Lake Placid beats Queensbury 2-1 in OT thriller to reach state semifinal

GLENS FALLS – All season long, Chris Williams has been burying pucks and setting up goals for the Lake Placid hockey team.

And the senior captain netted the biggest goal of his life when the Blue Bombers needed it the most, sending home the game-winner to lift his team to a 2-1 overtime victory over Queensbury Saturday to give Lake Placid its second straight trip to the New York state final four tournament.

The goal, which was the 36th of the season for Williams, came with 1:11 remaining in the first overtime period, and enabled New York state’s seventh-ranked Division II team to escape from the Glens Falls Recreation Center with a dramatic win against the upset-minded Spartans, who grabbed an early 1-0 lead but couldn’t get another puck past the Lake Placid defense and goaltender Kamm Cassidy.

Lake Placid head coach Butch Martin said Williams, the most valuable player in Section VII this season, would have a big game in Saturday’s regional playoff, and that prediction couldn’t have been more evident at the start of overtime with the fate of the Blue Bombers’ season on the line.

“Seeing the determination on his face when we went into overtime – I knew something good was going to happen,” Martin said. “He was just bound and determined he was going to carry this team on his back and get it done. He’s their leader, he’s been that way his whole career. The guys look to him for the big plays and he got it today.”

Facing a young Queensbury team that entered the game with a 3-16-1 record, the Blue Bombers found themselves in a hole they did not want to be in, despite the fact that they brought the pressure on offense right from the opening faceoff. Lake Placid ultimately won its last two playoff games by getting off to fast starts, scoring seven first-period goals while taking down Plattsburgh and Beekmantown.

But Saturday was different, partly because Lake Placid couldn’t bury some early chances, and also because goalie Teddy Nolan, Queensbury’s only senior, didn’t want to see his high school hockey career to end.

The Spartans were the first to cash in when Gabe Smith picked up a loose puck in the Lake Placid zone after a Blue Bombers’ turnover, and fired a wrist shot from along the left boards that beat Cassidy to give Queensbury a 1-0 edge with 1:12 left in the first period.

Noah Mohr, another senior captain, scored the equalizer for Lake Placid 1:58 into the second period when he banged home a rebound off a shot from Williams. Defenseman Kevin Geesler also assisted on the goal, which was the third of the playoffs for Mohr. The tally also turned out to be the final one scored in regulation, as both teams got solid goaltending and strong defense down the stretch, as well as a little luck.

One the host’s best opportunities to jump back out on top came with less than three minutes left in the third period when a Spartans’ shot rattled off a goal post.

Playing in what turned out to be his final high school game, Nolan stopped all but one of the first 31 shots Lake Placid fired his way. The only other shot that eluded him was the Blue Bombers’ 32nd attempt, the one that Williams buried in sudden death to send his team to Buffalo, where the final four tournament will be held for the first time.

“It was pure joy,” Williams said describing his game-winning goal. “I had been hanging around the blue line a little bit, and they were trying these stretch passes. I caught one and kind of fumbled it earlier, and I caught this one, got my head up and saw there was a little room in the top right corner, so I took a shot for it and was fortunate enough that it hit the crossbar, went down and game over.”

The matchup marked the second time in as many years that Lake Placid defeated Queensbury to advance to the final four.

“I’m not surprised it came down to this,” said Lake Placid senior defenseman Dalton Jacques. “We played them last year and they gave us the same thing. They served us the same platter. It was a close game, it was a hard-fought game. We stayed positive, we didn’t get down, we dug down deep and really supported each other – just like we’ve done all season.

“Now we’re heading to states, and I couldn’t pick a better group of guys to go with, couldn’t pick a better group of coaches to go with,” Jacques added. “We got through this one. Holding that state championship trophy on Sunday – that’s the goal now.”

“We knew this game was going to be tough. They play everybody within two or three goals,” Martin said. “They have a great goalie who was super tonight. We weren’t sharp to start with. The goal they got, it was a good shot, but we knew we could come back. A huge goal by Noah, and then of course the MVP of the league comes through in the end.

“That Queensbury team came to play today and we sustained the battle. We definitely had territorial advantage but they were working hard,” Martin continued. “They just never quit. In a game like this, a fluke pass, a fluke goal, that’s what you worry about. But we have Kamm, and he came through, and our defense was outstanding today. Our ‘D’ was great. They picked up the forwards today. Usually the forwards pick up our D.”

As the only Division II team in Section II, the Spartans automatically advanced to the regional playoff round, despite a season that saw them win just three times. But after taking one of the top Division II teams in the state into overtime, everybody in the rink, including the Blue Bombers, knew Queensbury definitely deserved to be skating Saturday.

“I’ll be all right tomorrow and the kids will be all right tomorrow because they know they battled,” said longtime Queensbury head coach Dean Williams. “This game tells me our guys are ready to take the next step. We have one senior and he played lights out, and on the flip side, Lake Placid has their seniors. It was appropriate coming down to our senior having the game of his life and their senior scoring the game-winner.”

Williams, who finished with a goal and an assist, said it’s his job leading the team. He scored a highlight goal on an end-to-end rush in Utica during last year’s 3-2 semifinal loss to Williamsville East, and hopes this time the Blue Bombers can take the ultimate step and win a state title. In order to do that, Lake Placid will first have to get past Section VII champion Kenmore East. The two teams will square off in the last semifinal of the day at the Harbor Center Saturday starting at 5:15 p.m.

Defending champion Skaneateles and Pelham will meet in Saturday’s other semifinal game.

“Honestly, last year, it was our ‘We made it year,'” Williams said. “Our team hadn’t reached that point in a long, long time, so we were all just kind of shell shocked and so happy we made it. This year, it’s our year to go back, and we’re looking for what we left there last year. We looking for the win. We’re looking to bring home the state championship.”