February 20, 2013

Saranac Lake, Lake Placid move on to semis

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.

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“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.

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