SLP captures Section VII hockey crown
Four-goal outburst in second period lifts SLP to 5-1 triumph over Saranac Central, Queensbury up next
PLATTSBURGH — A big-time high school hockey rivalry that stretched back decades ended when teams from Saranac Lake and Lake Placid combined forces for the first time this season.
Now, that team has started a new chapter in history, and so far, things couldn’t have turned out any better.
On Tuesday, March 3 at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Stafford Arena, SLP’s inaugural boys hockey team captured the Section VII crown with a 5-1 victory over Saranac Central.
The triumph puts SLP’s boys just one more win away from a trip to the state Division II final four, which takes place at the Harbor Center in Buffalo on March 14-15. In order to earn that trip, SLP will have to beat Section II representative Queensbury in a game taking place Saturday, March 7 at the Saranac Lake Civic Center starting at 7:30 p.m.
SLP’s boys posted a 7-0-1 league record during the regular season and headed into the Section VII championship as the top seed, and showed they deserved top billing. On Saturday Feb. 29, SLP rolled to a 7-2 semifinal victory over Beekmantown, and then, with the title on the line, SLP unleashed some big-time firepower again, out shooting the Chiefs 60-17.
But the championship game didn’t start out great for the eventual winners. Despite owning a 20-5 edge in shots on goal, SLP headed into the first intermission down 1-0, thanks to a power-play goal scored by Saranac’s Austin Carpenter midway through the opening period. As it turned out, that was the only goal the Chiefs could muster in the matchup, and in the second period, SLP erupted for four goals to take control.
Tyler Hinckley and Rhett Darrah led SLP with two goals each and Bailey Bartholomew found the back of the net once in the win.
“That first period, Saranac came out and played really hard and I thought we were scrambling a little bit,” said SLP head coach Keith Clark, who was honored as the Section VII coach of the year after the game. “We weren’t playing our game, but I thought we played really well after that. I told our guys that they did a nice job calming down and going into the second and getting back to playing our brand of hockey.
“That second period was obviously really good to us,” Clark continued. “We want to play fast, we want to allow the kids to be creative and try to create offense, but you have to do that in a responsible way. In the first period we were just playing a little too loose.”
After coming up empty on 20 shots and two power-play opportunities in the opening period, SLP evened the score at 1-1 on its first shot of the second, which came off the stick of Darrah just 45 seconds into the period.
Hinckley then buried two straight on wrist shots from the right faceoff circle in a span of just two minutes. The senior’s first goal came on a deflection at the 5:47 mark and put his team ahead to stay, and his next shot went cleanly into the left side of the net for a 3-1 SLP edge.
Bartholomew, a sophomore, really put the pressure on the Chiefs when he sent home a rebound with 1:10 remaining in the second to up SLP’s advantage to 4-1. Jon Kratts and Hunter Wilmot assisted on the play.
Darrah rounded out the scoring, beating Chiefs goalie Erick Frechette at the 8:59 mark of the second to make it a 5-1 final.
Darrah added one assist in the game Dylan Amell finished with two assists. Amell, a Saranac Lake High School senior, was honored as Section VII’s most valuable player after the game.
Saranac Lake Placid improved to 15-6-1 with the win.
“After that first period, we looked around the locker room and said ‘This is not the way we want to play,'” Hinckley said. “We were a much better team than we were playing, and when we came out in that second period, we ended up going up 4-1.
“When we went back into the locker room after the second, we were were loving it,” Hinckley continued. “We hugging each other and loving every single second of it. It felt great.”
SLP assistant Butch Martin, a long-time head coach of Lake Placid’s boys who led the Blue Bombers to the New York state title 40 years ago in 1980, said it’s great seeing what the boys from the two schools have been able to accomplish in their first year competing together at the high school level.
“It’s wonderful. It never gets old, and to see the enjoyment these guys have, it’s great,” Martin said. “When they came in after the first period they weren’t worried about it. They knew they had to take care of business and they did that, and they kept pulling for each other. We played as a team and it’s really a pleasure to see that. It’s one team, that’s what we are. We have a goal in mind and we aren’t done yet.”
Frechette finished with 55 saves in his final high school game in nets for the Chiefs. Anders Stanton made 15 saves to earn another victory in goal for SLP.
Saranac Central finished the season with a 13-9 record.
SLP now hosts Queensbury in a state quarterfinal matchup in front of what is assured to be a loud, jam-packed house at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
The Spartans advanced to the state round as lone Division II team in Section II and bring a 12-5-1 record into the game. After starting the season with a 2-2 record, Queensbury has gone 10-3-1 in its last 14 games.