Local team takes advantage of home ice on the way to capturing hockey gold
LAKE PLACID — A team of young hockey players from across the North Country were fortunate to have this year’s International Children’s Winter Games taking place in their own back yard.
And that group made the most out of their opportunity.
On Thursday at the Olympic Center, the boys ice hockey team representing host Lake Placid skated to the gold medal, topping Hamilton, Ontario 11-5 in a game that was at times much closer than the final score indicated.
In a matchup that also featured a little taste of that United States-Canada rivalry, Lake Placid bounced back from an early one-goal deficit, and then scored the final six goals of the game after Hamilton made it a 5-4 contest midway through the second period.
Saranac Lake High School freshman Bailey Bartholomew was one of the members of the winning squad, and he got his team going in lightning fashion. After Max Reeves scored just 1:14 into the game to give Hamilton a 1-0 lead, Bartholomew netted two goals in a span of 14 seconds to put Lake Placid on top to stay. His first goal came at the 6:52 mark of the opening period to tie the game, and then he one-timed a puck past Hamilton goalie Mark Sbrissa to put Lake Placid on top 2-1.
Lake Placid never trailed after that, although Hamilton did make it close for a while early in the second period.
Lake Placid headed into the first intermission with a 3-1 edge after Jon Kratts, one of a handful of members of the Red Storm high school team skating in the tournament, scored the final goal of the opening period. Lake Placid kicked off the second with a fast start, grabbing a 4-1 edge on a tally by Bryan Jones 1:28 in.
Hamilton answered quickly when Reeves notched his second of the game at the 3:43 mark, and Lukas Klemm then caught fire, netting the first of his three goals at the 4:44 mark to put Lake Placid on top 5-2. Hamilton’s Huskies then roared back, getting two straight goals from Stephen Parente and Liam Tighe to cut their deficit to a single goal. Tighe’s tally came at 7:16 mark of the second, but from there, the rest of the afternoon belonged to Lake Placid. Klemm buried two pucks in a row to complete his natural hat trick, and Luke Miller fired home a shot with 4:55 left in the period to send the host team into the second intermission on top 8-4.
Lake Placid found the back of the net three more times in the final period, with Jones scoring twice to round out his hat trick, and Tyler Berkman sending home the game’s last goal with 3:43 left on the clock.
Hamilton headed into the game facing some adversity. Before the Huskies made their trip to the Adirondacks from Ontario, they lost their starting goalie to a broken collarbone. Their backup keeper, Rueben LaChance then went down during the tournament with an apparent torn meniscus, so Sbrissa, normally a defender, stepped between the pipes to fill the void. It marked the first time the youngster played goal since he was 5 years old. He played in Hamilton’s game leading up to the gold medal matchup, and was under the gun right off the bat as Lake Placid fired 20 shots on net in the first period alone.
“That was a gutty team we face,” said Keith Clark, one of three coaches behind the Lake Placid bench. “That kid, that defenseman playing goalie, he did really well. Hamilton played well.”
Lake Placid finished unbeaten during the tournament, posting a 5-0 record, but the hosts didn’t always get off to good starts. Fortunately, the local icers were able to bounce back after early deficits.
“We’ve had that happen in two or three of the other games where the other team scored first,” Clark said. “We weren’t the fastest starting team, but we responded well, particularly today in the third period when Hamilton pushed back. They pushed back hard a couple times, and I think we finally responded the right way in the third period.
“These guys represented Lake Placid and the surrounding areas very well,” Clark continued. “They competed hard, they came together and played as a group. Obviously, winning is the bonus; that’s not really what this event is about, but what a nice bonus for them. It was a lot of fun. They did play well.”
Clark stressed that Lake Placid wanted to play a team game through out the tournament, and the plan seemed to work, as every local skater who stepped on the ice scored at least one point in the gold medal matchup.
“We kept emphasizing a team game and every time we kind of got away from that, they were able to get back into that mode,” Clark said. “The key part is to try to work as a group to accomplish your goals, and I think they really did that. They should be proud of how they came together.”
Bartholomew said he began eyeing Thursday’s gold medal game immediately after Lake Placid qualified the day before. The young forward said going for the gold was all he thought about when he woke up Thursday morning, even though he had to attend school for a couple hours before heading to the rink.
“I wanted to be here two hours earlier, but mom said I couldn’t leave school that early,” Bartholomew said. “We did well in the tournament, obviously. We mixed a bunch of the Tri-Lakes area to create team Lake Placid, and we were just clicking off the bat. At practice, we got the lineup figured out and it just worked for us. We all played well together and agreed on everything. It was just a really good time.”
And after Thursday’s win, Bartholomew was ready to add another piece of hardware — a International Children’s Winter Games gold medal — to his assortment of awards at home.
“I have a collection going, so I’ll put it there. Maybe in a special place I think,” he said. “I have a rack with all my medals. This one’s probably the best. This is my favorite tournament I’ve ever been in.”
In the girls’ tournament, team Lake Placid just missed out on the podium after falling 1-0 in Thursday’s bronze medal game to another squad from the United States representing Twinsburg, Ohio.
The local girls squad played competitive hockey throughout the tournament and finished with a 2-3 mark, which included a 4-3 overtime loss in the opening round of play to Ancaster, Canada, the team that went on to win the gold medal.