Blue Bombers extend season

Lake Placid’s Joose Kahkonen, left, and Matt Brandes battle for the ball with Colby Jenkinson of St. Lawrence Central during the second half of Wednesday’s state regional semifinal match in Plattsburgh. The Blue Bombers won 1-0 to move into the state Class C quarterfinal round. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

PLATTSBURGH — A week ago, Lake Placid extended an amazing streak by winning its sixth consecutive Section VII, Class C boys soccer title.

On Wednesday, the Blue Bombers put an end to another string and they couldn’t be any happier about it.

After failing to win, or even score a single goal in five straight trips to the first round of the state playoffs, Lake Placid kept its season going with a 1-0 victory over St. Lawrence in a match played at Plattsburgh High School.

Senior defender Jaso Hannula netted the only goal of the game in the opening half. The Blue Bombers then held on for dear life after intermission as they kept the Section X champion Larries off the scoreboard the rest of the way to advance to the Class C regional final. Lake Placid now faces Section II winner Maple Hill at 11 a.m. Saturday at Colonie High School. The winner of that match will move onto the state Class C final four, a goal the Blue Bombers have been looking to accomplish ever since Stuart Hemsley took over as their head coach six seasons ago.

Hannula, a four-year starter, gave the Blue Bombers the 1-0 lead 11:118 into the match, and junior goalkeeper Jacob Novik took care of business in the second half with some incredible saves to lift the Bombers into the next round where they will get a rematch with the Wildcats team that knocked them out of the playoffs a season ago in a 1-0 contest.

Lake Placid coach Stuart Hemsley and senior Jarell Paul (9) leave the field with the rest of the team while celebrating Wednesday’s 1-0 victory over St. Lawrence Central. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“We not quite there yet. We’re halfway there,” Lake Placid coach Stuart Hemsley said. “Another 80 minutes on grass against another team we’ve lost against. We’ve beaten everyone we’ve lost to eventually, so maybe we’ll strike lucky this time.”

Lake Placid’s tally came on the tail end of a corner kick play, which started when a Larries defender attempted to head the ball out of the box. Blue Bombers senior Jarell Paul gained control of the clear, and rolled a pass back to Hannula, who positioned about 30 yards in front of the net in the middle of the field. He ripped a shot that went over goaltender Zach St. Hilare and snuck under the crossbar for what turned out to be the only goal of the game.

“No goalkeeper in the world was going to stop that one,” Hemsley said. “Jaso is one of the cleanest strikers of the ball, and that was just like a strike and a half. Their goalkeeper said he didn’t even see it coming. I did.”

“I was thinking just get it on net,” Hannula said. “Anything can happen when you throw it into the box, and we got the goal thankfully. Lake Placid has never scored a regional goal. This was the first one and I’m glad to make history for the school for sure. I’m so excited.”

After taking the lead, the Blue Bombers were able to ride their single goal to victory, and much of that credit goes to Novik, who was nothing but sensational in the net and especially in the second half while the Larries pressed hard looking for an equalizer. Novik’s biggest stops came on a hard shot fired from the top of the box that he saved while diving toward his left, and another blast that he was just able to tip over the crossbar.

Blue Bombers senior Jaso Hannula tracks down a ball in front of St. Lawrence Central’s Andrew Lantry during Wednesday’s match. Hannula scored the lone goal of the match to lift Lake Placid into the state Class C quarterfinal round. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

“We made harder work of this than we had to,” Hemsley said. “Jacob Novik, he loves shot stopping. He’s looks like he’s the real deal, and and towards the end of the season, he’s been the real deal, but I would have preferred not to have him make four world-class saves.

“We sat back there, let them run on us and cut inside,” Hemsley continued. “We didn’t play as well as we have, but we haven’t played on turf ever. We trained on turf on Monday but it’s different. It’s different because none of our players have been in a regional final apart from two. If I had hair I would be gray. “

The Blue Bombers didn’t have a winning record entering the postseason, but have since notched four victories in a row, including three against higher-opponents, to improve to 8-8. The Larries were ranked 10th in Class C in the New York Sports Writers Association poll and finished their season with an 11-6-1 mark.

“I’m so excited,” Hannula said. “We lost many games during the season. We got a win here and there but now near the end of the season, we’re stepping it up. We’ve won four games in a row now and it can only get better from here. We were very confident coming into this game. We didn’t know much about St. Lawrence, but I’m just glad the boys got it done.”

“We haven’t even scored a goal in regional play before,” Novik said. “Usually we get a bye straight to the finals, but this year we had a semifinal game and St. Lawrence gave us a heck of a game. We’re just happy to be able to do what we were able to do. This went right down to the wire. Five seconds left their guy has a volley and we were able to get there and keep it out.”

Despite the loss, the Larries had to be happy about their run at a school where boys varsity soccer was just added as a sport seven years ago.

“We knew that Lake Placid was going to play very defensive, and we were going to have to try to get through them,” St. Lawrence coach Julia Rose said. “All the credit goes to them. Their goal, that was a snipe. No one would have saved it. You put a different goalie in net and we might have finished on top in this game. That goalie played outside of himself. A lot of credit to their coach and his team. They executed and we didn’t get the lucky bounce.

“Our kids played with a lot of heart and we’ve been playing for history,” Rose added. “Our program is only seven years old. That was our first playoff game, our first sectional championship. This was just a dream for us to even have this opportunity so we’re pretty excited.”

“At the beginning of last week we didn’t know where we were going,” Hemsley said. “We hadn’t won two games in a row all season, now we’ve won four games, and it’s good. Just on the learning, the season has been a success. On the results, this is turning into one of the most successful seasons ever, and we’re not done yet.”

Lake Placid 1, St. Lawrence 0

St. Lawrence 0 0 — 0

Lake Placid 1 0 — 1

First half — 1, LPCS, Hannula (Paul), 11:18.

Shots: Lake Placid 13, St. Lawrence 9

Saves: St. Hilaire, SL, 6. Novik, LP, 5.