LAKE PLACID - The Lake Placid boys hockey team had two tough tests last weekend as the host of the annual Winter Carnival Tournament at the Olympic Center.
The Blue Bombers passed one of those challenges when they beat Saranac Lake 8-4 on Friday in an emotional opening-round game that also served as a Champlain Valley Athletic Conference contest. But after defeating their Red Storm rivals, the Blue Bombers couldn't pull off a second straight win in another big game, falling 4-1 to the Bombers of Westfield High School in the championship game Saturday, Feb. 4.
The squad from Westfield, Mass., a first-time visitor to the tournament, gave up just one goal in two games en route to taking the title. Westfield blanked Shaker-Colonie 3-0 to reach the title tilt, where they fell behind by a goal early to Lake Placid and then answered with four straight tallies to improve to 9-3-1 overall.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Blue Bombers forward Troy Jacques chases after a puck in front of the Saranac Lake net guarded by Red Storm goalie Blake Darrah during first-round action Friday, Feb. 3 in the Lake Placid High School Winter Carnival Ice Hockey Tournament at the Olympic Center.
Lake Placid was outshot by nearly a 2-to-1 margin, but continued to battle in a game that was deadlocked 1-1 until Westfield notched a pair of goals late in the second period to take command. Westfield then found the back of the net one more time with less than four minutes remaining in the game to secure the win.
"We knew that when we invited Westfield to play in our tournament late last summer that they would be bringing a very good team to Lake Placid," said Blue Bombers coach Keith Clark. "They are one of the best teams in western Mass. year in and year out. They are a skilled hockey team with good size and strength.
"We played decent, but not good enough," Clark added. "After beating Saranac Lake in the late game Friday, we knew it would be a tough test to come back the next afternoon to face Westfield. We played about as well as we could."
Both teams scored once in the first period, with Troy Jacques giving Lake Placid a 1-0 lead 6:22 into the game. The goal was the third of the season for Jacques and was set up by Keegan Barney. Sean Spohr tied the contest, netting Westfield's first goal at the 8:21 mark of the period.
The Blue Bombers and Bombers remained tied at a goal apiece until less than two minutes remained in the second period, when Chris Sullivan and Mike Santinello sent home tallies within a span of 12 seconds to lift Westfield to a 3-1 edge heading into the third stanza. Conner Larnway then put the game away, scoring for the Bombers with 3:45 left on the clock to make it a 4-1 final.
Westfield put 29 shots on net, and freshman goaltender Jeff Smith made 25 saves in a losing effort for Lake Placid. Westfield used two goalies in the game, with Nick Liberto starting and making nine saves and Matt Blascak taking over and recording five saves.
Lake Placid junior Eddie Kane, who scored four goals in his team's victory over Saranac Lake, was named the tournament's most valuable player. Blue Bombers teammate Nzoni, a defenseman, was also named to the all-tournament team.
"I was pleased with how we played in both games," Clark said. "Obviously, we would have preferred a better result in the second game, but overall, it was a pretty good weekend for us. We beat a good Saranac Lake team, and we were able to play for a championship in our own tournament. It was a good test for us to play a good team like Westfield. They don't have too many weaknesses.
"Now we have three league games in a row going into the playoffs," Clark continued. "We're in that crucial part of the season where every game is like a playoff game in terms of seedings and standings."