SLP tops Canton to claim tournament title

Saranac Lake Placid goalie Brooke Paries steers the puck away from the net while teammate Madelyn Gay defends and Lizzy Christy pressures the net for Canton. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — It’s becoming pretty evident that combining the Saranac Lake and Lake Placid girls hockey team this season has been a very, very good move. Especially when it comes to success on the ice.

On Friday afternoon at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, the Saranac Lake Placid girls claimed the title in their own tournament with a 5-1 victory over Canton in the championship game. The win put SLP over the .500 mark with a 5-4-1 record.

The team is a combination of players from Saranac Lake, Lake Placid and Tupper Lake, and in the two games played in the tournament, depth proved to be a big factor, as well as the scoring punch provided by freshman Rylee Preston, who notched the first hat trick of her varsity career. Preston scored a goal in each period, and another freshman, Lydia Bullock, netted a pair of goals and backup netminder Brooke Paries recorded 23 saves to earn the win between the pipes.

“This was great for the team,” said Preston, who attends Lake Placid High School. “I just knew off the bat this was going to be a good game for all of us, and the bounces just went my way and I ended up with a hat trick. I got a lot of help from my teammates getting the puck to me in front of the net and in the offensive zone. It couldn’t have happened without my line.

“Last year, we had to forfeit games,” Preston added. “We only had three people on the bench sometimes if people were sick. I think combining really helped every one, and it makes us more competitive, which is a good thing. Being my second year on varsity, it’s really nice to have plenty of players and competition to play. It makes everyone better. It’s a great experience.”

SLP’s Karli Casler lands in a heap of Golden Bears while battling for the puck at center ice in Friday’s game. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

After rallying from a 2-0 deficit with a pair of third-period goals and eventually winning in a shootout over Ithaca in Thursday’s opening round, SLP wasted little time getting the early jump in the final as Bullock scored 1:12 into the game to lift the hosts to a 1-0 edge. Preston then netted a big goal, as well as her first of the game when she scored with just 50 seconds left in the first period for a 2-0 lead.

The teams traded tallies in the second. Preston buried her second of the game 5:10 into the stanza for a 3-0 SLP lead, with Allie Chamberlain assisting, and Canton got on the board with 2:05 left on a goal by Michaela Powers that cut the Golden Bears deficit to 3-1.

SLP then took control early in the third when Preston notched her third goal 57 seconds into the period to give the hosts a commanding 4-1 advantage. Bullock rounded out the scoring with 6:09 remaining on the clock off assists from Faith Fell and Lea Hill.

“We just moved the puck really well. It was teamwork,” Preston said. “This is probably the best we’ve played this season, I think. But we have a long way to go. We’re looking for a sectional title. It’s something that hasn’t been talked about, but now that we’ve combined, we’re competitive. Every week we can see improvement. Every practice, we get better. It’s great.”

Friday marked the second time that SLP has defeated Canton this season, and Golden Bears head coach Anita Francis said her young squad played pretty well despite the loss.

“A couple good bounces went their way and a couple bad bounces went our way,” Francis said. “And once you get a couple of goals behind, it’s hard to come back. It was a good game. Our kids skated well. We out shot them, our goalie was a little off today. We have potential. We’re young, everybody goes through rebuilding, and this is our year.

“They combined two programs that have been fairly good in the past, so we knew they were going to be strong,” she added. “It makes a big difference. We came into the season with the mentality that we were going to play well, keep on improving and things will come our way sooner or later. We just had a rough one today.”

Although SLP coach Bill Peer watched his team chalk up a victory by a four-goal margin, he said there’s plenty of work to do, especially when it comes to generating quality shots.

“We had a lot of zone play, but we weren’t patient with the puck to put pucks on net,” Peer said. “They out shot us in the first by quite a bit, but we were still up. I thought we improved our defensive zone coverage, but I think we just threw the puck in front of the net a lot. The good thing is we are 5-4-1 and we’re heading in the right direction.”

SLP will have a busy week on tap after New Years, starting with a league matchup on the road Wednesday against Plattsburgh. The team will have another league contest on Friday against Franklin Academy that will be in Lake Placid, and a third game of the week Saturday in a non-league clash with Clinton.

Saranac Lake Placid 5,

Canton 1

Canton 0 1 0 – 1

SLP 2 1 2 – 5


First Period

1. SLP, Bullock, 1:12; 2. SLP, Preston (Chamberlain), 14:10.

Second Period

3. SLP, Preston, 5:10; 4. C, Powers (Zagrobelnv), 12:55.

Third Period

5. SLP, Preston, :57; 6. SLP, Bullock (L. Hill, Fell), 8:51.

Shots on goal: Canton 24, SLP 23.

Saves: C, Premo 6, Weber 11; SLP, Paries 23.