Ska, Whitlock (Major), 8:20.
Third period: 5. Ska, Gaglioni (Major), ppg, 14:31.
Goalies: Lowe (Sk) 28 saves; Chatland (SR) 22.
Records: Skaneateles (21-3); Salmon River (21-3).
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