PLATTSBURGH - Goaltender Tucker Angelopoulos could only keep the Lake Placid hockey team hanging on for so long.
Despite being nearly doubled up in shots on goal during the first two periods, the Blue Bombers were able to grab a 2-0 lead in Tuesday's Section VII championship game against Beekmantown at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House. The Eagles, however, turned the tables in the third period with five unanswered goals, including three within 40 seconds, to pull away for a 5-2 victory to earn their second straight sectional title.
The Blue Bombers were outshot 10-3 in the first period, but escaped into intermission on top 1-0 thanks to a goal from Chris Williams and some sparkling saves from Angelopoulos. Connor Preston then lifted Lake Placid to a 2-0 edge when he scored during the middle of the next stanza.
Ryan Damp (6) helps defend the Lake Placid net as Beekmantown’s Nathan Foster looks to pass during the second period of Tuesday’s game at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House.
Photo — Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
But from there it was all Beekmantown. Senior captain Nate Foster, who finished with a hat trick, put the Eagles on the board with 2:33 remaining in the second period, and then netted the game-tying tally just 2:09 into the third.
With the score tied 2-2, Beekmantown went on to bury three goals in a span of 40 seconds late in the third to end Lake Placid's season.
"In the first period we weren't very good," Lake Placid coach Keith Clark said. "We leaned on Tucker way too heavily and he got the job done. We got one good shot on goal and went up 1-0, and that was a bit of a gift. We played smart in the second, and then obviously it slipped away in the third. We made some mistakes and they made us pay for them."
Angelopoulos, a junior who was a Section VII first-team selection, made some huge saves early including two on point-blank chances by the quick, crafty Foster.
Williams put the Blue Bombers on the board with 1:43 remaining in the first period when he fired home a wrist shot from the slot past Beekmantown goalie Dustin Plumadore. Senior captain Shane McNierney assisted on the play when he sent a pass to Williams from behind the Eagles' net.
Preston also netted his goal from in close to put the Blue Bombers up 2-0. He scored at the 8:17 mark of the second period with Ryan Damp and McNierney assisting.
Beekmantown, which lost twice to Lake Placid in the regular season, then came to life. Left alone on the doorstep, Foster put the Eagles on the board with 2:33 left in the second period when he beat Angelopoulos with a low shot after collecting a pass from Kyle Bisonette. That sent Beekmantown into the second intermission down by just one goal, and it seemed to spark the team's play in the final stanza.
Foster netted the equalizer 2:09 into the period, and the teams played scoreless hockey during the next several minutes. But the walls caved in quickly on the Blue Bombers, starting with what proved to be the game-winning goal scored by Matt LeClair at the 10:55 mark. Just 17 seconds later, the Eagles pushed their lead to 4-2 on a tally by Josh Barriere, and 23 seconds after that, Foster sent home the game's last goal when tipped a puck past Angelopoulos to make it a 5-2 final.
Beekmantown finished with a 23-15 edge in shots on goal against Lake Placid, which entered the game ranked third in the New York state Division II standings.
"When we were down 2-0, we said to the kids 'just stick with it,'" Beekmantown head coach Justin Frechette said. "That's a true test of a champion. When you are challenged, it's all about how you respond, and I think we did that tonight.
"Tonight's all about our players and the commitment they made during the off-season and the experiences they've had playing in these big games," Frechette added. "This is our fourth year out of five playing in this game and those experiences of stick-to-it-iveness showed tonight."
Four key players ended their careers playing in a Blue Bombers uniform in Tuesday's championship final. Joining McNierney as seniors on the squad this season were Troy Jacques, Elias Smith and Dillon Savage.
Although the Blue Bombers went out on a painful note, they did finish with an 18-4 record and were the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference's regular-season champions.
"Overall, we just didn't play as well as we should have and as we can, which is quite unfortunate here in a one-game series in the playoffs," McNierney said. "I think at times we just weren't working hard enough and getting to the dirty areas, and getting enough shots on net. There were a lot of rebounds we should have put home.
"It was a great season. You can't take that away from us what we did in the regular season, but it's hard to lose in the championship." McNierney added. "This was my first championship and it's not fun to come this close and lose. We were ranked third coming in and lost to a good opponent."
"It was very emotional," Savage said. "The team worked hard but Beekmantown outplayed us. We couldn't finish. This is very hard, that's for sure. We beat Beekmantown twice this season, we had good vibes going into the game, but it just didn't end that well."
"This team took Lake Placid's program to places it hasn't been in a long time," Clark said. "We had 18 wins, the kids were ranked in the top five in the state, so there's nothing for them to hang their heads about. I know the guys wish they played a better game today. There's no doubt about it. We just didn't play at the championship level we needed to."
The Eagles, who improved to 17-4-1 and are New York's fourth-ranked team, now enter the state Division II quarterfinal playoff round and will travel to face Section I champion Pelham Saturday at the Brewster Ice Arena. Last year, Beekmantown made it to the state final four in Utica, and was just six seconds away from playing in the title tilt before dropping a heartbreaking 4-3 overtime loss to Syracuse CBA.