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SLP gains playoff momentum

Dylan Amell of Saranac Lake Placid reaches for an airborne puck during action against Beekmantown on Thursday, Feb. 20 in Plattsburgh. Also pictured for SLP is Jon Kratts. (News photo — Lou Reuter)

PLATTSBURGH — The Saranac Lake Placid boys hockey team is heading into the playoffs in exactly the manner it was hoping for.

On Thursday, Feb. 20, SLP wrapped up the regular season on a high note, skating past Beekmantown 4-2 to finish unbeaten in Section VII play with a 7-0-1 mark.

The lone blemish on SLP’s league record came two nights before when it finished in a 3-3 tie with Plattsburgh, but the top-seeded team made sure things weren’t going to be as close when it took on the Eagles on their home ice at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Stafford Arena.

After a scoreless first period, SLP buried four pucks during the second period to carry a 4-1 lead into the third and stayed in control down the stretch to improve to 13-6-1 overall.

Brendan Bullock, Hugo Hobson, Rhett Darrah and Ben Munn scored a goal each for the winners, all in the second period. Dalton Kane netted both Eagles goals. He found the back of the net in the second period and tacked on another with a minute remaining in the third with the game already appearing out of reach.

Saranac Lake Placid goaltender Anders Stanton comes through with a huge pad save on a shot in the third period by Beekmantown's Dalton Kane during the final regular season game on Thursday, Feb. 20 at the SUNY Plattsburgh Field House. (News photo — Lou Reuter)

SLP jumped out to a 2-0 lead, and after Beekmantown cut its deficit to 2-1 on the night it honored its four seniors, SLP answered with the next two tallies to take control. SLP finished with a 34-24 edge in shots on goal.

“We played a good, solid team game,” SLP head coach Keith Clark said. “We took care of the puck and just kept finding a way to generate chances and get pucks to the net. We worked really hard, we made really steady plays and played well as a group of five on the ice, and we were rewarded.”

Bullock, a sophomore, gave SLP a 1-0 lead less than a minute into the second period when he beat past Eagles goalie Riley Hansen with a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle. Camden Reiley set up the goal when he checked a Beekmantown player into the left boards and caused a turnover, which Bullock jumped on while rushing toward the net.

SLP upped the lead to 2-0 with 3:48 gone in the period on a nice passing combination between junior linemates Hobson and Bailey Bartholomew. On the play, Bartholomew skated the puck into the Eagles zone along the right wing, got past a Beekmantown with a nifty move toward the net and then slid the puck to Hobson, who sent a shot through Hansen’s pads.

The two-goal lead, however, didn’t stand up for long as Kane answered with the Eagles first goal 35 seconds later when he topped-shelved a shot into the right side of goal after collecting a pass from Collin Latinville from behind the SLP net.

After seeing a 2-0 edge turn into an uncomfortable one-goal lead, SLP responded with the next two goals to relieve the pressure. Darrah made it a 3-1 game with 5:02 left in the second when he one-timed a pass from Tyler Hinckley past Hansen. Munn scored SLP’s final goal, giving his team a 4-1 cushion with 55 seconds remaining in the period. The tally came on a power play with Munn sending a wrist shot from the point that was deflected into the net. Darrah assisted on the play.

Kane, a junior, netted the game’s final goal when he beat SLP goalie Anders Stanton on a wrist shot from the left wing with a minute remaining to make the score a 4-2 final.

Stanton finished with 22 saves to earn the win between the pipes. Hansen recorded 30 stops in goal for the Eagles, who finished the regular season with a 2-5-1 league record and at 8-10-2 overall.

“This is how we wanted to go into the playoffs,” said Munn, a senior defenseman. “At times I thought we were a little slow, I thought the ice was a little slow, but we all just kept our feet moving. This was a really nice team win, feels good.”

As the top seed in Section VII, SLP, along with second-seed Northeastern Clinton and third-seed Saranac Central, have opening round byes for the playoffs. No. 4 Beekmantown and No. 5 Plattsburgh were scheduled to square off Tuesday, Feb. 25 in Section VII’s first playoff game. SLP will host the winner of that matchup in a semifinal contest Thursday, Feb. 27 at the Saranac Lake Civic Center. NCCS and Saranac will face each other in the second semifinal game.

The Section VII championship final will take place at the SUNY Plattsburgh Stafford Arena on Monday, March 2 with the opening faceoff slated for 6:30 p.m.

“Now we enter the second season. Your record and where you are means nothing right now and everyone knows that. Everyone is starting at 0-0-0,” Clark added. “You learn from your regular season for sure and we have take the lessons from that regular season, but the reality is we just have to come out and play consistent, hard hockey from the get go. Every game is a one-game season, and that’s how we have to look at it.”