SARANAC LAKE — Grant Strack recorded a natural hat trick, scoring all three Saranac Lake goals in a 3-0 blanking of Northeastern Clinton in the Section VII boys’ hockey quarterfinals Tuesday at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
The first two occurred during a seven minute and 48-second span in the opening period, helping the Red Storm (7-8-4) jump out to a 2-0 lead.
“We came out with a really good game plan,” Saranac Lake coach Will Ellsworth said. “In the playoffs, our goal is to score the all-important first goal. Fortunately, we had two in the first eight minutes of the game.”
The contest, however, remained 2-0 for the next 29:17 of play before Strack struck again.
Junior defenseman Blake Battistoni ripped a shot from the point, which was initially saved by Cougars (7-11-1) goalie Cody Young, but Strack was there to scoop up the loose puck.
Strack and linemates Christian Thomas and Chris Spicer totaled six points on the night.
“They’ve been playing together the last three games,” Ellsworth said. “(Spicer) works extremely hard and adds that element of grittiness, while (Strack) and (Thomas) are more finesse. They’re gelling right now and are finding each other on the ice.”
Junior goaltender Blake Darrah, who missed six games during the regular season with a concussion, grabbed his first shutout of the year.
“Northeastern Clinton had many opportunities in the first period,” Ellsworth said. “After we got up 2-0, they played very aggressive. We played maintenance hockey and changed our forecheck at times.
“(Darrah) made some key stops to keep us in there. He has really come into his own as of late. His experience from last year’s state semifinal run is paying off.”
Saranac Lake finished with a 25-22 advantage in shots on goal. Young, a senior, accumulated 22 saves.
The Red Storm, who tied Beekmantown 1-1 last Saturday, will battle the No. 9-ranked Eagles (16-3-1) in the semifinals at the Ameri-Can North Sports Center Thursday.
The puck is scheduled to drop for 7 p.m.
“I think right now, we have to play simple playoff hockey,” Ellsworth said. “Playoff hockey is simple hockey. When you go up against a Beekmantown team with an explosive group of forwards, we need to limit its chances. I think that’s why we were successful when we tied them 1-1.”
Saranac Lake 3,
Northeastern Clinton 0
Northeastern Clinton 0 0 0 — 0
Saranac Lake 2 0 1 — 3
First period- 1, SL, Strack (Thomas, Spicer), 5:23. 2, SL, Strack (Thomas), 7:48.
Third period- 3, SL, Strack (Battistoni), 7:55.
Shots: Saranac Lake 25. Northeastern Clinton 22.
Saves: Darrah, SL, 22. Young, NCCS, 22.
Lake Placid 5, Saranac 1
LAKE PLACID — The No. 11-ranked Blue Bombers (15-4-2) jumped out to a three-goal first-period lead and never looked back en route to a 5-1 victory over the Chiefs.
Ryan Damp, Shane McNierney and Nzoni Thompson all collected tallies in the first 10 minutes of the opening stanza.
“We thought we had a strong first period,” Lake Placid coach Keith Clark said. “It was one of those games where goal scoring indicated what the play was like. We had a lot of shots on a number of second-chance opportunities.”
The Chiefs (3-15-2), however, responded for their lone marker in the middle period when senior forward Jeremy Barber collected his fourth goal of the year, cutting the differential to two.
Kyle Erickson and Jacob Lilledahl earned assists on the play.
“Saranac responded and had a solid (second) period,” Clark said. “They took some momentum away from us and their goalie made some nice saves to keep them in the hockey game.”
The Blue Bombers reestablished themselves, adding two more on the board when R.J. Reid made it 4-1 with 5:24 elapsed in the third period.
Then, Elias Smith registered his second goal in the last two games, putting the icing on the cake with 1:25 remaining in regulation.
Jeffrey Smith was credited with the win between the pipes, recording 18 saves on 19 shots faced. Zach Lareau concluded his senior season at Saranac with a 48-save performance.
“Saranac had some real good chances in the second, but (Smith) stood tall,” Clark said. “He made some key saves when we needed them most. It was a two-goal game for a while, and he gave us a chance to win. Our goal scoring was spread out, which was nice as well.”
Ryan Meyer finished with three assists on the night, while Ryan Damp and Nzoni Thompson collected a goal and an assist, respectively.
Third-seeded Lake Placid will take on second-seeded and No. 15-ranked Plattsburgh High Friday at the Ameri-Can North Sports Center for 7 p.m.
The two teams split the regular season at one game apiece with the Blue Bombers knocking off the Hornets 1-0 last Friday.
“We had some up-and-down battles with (Plattsburgh High) this season,” Clark said. “Every game is its own little season. You’re only as good as that next game. We split, and it should be a good challenge on Friday night.”
Lake Placid 5, Saranac 1
Saranac 0 1 0 — 1
Lake Placid 3 0 2 — 5
First period- 1, LP, Damp, 3:49. 2, LP, McNierney (Meyer, N. Thompson), 4:40. 3, LP, N. Thompson (Meyer, Barney), 10:00.
Second period- 4, SCS, Barber (Erickson, Lilledahl), 11:34.
Third period- 5, LP, Reid (Meyer), 5:24. 6, LP, E. Smith (Damp), 13:35.
Shots: Lake Placid 53. Saranac 19.
Saves: Smith, LP, 18. Lareau, SCS, 48.