SKANEATELES — Since the 2020 and 2021 NYSPHSAA boys’ hockey championship were cancelled, the Skaneateles Lakers can play with some confidence knowing they are still the defending Division 2 state champions.
Playing with much of that confidence was Luke Renaud, who scored a hat trick and an assist, including the game winning goal, in Wednesday night’s 4-2 season-opening win over the Cortland Homer Golden Eagles at the Skaneateles YMCA.
The Eagles hung in there with the Lakers in the first period, despite getting outshot 11-6. With this being the first game for both teams in nearly a year, it would be understandable that both teams would still need to get their game legs underneath them. And as such, the first period ended scoreless.
Both teams broke out in a big way in the second period. Renaud opened the scoring in highlight reel fashion by dodging one defender, then the poke check of another, to put the puck in the net past a sprawling Riley Delage (19 saves).
About a minute later, the Eagles were able to tie the game when Chris Yang scored from the low slot of an assist from Jed Brazo.
But Renaud went back to work shortly thereafter, unleashing a snipe to the top shelf from the top of the left face-off circle to give the Lakers the lead back.
With 2:30 left in the second period, the Eagles tied the game again in those vulnerable moments after a penalty kill when Brazo took a pass from Tanner Douglas on the left side to shoot it past Adam Casper from the low right circle.
Brazo and Andrew Partigianoni had a similar opportunity in the first period on a 2-on-0 situation, but they were stopped by Casper (11 saves) that time.
With 6:20 to go in the third period, Renaud completed his hat trick with the eventual game winner with a tried-and-true formula — a wrister to the top shelf from the top of the left wing circle.
The Eagles called a timeout in the offensive zone with 1:06 left and pulled Delage, but the Lakers won the ensuing faceoff and Renaud found Garrett Krieger for an empty netter to put the icing on the cake.
“I thought we matched up really well,” Eagles head coach Chad Totman said. “Line for line, I think we can compete. We’re not quite in the shape we need to be and we’re also missing Mitch Riter. When we have our full team and we’re more in shape and game ready it’s going to be a different game.”
This season became even more challenging for the Eagles before it even started when they got the news that the compressor at J.M. McDonald Sports Complex broke. They scrambled to reschedule and relocate their practices and games, and they’ll be visiting the Skaneateles YMCA quite often this month.
But at least they’re playing again. “They’re certainly happy to be playing,” Totman said. “It was nice to be able to play a game and have some normalcy. Losing our home ice and having our practices in Skaneateles late at night has been tough.”
Don’t think the Eagles are satisfied just to be back on the ice, however. They knew they had their opportunities, and they knew they had chances to win. Now it’s on to Friday’s game against Christian Brothers Academy.
“Our players are not old, but we are experienced,” Totman said. “We only have one senior. We’ve been through that up and down swing before. We just keep plugging. Our chances will come.”