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Potsdam shares state high school girls hockey championship


CLAYTON – The Potsdam Central girls hockey team only led the 2014 state tournament final for 25 seconds.

But after going on to survive a four-overtime marathon with Section 3 champion Skaneateles, the Lady Sandstoners were still able to make some history at the Clayton Arena on Saturday.

“We knew it was going to be close. Everyone on both sides gave a great effort the whole game. Both teams played well. Both teams had their chances and both goalies came up big when they needed to,” said coach Joe Stark after 75 minutes of hockey produced a 2-2 tie and ended with the finalists shaking hands as co-champions.

“We played five full periods of hockey and you could see the players were exhausted at the end,” he added. “We’ve come a long way as a team since our first practice. We didn’t get the win but we’re still state champions. I’ll take it.”

Saturday’s dramatic deadlock marked the first time in the decade-long history of the tournament that the championship wound up being shared. Potsdam, which finished with a 13-4-4 record this winter, has now won the title twice in three years and three times overall while Skaneateles came away with its first-ever state girls hockey championship.

“We came here to win a championship and that’s what we’re leaving with,” said Lakers coach Michael Major, whose team advanced to the title game by knocking off defending champion Beekmantown 6-2 on Friday. “After the fourth overtime the girls skated to the bench. They wanted to keep going.”

“It was a great game. Everyone that was here definitely got their money’s worth,” he added.

After a scoreless first period, the Lady Lakers (15-3-2) opened the scoring just 2:34 into the second when senior Sarah Sauda wristed a shot from the right wing just inside the far post for an unassisted goal.

The Lady Sandstoners pulled even just before the end of the second period when senior Meg Plumb controlled a loose puck at center-ice and quickly sent a pass ahead to junior Kalie Grant, who broke down the left wing then toward the slot before centering the puck to senior Ally Miller who made no mistake one-timing a low shot just inside the near post with 1:22 remaining.

One of only three seniors on this year’s Potsdam squad, Miller also scored both goals in Friday night’s 2-1semi-final round win over Section 6 champion Kenmore and tallied the eventual game-winning goals in both Section 10 tournament victories.

“I realized that this was my last time for this,” she noted after the game. “I just wanted to give it my all.”

The Lady Sandstoners took their only lead of the game with 4:44 left in regulation. Freshman netminder Sidney Molnar had stopped a power play breakaway by freshman Sophie Kush which led to a defensive zone face-off in the right circle. The puck wound up on the stick of eighth-grader Hannah Dreschel, who quickly slid it across from the left boards to Grant breaking up the ice and she turned the short centering pass into a breakaway that ended with her sliding a low shot past senior netminder Amanda Lupo from close range for a shorthanded goal.

“I have to give Kalie Grant a lot of credit. She banged up her shoulder in the game Friday night and she was operating at about 50 percent today. For her to make the play she did to set up the first goal and then go down and finish the breakaway for the second, really showed a lot of character on her part,” Stark noted.

But soon after the face-off that followed the go-ahead goal, the Lady Sandstoners were whistled for another penalty and faced a two-player disadvantage. As the first penalty ended, Kush sent a shot toward goal from the right point leading to a goalmouth scramble that ended with junior Claire Michel stuffing a rebound into the back of the net just 25 seconds after Potsdam had taken the lead.

The Lady Sandstoners went on to outshoot the Lady Lakers 17-12 in overtime but Molnar, who finished with 28 saves, and Lupo, who wound up turning aside 44 shots, were perfect between the pipes through the additional 30 minutes.

“Both teams played very well in regulation so it didn’t make any sense to start getting reckless in overtime,” noted Stark. “Fatigue was definitely a factor but all the kids worked hard right to the end.”

Last weekend’s high school girls hockey final four marked the second straight year that champions from four sections were on hand to compete. While still not considered an official state tournament, this year’s tournament marked the first time that the New York State Public High School Athletic Association considered the event as a Regional Championship.

“We have four sections from the around the state on board but we need to have six sections to be recognized as a true state tournament,” said Stark. “We’ve come a long way to get to this venue. You can see there’s more and more interest every year so we’re moving in the right direction.”

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