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#3 Saranac Chiefs @ #2 Northeastern Clinton Cougars - Champlain Valley Athletic Conference Hockey Playoffs Semifinals - February 27th 2020

through the middle
Photo By: 
Nathanel Lepage

Saranac/Peru forward Zack O’Connell (12) tracks behind Northeastern Clinton’s Samuel Bulson (19) at mid-ice in a Section VII semifinal contest at the Rouses Point Civic Center. The crowd at the Rouses Point Civic Center was treated to plenty of bonus hockey Thursday night, as it took two overtime periods for Saranac to take down Northeastern Clinton by a final score of 5-4. The Chiefs, 6-2 winners against the same opposition one week earlier, found themselves in a hole early, after the Cougars took a 2-0 lead by the 4:21 mark off goals from Chase Letourneau and Lucas Bedard. It took less than a minute for Saranac to cut that deficit in half. Austin Carpenter tapped in a feed from linemate Hayden Buckley to get the visiting team on the board, scoring the third goal of the game at only the 5:04 mark of the first period. After that flurry of goals, the teams had to wait for the next goal, which didn’t come until 9:50 into the second period. The Cougars regained their two-point lead on a powerplay goal from Letourneau for the only tally of the second period. With the home team leading shots on goal 23-10 going into the final period of regulation, momentum began to shift in the latter half of the third. The Chiefs got themselves within reach at the 8:49 mark of the period when Nikalas Hamel sent home a slapshot from the high point to beat goaltender Ethan Garrand. Just 12 seconds after the goal, things looked grim against for Saranac, as starting defenseman Nolan Knight was sent to the box for roughing. However, it was the chiefs who would enjoy the fruits of the special-teams action. Breaking out of the defensive zone, Buckley made a good move to dodge a check at the blue line by Northeastern Clinton defenseman Zach Miller, creating a two-on-one in the offensive zone. Buckley made a nice cross-ice pass to Hamel, who sent home a shorthanded goal to tie the game with 4:39 left in regulation. With the score tied, Saranac continued to press offensively, and it paid off inside two minutes to go. Zack O’Connell carried the puck into the zone along the boards, cutting in toward goal once he’d beaten his man. He sent a wrist shot high to take the late lead. The Chiefs could have sealed victory late in regulation, but a long-range shot at the empty net in the final minute missed, crossing the line inches outside of the post. The Cougars made that miss count, as Jack Bulson sent a slapshot from the point past goaltender Erick Frechette to tie the game with 36 seconds on the clock. Fatigue began to show for both sides in the overtime period, and shots on net became much more scarce. Saranac’s coaching staff leaned heavily on its top line of O’Connell, Carpenter, and Buckley, who played shifts several minutes long. They kept the Cougars in their own end, though, and continued to press. While one overtime was not enough to settle the contest, it didn’t take long in the second extra period for the winning goal to come. The Chiefs crashed the net, with several players hunting for a rebound after a hard shot on Garrand’s goal, and O’Connell picked up the loose puck to end the game. Garrand made 27 saves in the lengthy game, while Frechette made 31 stops in net for the win. With the victory, Saranac advanced to Tuesday’s Section VII Championship against Saranac Lake/Lake Placid at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena. Gallery

skate breakup
Photo By: 
Kyle Coryea

Saranac forward Hayden Buckley (26) attempts to skate around the Northeastern Clinton defenseman John Bulson (7) in a Section VII semifinal contest at the Rouses Point Civic Center. Gallery