SARANAC LAKE - In a battle between two teams with short benches, Saranac Lake overcame a rocky start to earn a 4-2 home victory over Northeastern Clinton Wednesday in Champlain Valley Athletic Conference boys hockey action.
Trailing 1-0 after giving up a shorthanded goal late in the first period, the Red Storm notched three unanswered goals and added an empty-netter after surviving a furious rally attempt by the Cougars.
For Saranac Lake, Nick Bayruns scored twice, eighth-grader Drew Sturgeon notched his first varsity goal and senior captain Grant Strack slid a puck into an empty net with 35 seconds remaining to secure the victory.
Saranac Lake’s Christian Thomas, an eighth-grader, battles for the puck in front of the Cougars net while a downed Northeastern Clinton goalie Kyle McCarthy watches the play during Wednesday’s game at the Saranac Lake Civic Center.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
With the win, Saranac Lake improved to 1-1 in the CVAC and 3-2-1 overall while NCCS dropped to 0-2 in the league and 2-2 overall. The win was the second straight for the Red Storm, who claimed a 4-2 non-league triumph Monday at Norwood-Norfolk.
"We're on a little two-game roll right now," Saranac Lake head coach Will Ellsworth said. "Our first period was our worst, but we were able to come back and we relied on our goaltender a little bit.
"Two garbage goals early in the second period got us going," Ellsworth added. "We were able to get some pucks to the net and we mucked it up in front. When you do that, good things happen."
In the evenly-matched game, NCCS outshot Saranac Lake 25-24. In a solid performance, junior Blake Darrah made 23 saves in goal for the Red Storm while senior Kyle McCarthy recorded 21 stops for the Cougars.
Mason Letourneau gave the Cougars a 1-0 edge when he beat Darrah on a short-handed breakaway with 1:13 remaining in the first period. Saranac Lake evened the score just 37 seconds into the middle period when Bayruns buried his first puck with Strack and Sturgeon assisting.
Sturgeon, one of two talented eighth-graders playing for Saranac Lake, then scored at the 6:35 mark that ultimately gave the Red Storm a 2-1 advantage heading into the third period.
Bayruns netted what proved to be the game-winner 3:22 into the third, top-shelving a shot on a breakaway to put the Red Storm in front 3-1. The Cougars cut their deficit to a single goal when Kastle Birch scored from in close at the 9:35 mark, and they continued to push for a potential game-tying goal, but Strack relieved the pressure with his second empty-netter in Saranac Lake's past two games.
Sturgeon also assisted on the winning goal to finish with a three-point outing.
"Nick Bayruns came up big for us, Blake had a good game in goal, and how about Drew Sturgeon? He made a big impact for us," Ellsworth said. "Our guys are seeing a lot of ice time right now. We still have a couple of players out, so we've been moving guys around, trying to fill the holes. We worked hard for that victory against a pretty good Northeastern team."
Saranac Lake next plays Friday against Tupper Lake. That non-league game will be at the Tupper Lake Civic Center with the opening faceoff slated for 6:30 p.m.
Saranac Lake 4, NCCS 2
1. NCCS, Letourneau, shg, 13:47.
2. SL, Bayruns (Strack, Sturgeon), :37. 3, SL, Sturgeon, 6:35.
4. SL, Bayruns (Sturgeon), 3:22. 5. NCCS, Birch, 9:35. 6, SL, Strack, eng, 14:25.
Shots on goal: NCCS 25, Saranac Lake 24.
Saves: McCarthy, NCCS, 21; Darrah, SL, 23.