UTICA — A season ago, the Beekmantown boys’ hockey team squandered a two-goal lead and was on the wrong end of an overtime heartbreaker in the NYSPHSAA Division II semifinals.
The Eagles, however, were far from déjà vu at the Utica Memorial Auditorium Saturday.
After facing a one-goal deficit in the first period where they were outshot 10-2, No. 1 Beekmantown rallied from behind, getting two third-period goals from Kyle Bisonette and Nate Foster in a 2-1 defeat of No. 3 Auburn of Section III.
With the win, the Eagles (19-4-1) advance to the Division II state championship against No. 2 Webster Schroeder of Section V at 3:45 p.m.
“I said before we even came down here, ‘Any great goal in life that you want to obtain, you’re going to face challenges and adversities along the way. It’s the team that handles those challenges and adversities the best that’s going to come out the winner at the end of the game,’” Beekmantown coach Justin Frechette said. “We answered the bell. We made a few adjustments in the locker room systematically in what we were doing.
“At the end of the first period, they had a little momentum. I thought the second and third period, we came out and took it to them. The changes we made and the way those kids adjusted to the changes, they never quit. They kept that mentality for the full 45 minutes, and then we were able to close it out at the end.”
The Maroons (17-8) got on the board first at 8:47 of the first period. Nick Netti, a senior forward, went uncovered in the low slot and beat goaltender Dustin Plumadore with a wrist shot upstairs.
“I think we were making some small mistakes,” Foster said. “But I mean, credit to them, they’re a good defensive team. We kept pressuring them, and we knew they would crack eventually. I think we saw them crack.”
After being held scoreless by Auburn goaltender Brendan Entenmann for 32 minutes and 57 seconds, Bisonette broke through by going forehand-to-backhand all alone in front to tie the game at 1-all.
“We knew this goalie was good with his glove,” Bisonette said. “We knew if we made him move, we could get it in there. It was a spur-of-the-moment move, going forehand-to-backhand.”
Josh Barriere was credited with the lone assist on the tally.
Foster’s game-winning marker, his 41st goal of the season, came four minutes and 20 seconds later. The senior captain scooped up a loose puck and lifted it over Entenmann on the glove side.
“I saw (Brandon) Buksa in front of the net there, and the puck just bounced out,” Foster said. “I knew the goalie would be on it quick, so I had to get it quicker. Luckily, I was able to pull it to my backhand and go up top with it. It seemed like the puck was sitting there forever. It felt like a few seconds.”
Frechette said he and the team had a good scouting report on Entenmann and that Bisonette and Foster executed to perfection.
“It was a great play by Kyle, and it changed the momentum of the game,” Frechette said. “I thought we took it from there. I said before we went out for the third period, ‘Big-time players want that moment.’ The cream definitely rose to the top (Saturday). They stepped up and made the plays.”
The Eagles were able to sustain enough pressure in the closing minutes to keep the puck out of their zone. The Maroons had an extra attacker on the ice for 10.6 seconds, but weren’t able to capitalize.
Auburn led shots, 19-17, but Plumadore helped secure the victory by making point-blank saves on the doorstep.
“Dustin stands on his head,” Bisonette said. “He can single-handedly win a game for us. He did that for us (Saturday). They were outshooting us in the first period, and he just stood on his head and made all the saves he had to make.
“He’s been doing that for us all year. He’s a senior goalie, and we know he wants to go out on top just as much as we do. We know he’s going to come focused and ready to play.”
Plumadore was credited with an 18-save performance. Entenmann stopped 15-of-17 shots faced between the pipes for the Maroons.
The top-two teams in the state will collide at 3:45 p.m. today. Webster Schroeder defeated Queensbury of Section II Saturday, 3-1.
“It’s going to be a battle (Sunday),” Frechette said. “We’ve just got to come ready to play and play our game. You know, we’re excited about the opportunity.
“I’d just like to thank the Beekmantown and Chazy communities for coming down (Saturday). I know (Sunday), if we can get as many fans as possible, it would be a great support system for our boys.”
Beekmantown 2, Auburn 1
Auburn 1 0 0 — 1
Beekmantown 0 0 2 — 2
First period- 1, AHS, Netti (Farrington, Franceschelli), 8:47.
Third period- 2, BCS, Bisonette (Barriere), 2:57. 3, BCS, Foster (Davison, Buksa), 7:17.
Shots: Auburn 19. Beekmantown 17.
Saves: Entenmann, AHS, 15. Plumadore, BCS, 18.
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