RICKY ST. CLAIR
PLATTSBURGH — Nate Foster joked with teammate Matt LaClair before Beekmantown’s Section VII Division II boys’ hockey championship game against Lake Placid that LaClair’s first-career goal would prove to be a game winner.
Foster’s joke became a reality at the Stafford Ice Arena Tuesday.
Sparked by Foster’s hat-trick performance and LaClair’s game-winning tally at 10:55 of the third period, the No. 4-ranked Eagles (17-4-1) scored five unanswered goals in a 5-2 win to claim their second straight sectional crown.
With the victory, Beekmantown will now play No. 1 Pelham of Section I in the NYSPHSAA Division II quarterfinals at the Brewster Ice Arena at 3:15 p.m. Saturday.
“In championship hockey, you have to respond to the push from your opponent,” Eagles coach Justin Frechette said. “We did a great job (Tuesday) of responding to their push. They got up early on us, 2-0. I thought we were controlling the play. I know we outshot them 10-3 in the first period.
“It showed the character of our team (Tuesday) in that, being down 2-0, we stuck to it. We kept going, and we stuck to the game plan. We never panicked.”
The No. 3-ranked Blue Bombers (18-4) jumped out to a two-goal lead on back-to-back goals from Chris Williams and Connor Preston. Shane McNierney assisted on each of the two goals, while Ryan Damp added a helper on Preston’s marker.
“We’ve been in games like that,” Foster said. “In those games, you’ve just got to be mentally strong. We felt like we controlled the play. We came out and finished on our opportunities in the second and third period and came out on top.”
Foster put Beekmantown on the board at 12:27 of the second period. With Kyle Bisonette leaving a drop pass for Foster, the senior captain hammered home a shot from the low slot.
After Foster tied the game at 2-all at 2:09 of the third period, LaClair’s late-game heroics gave the Eagles a 3-2 lead. The slapshot came from the top of the far-side circle.
“About two seconds into the game, I had to grab my backup after breaking my stick,” LaClair said. “I was like, ‘Oh, great. Foster’s jinxed me.’
“I saw a pass come across the slot. I was able to get a touch on the puck, put it in front of me and rip a nice shot from the top of the circle glove side. It caught me by surprise. First goal, you don’t really expect it to be in a big situation like this. But I guess, clutch when it counts.”
After Josh Barriere scored from the blue line to extend Beekmantown’s lead to 4-2, Foster put the icing on the cake with his hat-trick goal at 11:35 of the third period.
The Eagles scored three times during a 40-second span to close out scoring.
“I just thought when our backs got up against the wall, we started to panic a bit,” Lake Placid coach Keith Clark said. “We just didn’t play with the composure we normally do. In the third, we had some bad turnovers. You can only do that so much against a team like Beekmantown. They capitalized on our mistakes.”
Tucker Angelopoulos, the Blue Bombers’ junior goaltender, kept Beekmantown off the scoreboard for the first 27 minutes and 27 seconds of play. He recorded 18 saves in all.
“Like I said, the first period, he kept us in the game,” Clark said. “That could have been 3-0 after that first, their advantage. We talked about that after the first how, ‘We’re not going to be able to lean on Tucker the whole night like that.’
“He played unbelievable. That’s why he got selected First-Team. He had a really great year. We had strong goaltending throughout, and he led that department for us. I can’t say enough about how he played. But again, I just think we turned the puck over too much in inopportune times.”
The Eagles, in large part from goaltender Dustin Plumadore, held Lake Placid from putting the puck in the net for the final 21:43 of regulation.
“We were trying to get a little more offense,” Clark said. “But again, when we got loose pucks and we created turnovers, we didn’t transition into their zone like they did. We weren’t able to make it count. I thought the third, we played really shoddy. Our guys think that too, I believe.”
Beekmantown will travel to Brewster, about 90 minutes south of Albany, to challenge the top-ranked team in the state. The winner advances to the state semifinals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium March 8.
“They’re going to make pushes, we’re going to make pushes,” Frechette said. “We’re going to bring Beekmantown intensity for 45 minutes. We’re going to lean on the experience that we’ve had the past four years playing in these big games.
“We’re going to leave it on the ice. That’s what we did (Tuesday), and that’s what we’re going to do down there. We hope to represent Section VII well.”
Beekmantown 5, Lake Placid 2
Beekmantown 0 1 4 — 5
Lake Placid 1 1 0 — 2
First period- 1, LP, Williams (McNierney), 13:17.
Second period- 2, LP, Preston (R. Damp, McNierney), 8:17. 3, BCS, Foster (Bisonette), 12:27.
Third period- 4, BCS, Foster (Bisonette, Buksa), 2:09. 5, BCS, LaClair (Foster, Buksa), 10:55. 6, BCS, Barriere (Foster), 11:12. 7, BCS, Foster (Bisonette), 11:35.
Shots: Beekmantown 23. Lake Placid 15.
Saves: Angelopoulos, LP, 18. Plumadore, BCS, 13.
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