Bombers fall to state champs

BUFFALO – In what turned out to be the final game of the season for Lake Placid’s hockey team, the Blue Bombers ran into the type of speed and talent that they hadn’t come close to seeing in what ended up being a pretty successful 24-game run this winter.

On Saturday in the semifinal round of the state Division II final four, Kenmore East put Lake Placid on the defensive right from the start and never let up while rolling to an 11-0 victory at the Harbor Center in Buffalo.

The Section VI champion Bulldogs poured in six goals in the opening period, added three in the second and wrapped up the game with two third-period tallies to cruise into Sunday’s final against Skaneateles, which knocked off Pelham 3-1 in Saturday’s first Division II semifinal matchup. Kenmore went on to win the state title Sunday with a 3-2 overtime victory over the Lakers.

Kenmore East’s two big guns, seniors Trevor Pray and AJ Marinelli, gave the Blue Bombers fits as they combined for seven Bulldogs’ goals. Marinelli found the back of the net four times, Pray notched a hat trick, Anthony Tulipane added two goals and Cullen Smyth and Justin Watson each scored once in the win.

After Pray opened the scoring 2 minutes, 15 seconds into the game when he sped past a Lake Placid defender and beat goaltender Kamm Cassidy from in close, it quickly became apparent that Lake Placid was outmatched. Starting with their second goal, which Tulipane buried at the 8:44 mark, the Bulldogs went on a scoring spree that amounted to putting a puck in the net every three minutes, and Marinelli was the player finishing off each time. He scored three straight goals in the first period, including his third of the game with 21 seconds left before intermission that gave Kenmore East a 5-0 lead. If that goal wasn’t the backbreaker, the Bulldogs’ sixth goal scored by Watson with six seconds left in the stanza certainly was.

“I just think we kind of gave up early,” said co-captain Noah Mohr, one of six seniors who ended their Lake Placid hockey careers. “They got two quick ones on us, and one kid put his head down. And then every goal after that it just snowballed; another kid and another kid, myself included. After the first period, we just had to play hard and not get blown out, which happened.”

“They’re good and they proved it,” Lake Placid head coach Butch Martin said. “They’re by far the best team we’ve seen all year. They got on us fast and capitalized on anything we didn’t complete.

“At the beginning of the game when we possessed the puck we weren’t sure what to do with it,” Martin continued. “Sometimes we passed when we should have carried, sometimes we carried when we should have passed. Normally, we get the puck and we go and we make good plays after that, and we didn’t do that today. It had a lot to do with their talent. We got too far behind too early to stay with them.”

What made matters worse was Chris Williams, who led Lake Placid in scoring with 36 goals and 35 assists, sustained a knee injury just minutes into the game and was never able to play at full speed after that.

“Chris banged it up pretty bad in the first three minutes and kind of one-legged it after that,” Martin said. “He wasn’t an offensive threat at all.”

Trailing 6-0, the Blue Bombers ran into penalty woes early in the second period, and paid dearly as Kenmore East scored three power-play goals, including two in 34 seconds, to jump ahead 9-0 with 8:40 still remaining in the second. Lake Placid escaped the rest of the period without allowing another goal, but gave up two more during the third before the final buzzer put an end to a frustrating outing for the Blue Bombers.

A member of competitive Western New York Hockey Federation that includes four divisions, Kenmore East won six straight playoff games to capture its second state title in four years. The Bulldogs finished their campaign with a 17-7-1 record.

“Let me say, Lake Placid showed a lot of class yesterday and everything,” Kenmore East head coach Kyle Pray said Sunday after his team captured the state title. “We talked about that a little bit after the game, too, but we talked right away about Skaneateles, being defending champions and watching them play before us, we knew what a formidable opponent they were going to be.”

In Saturday’s Division II championship game, Kenmore East scored twice in the third period to erase 1-0 and 2-1 deficits, and then took down the defending champion Lakers when Trevor Pray, the son of the Bulldogs’ head coach, buried a rebound with 40 seconds remaining in overtime.

“They played pretty much a Division I schedule,” Martin said of Kenmore East. “Every team down here is good. We saw one of their lower teams in Niagara Falls and they were good. Kenmore East plays in a heck of a league. This is a hockey hotbed. When it comes to us maybe one third of our games are tough and the rest are not.”

After bowing out in the state final four semifinal round for the second year in a row, the Section VII champion Blue Bombers ended their season with an 18-5-1 record. Despite the tough setback, Martin, as well as his players said they couldn’t be any happier about making it into the final four for the second straight year.

“At the beginning of the year we weren’t given much of a chance to do anything,” Mohr said. “Look what we’ve accomplished. We got back here despite all the odds. No loss ever feels good, but we achieved our goal – getting to the final four. Despite this, we had a great season, and I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.”

“I feel bad for the seniors, but they got back here and that was something that nobody gave them a chance to do,” Martin said. “They represented our section with class, they didn’t throw it in and they worked hard.”

Mamaroneck was crowned as the Division I state champion Sunday with a 1-0 victory over West Genesee.