LAKE PLACID-From December to February, the Beekmantown varsity boys hockey team was able to get through unscathed.
But it only took one day in March and a team that lived up to the saying: "It's tough to beat the same team three times in one season," to change all of that.
The Saranac Lake Red Storm scored two early goals - the first just over one minute into the game - and a third late in the third period to score a 3-2 win against the top-seeded Eagles to capture the Section II/Division II title.
"We kept it simple out there tonight," head coach Will Ellsworth said. "The first two goals, we got pucks to the net. They were the result of faceoffs won in the offensive zone. We wanted to get pucks inside in the offensive zone. We got pucks on the goalie and put pressure on him."
With just over a minute in the opening period, Nicholas Magro won a faceoff for the Red Storm, which found the stick of Grant Strack.
"I just shot it," Strack said. "It was great to get a goal early. We knew that if we scored early, we would have an advantage."
"Just before the game started, I reminded them that if you score the first goal in a playoff hockey game, you are going to put pressure on the other team," Ellsworth said.
"Got the puck on the net and good things happened," said goalie Tyler O'Neill. "I think that really gave us some confidence. Coming out and getting the first goal really helped."
With the 1-0 lead 1:09 seconds into the game, the two teams battled until an attempted clear out of the Beekmantown end found the stick of the Red Storm's Alec McLean.
"I wanted to get it on net and look for someone to get a rebound," Said McLean. "It was fumbled a little so I'm thinking it might go in. I saw the light, and it was sweet."
McLean said it was a great opportunity to get a chance to make an impact in the game.
"As the third line, we are out there to give the other lines a rest and get the puck in deep, and that was my thought," he said.
With a 2-0 lead after the first period, the Red Storm were then the hunted instead of the hunter and the Eagles were looking to strike.
Brenden Carnright drew first, collecting a rebound off a slapshot by Tavon Ford-Relation and putting it past O'Neill to cut the lead to 2-1 in the second period.
Then, Jordan Barriere and Dalton DeMarco worked the puck around the outside of the Saranac Lake zone, eventually finding Austin Bradish in the crease, who made several fakes and dekes before burying the puck at the 7:54 mark in the third to tie the game at 2-2.
"Austin is an impact player for us," coach Justin Frechette said after the game. "Austin can come out an dominate games when he wants to. I thought the boys did a great job battling back."
With around three minutes to play in the period, Ellsworth called a timeout with the puck in the Red Storm zone to let his Red Storm players catch their breath.
We needed a well deserved rest at that time," Ellsworth said. "I told them to not grip their sticks as hard, because you can panic in the final three minutes of a game like this."
"We were working on the faceoff and covering it," said Matt Phelan. "We had to tie it up and clear it."
"Coach wanted everyone to drive toward the net, push on for the shot and try to get a rebound," O'Neill said.
The Storm won the faceoff and Dalton DeMarco pushed the puck into the Beekmantown zone. After strong forecheck by Barriere got the puck off DeMarco's stick, it found its way to Phelan.
"I definitely knew he was going to shoot the puck," Ellsworth said. "I could tell he was going to fire the puck and it was a great decision on his part."
"I didn't really think, I just shot," Phelan said about the shot that would turn into the game winning goal. "I didn't know it had went in until everyone started yelling."
The Eagles used their timeout with just over one minute remaining, pulling goalie Kyle McCarthy for the final minute for the extra attacker.
However, the Red Storm were able to clear the puck each time to secure the win.
"It was going to be the little things that made the difference," Frechette said. " We just weren't able to capitalize on all of our opportunities. I think the character of our team all year long has been to continue to battle for 45 minutes. We had the play, we had the shot, and it ended up two inches to the left and hit the goalie in the helmet."
In the end, Frechette said he could not have asked his team for more.
"They gave me everything they had," he said. "I asked them before the game to leave it all out on the ice and they did."
The results from the Saranac Lake v. Queensbury regional game can be found on page 30.