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Chiefs sink Red Storm on last-second tally

Saranac Lake players Landon Faubert (14) and Taylor Samburg flank Saranac Central’s Brian Balch while they pursue the ball during the opening half of Thursday’s match at Schroeter’s Field. Also pictured are Saranac Lake's Colter Cheney-Seymour, left, and Saranac Central's Nic Hamel. (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

SARANAC LAKE — There are heartbreakers and then there are HEARTBREAKERS.

The Saranac Lake boys soccer team experienced the latter of those two on Thursday when the Saranac Chiefs scored with two seconds remaining in the match to claim a 2-1 victory over the Red Storm at Schroeter’s Field.

Facing a Saranac Central squad that had just one loss entering the match, Saranac Lake grabbed a 1-0 edge when Adrian Hayden scored 10 minutes into the second half. But the Chiefs came back to bury two shots in the final 12 minutes of the match to improve to 6-1-1, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Northeastern Clinton.

“Our guys played awesome,” Saranac Lake coach Brad Rafferty said. “Saranac is probably the best team we’ll play this season, and we gave them a run. We came close.”

Senior Nik Hamel was the Chiefs’ big hero, netting both of his team’s goal including the game-winner on a ground ball from 18 yards out that went in the net just before the buzzer sounded.

“That last goal is like a blur right now,” Saranac Lake coach Brad Rafferty said well after the contest ended. “Saranac is probably the best team we are going to face this season, and they just really pressed hard for the last 10, 15 minutes. We just ran out of gas. I think you could see that starting to happen after their first goal.”

Even though we lost, I thought it was the best game we’ve played so far,” Rafferty continued. “It was very evenly played. My kids really stepped up and played physical and controlled the ball really well. It would have been nice to win, but I’m happy with the game.”

After a scoreless opening half that saw both teams come up empty on some great scoring chances, the Red Storm jumped on top 10 minutes after intermission when Hayden sent a rebound past Saranac Central goalkeeper Branden Ashley. Evan Snyder assisted on the play, which began on a corner kick.

Looking for their first win three matches into the season, the Red Storm couldn’t hold on down the stretch. Hamel, a Chiefs captain evened the score on a play that started on a bounce that benefited the visitors, and then got loose on a breakaway to beat Saranac Lake goalie Nate McCarthy, also on a low shot from about 18 yards out. Hayden Buckley picked up the assist on the tally.

With the score tied at 1-1, Hamel then put the match away on the buzzer-beater assisted by Brady Doorey.

On of the major changes the Red Storm made heading into the match was moving senior captain Colter Cheney-Seymour from center midfield to sweeper, and Rafferty thought the shift paid off, despite the result on the scoreboard.

“Colter is our best player, and wherever he is, that’s going to be our strength,” Rafferty said. “Knowing how well Saranac plays up front, I wanted to make sure we shored up our defense. Defensively, we played well. We held them off the board for a long time, we stymied their attack.”

In addition to crediting Cheney-Seymour for a strong performance, Rafferty said Taylor Samburg was also a force on defense at his right fullback position.

Saranac Central finished with a 17-12 edge in shots. Ashley earned the win in nets with eight saves while McCarthy posted a dozen stops in goal for the Red Storm.

Saranac Lake, which fell to 0-2-1, looks to earn its first win of the season in its next match, which will be at home Saturday against Seton Catholic starting at 11 a.m.

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