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Lake Placid boys win four games in eight days

Lake Placid senior Cooper Grady leaps past a downed Beekmatown opponent in a match played Wednesday, Oct. 28 on the Eagles’ field. (Provided photo — Alicia Brandes)

LAKE PLACID — After starting off the season with three losses and a tie, the Lake Placid boys soccer team has found itself on a little roll. On Saturday, Oct. 31, the Blue Bombers won their fourth match in a row, eking out a 1-0 victory over Saranac Lake on home turf at the North Elba Show Grounds.

The win capped off a busy run of four matches played in eight days, with three of those triumphs coming by 1-0 scores.

A goal by senior captain Matt Brandes midway through the opening half put Lake Placid on top 1-0, and from there the Blue Bombers held on for dear life on the way to improving to 4-3-1.

Area bragging rights are always on the line whenever the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid soccer teams square off. On Saturday, a chance to host a playoff game was also thrown into the mix of the prizes.

When area high school teams kicked off their abbreviated, late-starting schedules, there had been no plans to hold any type championship tournament after the end of the regular season. But during the past week, a decision had been made to move forward with a four-team competition that would include a semifinal and final round. With Saturday’s victory Lake Placid took a step closer toward earning a second seed and a semifinal game at home, which is expected to take place next week.

Lake Placid’s Chris Byrne and Reuben Bernstein of Saranac Lake hone in on a head ball during action on Saturday, Oct. 31. (News photo — Lou Reuter)

The Blue Bombers may have been outplayed and out chanced by the Red Storm, but they came out on top where it counted — on the scoreboard. Saranac Lake finished with a 12-9 edge in shots but couldn’t get one past Jack Armstrong, one of the top goalkeepers in high school soccer in the North Country. The junior has let in just one goal in Lake Placid’s past four games, and Saturday marked the third time in eight days he anchored a 1-0 Blue Bombers win.

“Armstrong was in goal for another clean sheet, and we needed him to be good in goal,” Lake Placid coach Stuart Hemsley said. “We were poor all over the field. We were second to almost every ball. Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good, and we were lucky.”

Lake Placid was especially fortunate late when Saranac Lake’s Colter Cheney-Seymour drilled shot from the upper left corner of the penalty box with less than two minutes left in regulation that bounced off the crossbar. It was followed by a shot off the rebound that was saved by Armstrong.

“Too bad our kids didn’t get the outcome they were playing for,” said Saranac Lake coach Brad Rafferty, who added, “I’m happy with our performance, just disappointed with the outcome.

“I think we owned possession in the second half, and it was good to see our kids in control right to the end trying to get that goal,” Rafferty continued. “I think Lake Placid gave us a hard time with getting scoring chances. They defended well as a group. I think defensively, they packed it in playing for a 1-0 win. Usually you only get three or four really good scoring chances in a game, and you have to convert if you want to come out on top.”

For the second game in a row, Brandes came up from his sweeper position to bury the game-winner on a set play assisted by Joose Kahkonen.

Against Saranac Lake, Brandes gained control of a direct kick from his senior teammate and booted the ball past Nate McCarthy 19:52 into the opening half for what stood up as the winning goal.

Kahkonen also banged a shot off the crossbar earlier in the contest.

The rivals finished in a 2-2 deadlock on Oct. 14 on the Red Storm’s pitch in their first meeting, and with the loss, Saranac Lake dropped to 1-3-1 and all but saw its chances of hosting a semifinal match evaporate. The Red Storm had two more regular season games remaining, both on the road, with a trip to Saranac Central on Wednesday and a scheduled match at Chazy Friday.

Saranac Lake and Lake Placid will join AuSable Valley and Saranac Central in the four-team playoff with semifinals unofficially scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 11 and the championship game following on Saturday, Nov. 14.

The highest seed remaining will host the title tilt, and currently, Saranac Central is in the driver’s seat for the top seed.

Hemsley said his team struggled on defense. He said the ball and Saranac Lake attackers got behind his defenders on too many occasions.

“We need to be more organized,” said Hemsley. “The best three parts of the game was the goal and the two mask breaks. They gave us a chance to regroup. Saranac Lake really put the pressure on us.”

Lake Placid was scheduled to play two more games during the past week — a road trip Wednesday to face Boquet Valley and a match under the lights at AuSable Valley Friday.

Wednesday, Oct. 28 — Lake Placid 1, Beekmantown 0

The Lake Placid boys soccer team notched its third straight win, blanking Beekmantown 1-0 on the road Wednesday, Oct. 28.

Blue Bombers coach Stuart Hemsley told his players they were the underdogs heading into the match, and they came through late, getting a goal from senior captain Matt Brandes with 10:02 left in the second half to claim the victory. Brandes scored on a corner kick taken by Joose Kahkonen.

Hemsley said it was a memorable win on the road over a Beekmantown team that just came off a 2-0 victory over Chazy.

“That game, as a coach, right now it’s a highlight of the season,” Hemsley said. “That’s a big one for the guys coming back. They’ll remember winning at Beekmantown on the road. The underdogs vs. the big dogs and that’s exactly what it was.”

Beekmantown outshot Lake Placid 18-5, but Hemsley said a lot of the Eagles’ attempts were long shots, and he added that the Blue Bombers’ defense and goalkeeper Jack Armstrong held strong.

“Beekmantown has good players across the field, but they never really tried to play through us.”

Hemsley credited his back line of Brandes, Nick Marvin, Grady Draper and Tristan Spotts with a solid performance.