LAKE PLACID - Before Wednesday's playoff game against Albany Academy, Lake Placid had never tasted victory during the postseason in the 12 years the Blue Bombers girls hockey program has existed.
Emily Godin put an end to that drought in dramatic fashion, as the Blue Bombers' senior captain scored with 2.2 seconds remaining in a second sudden-death overtime to lift Lake Placid to a 3-2 victory over Albany Academy at the Olympic Center.
The contest was one of two Upstate Girls Hockey League semifinals played on Wednesday. With the win, the Blue Bombers advanced to face Beekmantown on Friday at Scotts Rink in Chazy for the championship. The Eagles, the defending New York state girls champion, rolled to a 7-0 win over Saranac Lake in the other semifinal.
Along with their teammates, Lake Placid senior captains Emily Godin (9) and Alexa Whitney (14) celebrate their dramatic 3-2 overtime victory over Albany Academy at the Olympic Center on Wednesday. Godin scored the game-winner with 2.2 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Blue Bombers their first girls hockey playoff win in school history.
Photo by Lou Reuter/Lake Placid News
In addition to capturing its first playoff victory, the game also marked another first for Lake Placid, which improved to 9-8-1. Before Wednesday, the Blue Bombers had never been able to come back from a deficit to win a game this season. And in this game, Lake Placid had to rally twice.
"It was just pure determination," Lake Placid head coach Sandy Huber said. "The girls just wanted to win, and they battled all night. They were aggressive, they made smart plays and they didn't panic with the puck."
After missing her team's final regular season game against Saranac Lake on Monday with a leg injury, Tanner Stanton returned to the nets for Lake Placid and turned in a stellar effort in matchup that saw Albany Academy own a 26-18 edge in shots on goal.
Stanton was a big factor in a scoreless opening stanza that saw the sophomore make eight saves in the period, including some on point-blank shots that Albany Academy fired her way.
The visitors took leads on two occasions in the second period only to have the Blue Bombers battle back to tie. Ariella Haas opened the scoring, notching a power-play goal at the 1:49 mark for a 1-0 Albany Academy advantage. But it took Lake Placid just eight seconds to knot the score on a 3-on-2 rush, with the team's other senior captain, Alexa Whitney, getting the goal on assists from Kylie Kroes and Mia Kennedy.
Albany regained the lead at 2-1 less than two minutes later when Natalie Tulchinsky beat Stanton from in close. In the up-and-down contest, the Blue Bombers rallied again, this time on a goal by eighth-grader Jayde Dukette midway through the period that tied things up at 2-2. Morgan Meyer and Kroes picked up assists on the play.
The teams played a scoreless third period, and it was the same scenario in the first sudden-death period that lasted 7 minutes and 30 seconds.
It looked like the contest could stretch into a third overtime session, but the Blue Bombers made sure that wasn't the case, despite having a faceoff in their own end of the rink with 13 seconds left in the period after they iced the puck. On the game-winning play, Lake Placid won the draw, and Sam Barney skated the puck out of the Blue Bombers' end of the rink. She banked a pass off the boards to Liz Bimonte, who sent the puck in front to Godin. With no time to spare, Godin took a shot and beat Albany goalie Zoe Shannon for the game-winner.
"That was the best feeling in the world, especially since it gave Lake Placid its first playoff win," Godin said. "I was fortunate to get that goal. I knew time was running out, so when I saw the puck, I just shot it. I didn't see where it was going, and it went in the net.
"When we've played as individuals this season, we haven't done very well," Godin added. "Tonight, our team finally came together, and I'm so proud of everybody's effort."
"We couldn't have scripted that goal any better," Huber said of the game-winner. "It's a play we've worked on, and I don't know if they can do it like that in the NHL. Tonight, our girls did a great job catching the puck, looking up and making smart passes. It was also really fitting that our only two seniors each got a goal."
Albany Academy finished its season with a 10-6-1 record.
"This was a great high school hockey game, and obviously our kids are pretty heartbroken," Albany Academy head coach Tom Sheehan said. "We just made one more mistake than they did. Kudos to Lake Placid, they never quit.
"On the bright side, we only had one senior on the roster this year, and she was out of the lineup with an injury," Sheehan added. "That was Abbey Nolan, our best defenseman. We're mostly freshmen and sophomores, and hopefully they will be back next season."
The Blue Bombers now have an opportunity to notch another historic win when they play in their first championship final. Earlier this season, Lake Placid beat Beekmantown for the first time, so the Blue Bombers know it's possible. The Eagles won the second meeting, which makes Friday's title tilt the rubber match.
"We did it once, so we can do it again, and this win gives us lots of confidence," Godin said. "We're going to have to play a great game, and we're looking forward to having that chance."
Lake Placid 3, Albany Academy 2, 2OT
1. AA, Haas (McHale, Mulligan), 1:49 pp; 2. LP, Whitney (Kroes, Kennedy), 1:57; 3. AA, Tulchinsky (McHale, First), 3:42; 4. LP, Dukette (Bimonte, S. Barney), 7:27.
5. LP, Godin (Bimonte, S. Barney), 7:27.
Shots on goal: Albany Academy 26, Lake Placid 18.
Saves: AA, Shannon 15; LP, Stanton 24