SARANAC LAKE - Playing with a short bench all season finally got the best of Saranac Lake's hockey team on Thursday. And so did the Beekmantown Eagles.
In a Section VII semifinal matchup played at the Ameri-Can North Sports Center in Plattsburgh, Beekmantown blanked Saranac Lake 4-0 to advance to next week's title game.
After capturing their third straight Champlain Valley Athletic Conference regular-season title and facing the two-time defending sectional champions, the Eagles wasted little time posting their first playoff win in two years.
Saranac Lake captain Grant Strack attempts to block a slapshot fired from the point by Beekmantown’s Brett Giroux during Thursday’s game at the Ameri-Can North Sports Center in Plattsburgh.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Saranac Lake eighth-grade forward Christian Thomas looks to corral an airborne puck in front of Beekmantown goalie Dustin Plumadore in the second period of Thursday’s game.
(Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)
Junior forward Nathan Foster put Beekmantown on the board less than three minutes into the game. Kyle Bisonette and Brandon Buksa tacked on two more goals in quick succession during the second period and Foster then rounded out the scoring with a power-play goal in the third.
The Eagles gameplan was straight forward: Go on the attack against Saranac Lake and don't let up. As a result, they came up with four goals while outshooting the Red Storm by a 43-13 margin, which included an 18-3 advantage during the first period.
Beekmantown had firepower on offense and at the other end of the rink. Junior netminder Dustin Plumadore led a solid defensive effort by posting his seventh shutout of the season to set a Section VII record for goalies.
"Beekmantown's plan was to go right out and get it," said Saranac Lake head coach Will Ellsworth said, whose Red Storm finished in a 1-1 tie with the Eagles in their regular-season finale just six days ago. "They wore us down as the game went on. When you're skating with two forward lines, three defensemen and one sub, there's not much you can do against a team like that.
"With all the injuries we've had, we've literally been running on fumes all year," Ellsworth added. "We just ran out of gas. I'm pretty proud of our guys for sticking it out. We got the most out of the kids we had."
Beekmantown converted a costly Red Storm turnover into an early score, as Foster picked up a loose puck just outside the Saranac Lake blue line and top-shelved a breakaway shot past junior goalie Blake Darrah to give the Eagles a 1-0 edge 2:34 into the game.
Facing a one-goal deficit heading into the second period, the Red Storm was still in the game, but that changed quickly when two more juniors buried pucks for the Eagles in a span of less than two minutes on shots from in close. Bisonette pushed a shot past Darrah 4:27 into the stanza, and Buksa followed with a goal at the 6:17 mark for a 3-0 Beekmantown lead.
Foster netted the game's final goal 6:22 into the third period when he ripped a wrist shot into the net during an Eagles' power play.
"First of all, I got to give Darrah some credit in goal for them," Beekmantown head coach Justin Frechette. "He made some incredible saves, especially in that first period. We could have easily had a couple of more goals.
"That early goal was big for us," Frechette added. "In playoff hockey, you always want to score first. That goal got us going, and we didn't give up much on defense. Our boys played really well. The kids really wanted it."
The game marked the end of memorable high school hockey careers for seniors Grant Strack, Nick Bayruns and Quinn Urquhart, who helped Saranac Lake earn back-to-back Section VII titles. It was also the final game in a Red Storm uniform for senior Connor Trim, a first-year player on the team.
"Obviously, it's disappointing losing this game, but just getting here was big for us," said Strack, who captained the Red Storm since the start of the season. "It was good to be back in the semifinals again. The thing I'll remember the most about this season was what we were able to do with the kids we had. It was quite an accomplishment."
With the win, the Eagles now hope to end a tough run in recent playoff action. They went unbeaten during the regular season a year ago only to suffer an upset loss to Plattsburgh in the semifinals, and lost two straight championship games before that.
Top-seeded Beekmantown will play for the title on Wednesday at SUNY Plattsburgh against the winner of tonight's second semifinal game that pits second-seed Plattsburgh against the Lake Placid Blue Bombers. That matchup will also be played at the Ameri-Can North Sports Center starting at 7 p.m.
Beekmantown 4, Saranac Lake 0
1. B, Foster, 2:34.
2. B, Bisonette (Foster, Carnright), 4:27; 3. B, Buksa (Roser), 6:17.
4. B, Foster (Bradish), 6:22, pp.
Shots on goal: Beekmantown 43, Saranac Lake 13.