SARANAC LAKE - The Saranac Lake boys hockey team netted two early goals and added another pair late in the game to pull out a 4-1 victory over Tupper Lake Monday in non-league action at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
Senior captain David Cluckey paced the Red Storm, scoring their first two goals and assisting on the last two, which were both netted by Brett Dawson.
In a matchup that saw Tupper Lake hold a 34-27 edge in shots on goal, senior goalie Blake Darrah also came up big in the nets for Saranac Lake with 33 saves.
Tupper Lake goalie Tyler Nilsson focuses on the puck before making a glove save in front of Saranac Lake’s David Cluckey in Monday’s hockey game. Cluckey, a senior captain, scored twice and added two assists to lead the Red Storm to a 4-1 victory on home ice.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
In a fast-skating, up-and-down-the-ice contest, Cluckey lifted Saranac Lake to a 2-0 lead with goals at the 4:05 and 5:52 marks of the opening period. On the first tally, Cluckey gained control of the puck inside his team's blue line, skated past the Lumberjacks defense and beat Tupper Lake goalie Tyler Nilsson on a shot from the short side of the net.
Cluckey then capped off a two-on-one rush for his second goal, scoring on a wrist shot from the right faceoff circle that went through the pads of Nilsson. Senior Blake Battistoni picked up an assist on the play.
"I was really happy to see us get off to that strong start in the first period," Saranac Lake head coach Will Ellsworth said. "That set the tempo for the game. I think is was the best first period we played all year. We rode that first period to the win."
The triumph was the second of the season for the Red Storm, who improved to 2-6-1 overall. Meanwhile, the setback marked another heartbreaker for the 'Jacks, who lost their third straight game by a single goal and fell to 0-11-1.
Down 2-0, Tupper Lake picked up a big goal when Devin Roberge blasted a high slapshot from the left point over the shoulder of Darrah with just 27 seconds left in the opening period. But the Lumberjacks were unable to find the back of the net again, despite putting another 27 shots on goal during the next two stanzas.
"Does anybody know any goal scorers who could transfer over to Tupper Lake?" asked a frustrated Lumberjacks head coach Dan Cook after the game. "We've put 64 shots on net in our last two games, and we only have that one goal to show for it.
"We work hard, we play hard for 45 minutes. That's not the issue," Cook continued. "We just have to get pucks to the net and then go get those rebounds. We can skate with any team. We just can't score. The goals are going to start coming at some point - I hope."
Dawson, who is one of three eighth-graders on the Red Storm roster, then put the game away by scoring two goals during the closing three minutes of the final period. On the first, which was scored with 3:53 to go, Dawson picked up a pass from Cluckey near center ice, drove into the 'Jacks' zone along the left boards, and then went to the net to beat Nilsson with a shot from in close. Cluckey and JB Chapin assisted on Dawson's second goal, which he stuffed into the net with 1:27 left on the game clock.
In a game that nearly went down to the wire, Ellsworth said Cluckey's effort was a key to Saranac Lake's victory.
"Cluckey was by far the best player on the ice tonight," Ellsworth said. "That's because he did a great job at both ends of the rink. I also thought our third line of JB Chapin, Keegan Battistoni and (Don) Duffy came up big for us. They got a lot of ice time and really stuck with our system. The guys on our first two lines did get tired, and we were able to rely on our third-liners to get the job done."
Monday's game was a make-up matchup that was rescheduled from Dec. 20.
Saranac Lake and Tupper Lake both return to league action for their next games. The Red Storm will host Northeastern Clinton in a Champlain Valley Athletic Conference game Wednesday starting at 6:30 p.m. The Lumberjacks will be on the road Saturday at Potsdam.
Saranac Lake 4, Tupper Lake 1
1. SL, Cluckey, 4:05; 2. SL, Cluckey (Battistoni), 5:52.
3. SL, Dawson (Cluckey), 12:07; 4. SL, Dawson (Cluckey, Chapin), 13:33.
Shots on goal: Tupper Lake 34, Saranac Lake 27.
Saves: SL, Darrah 33; TL, Nilsson 23.