LAKE PLACID - Avenging a loss is always nice. Doing it the playoffs against an archrival makes it that much more enjoyable.
Less than a month ago, Lake Placid's hockey team knocked off Saranac Lake 8-4 to end a six-year losing streak against the Red Storm. On Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Olympic Center in front of nearly 1,000 fans, Saranac Lake turned the tables with a 4-1 victory over the Blue Bombers in a Section VII semifinal playoff game.
It marked the second year in a row that Saranac Lake eliminated Lake Placid in the semifinal round.
Shane McNierney advances the puck for Lake Placid past Saranac Lake’s Matt Phelan during Section VII, semifinal playoff action Thursday, Feb. 23 at the Olympic Center.
Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
Saranac Lake improved to 13-7-1 overall while Lake Placid saw a solid season end with a 14-6-1 record.
"We had a good season and I'm really proud of how our guys played this year," said Lake Placid head coach Keith Clark. "They should be proud of their effort. Tonight, we just weren't as good as we needed to be.
"We had trouble generating a lot of offense, and Saranac Lake was able to pounce on the few mistakes that we made," Clark added. "We still had a lot of fight left in the end. It just wasn't enough. I like how our kids battled."
Devin Darrah, who finished as the leading scorer in the Champlain Valley Athletic Conference, got Saranac Lake going when he found the back of the net less than two minutes into the game. Three teammates then followed with goals as the Red Storm advanced to the championship game against Plattsburgh and went on to win the sectional title with a 4-1 win.
Saranac Lake netted a goal in each period against Lake Placid to build a 3-0 edge, then added an empty-netter after the Blue Bombers got their lone tally with just over four minutes left in the game.
The Red Storm only put 16 shots on net during the defensive-minded playoff game, but at the same time, limited Lake Placid's scoring chances. The Blue Bombers finished with 20 shots on goal.
Darrah found himself all alone in front the Lake Placid net for the first goal of the game, which came 1:41 into the opening period. On the play, Darrah took a pass from linemate David Cluckey from behind the net and top-shelved a wrist shot past Blue Bombers goalie Jeff Smith for a 1-0 Red Storm lead.
Grant Strack netted what proved to be the game-winner midway through the second period, scoring from in close for a 2-0 Red Storm edge with Chris Spicer picking up the assist. Kyle Dora then upped the Saranac Lake lead to 3-0 when he scored on a high wrist shot from the blue line 3:59 into the third period. Strack and Matt Phelan assisted on Dora's tally.
With the end of their season looming, the Blue Bombers continued to battle and cut the Red Storm advantage to 3-1 when Nzoni Thompson scored with 4:13 left in the third period, sending home a pass from Eddie Kane.
Quinn Urquhart, however, ended any Blue Bombers hopes at a comeback when he slid a puck into an empty net with 63 seconds remaining in the game to make the score a 4-1 final in favor of the visitors.
Sophomore Blake Darrah turned in another solid performance in the goal for Saranac Lake with 19 saves. Smith, a freshman, made 12 stops in a losing effort in goal for Lake Placid.
Devin Darrah, a senior captain who now has 33 goals on the season, said it's exciting to be making a second straight trip to the Section VII championship game.
"We really wanted to get that first goal and take Lake Placid out of their game," he said. "We had a bitter taste in our mouths from the last time we played them and they beat us, so we never let up. Once we got that first goal, we wanted another and then another. Now were heading back to play for another championship. We are going in as the defending champions, and it's a great feeling."
Saranac Lake 4, Lake Placid 1
1. SL, Darrah (Cluckey), 1:41.
2. SL, Strack (Spicer), 7:53.
3. SL, Dora (Strack, Phelan), 3:59; 4. LP, N. Thompson (Kane), 10:47; 5. SL, Urquhart, 13:57, eng.
Shots on goal: Lake Placid 20, Saranac Lake 16.
Saves: SL, B. Darrah 19; LP, Smith 12.