SLP boys clinch Section VII hockey title
SARANAC LAKE — The first-year combined Saranac Lake Placid boys hockey team is Section VII’s regular season champion.
SLP clinched the title on home ice Friday evening, defeating Northeastern Clinton 2-1 in overtime at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
In an up-and-down the ice battle between the top two teams in the league, senior Dylan Amell netted the game-winner 2:07 into the sudden-death overtime period off an assist from defenseman Carter Sturgeon. Amell scored on a shot from the right faceoff circle that found its way through traffic and got past Cougars goaltender Ethan Garrand.
SLP improved to 6-0 in Section VII with two league games remaining next week. The team entered the game after falling 6-5 to St. Lawrence Central Wednesday in a non-league contest, a matchup that Amell missed due to illness.
“I’m stoked, so glad the first year with this team that we could get this done,” Amell said. “We just have to keep this up. The hard work, the grinding, and goals will come our way and we’ll have success. Everybody on that last shift worked hard and we were rewarded.”
The teams played scoreless in the opening period and Tyler Hinckley gave SLP a 1-0 edge 1:51 into the second on a power-play goal. On the play, the senior got open on the left side of the net and one-timed a cross-crease pass home from Rhett Darrah. Sturgeon also assisted on the play.
The Cougars took advantage of a turnover deep in SLP’s defensive zone for their lone tally, which was and unassisted goal scored by Lucas Bedard 9:20 into the second period that tied the contest at 1-1.
Neither team could find the back of the net in the third, setting the stage for Amell’s winning shot in the five-minute sudden death overtime.
NCCS entered the game with a 5-1 league mark and with a chance to stay in the hunt for the top spot in Section VII. The Cougars lone league loss was a 4-2 setback on home ice against SLP on Jan. 9. SLP assured itself the crown by finishing with a two-game regular-season sweep over NCCS. The remaining three teams in Section VII — Beekmantown, Saranac Central and Plattsburgh — all have four or more losses in league play.
SLP finished with a 29-16 advantage in shots on goal, but the game appeared tighter than that statistic indicated. Garrand finished with 27 saves in goal for the Cougars. Junior Anders Stanton picked up the win between the pipes for SLP with 15 saves.
“Looking back, we’re proud because Sara-Placid is a very good hockey team with some very skilled players from the two schools,” NCCS head coach Scott Lafountain said. “We were happy to get to overtime, we were hoping to sneak it out, and our goal is to get another chance in the sectional final hopefully.
“We have to take care of business on our end and hopefully we can get back there,” Lafountain continued. “At least now we have some confidence that we’re in the game. Both teams had a couple of minutes here and there where we had each other scrambling. We had some some chances where if we beared down a little harder, they would be in the net and we would have won this game. We hung right in there with a really good team.”
“The first year of this merger, the guys should feel really proud about this,” SLP head coach Keith Clark said. “Right now, we’re 6-0 in the league, and to be league champs is a great accomplishment with more work to do. I think we responded well when things weren’t going well. We fixed mistakes a lot quicker.
“In the second, I thought we had a ton of quality chances, and you’d like to see a couple of those fall,” Clark added. “Credit to their goalie, he made a lot of big saves, and I think we were a little snake-bit. To have that happen, where you have a lot of opportunities, stick with it and then win it in overtime, that says a lot about perseverance. I knew it was going to be a good game.”
NCCS dropped to 11-7-1 with the loss and wraps up league play Thursday against Saranac Central.
SLP (12-6 overall) has two more games remaining in the regular season as it looks to finish Section VII with an 8-0 record while gaining momentum for its playoff run. SLP takes on Plattsburgh Tuesday on senior night at the Saranac Lake Civic Center starting at 6:30 p.m. The team then wraps up its regular-season slate Thursday on the road against Beekmantown. That game takes place at SUNY Plattsburgh’s Stafford Arena at 6 p.m.