Ithaca High girls hockey first-year coach Jessica Link felt her team played one of its best games of the season on Senior Night on Wednesday against visiting Skaneateles.
Unfortunately for the Little Red and its five veteran players honored before the game at frigid Cass Park, a solid 45 minutes did not translate into victory.
The Lakers scored a pair of second-period goals and survived Ithaca’s comeback attempt in the third period to skate home with a 2-1 triumph in the Little Red’s home finale.
“I thought we played three pretty solid periods,” Link said. “We’ve talked about the fact that we’re never going to play a perfect game, but limiting our mistakes and playing 45 solid minutes of hockey is what we’re after, and I thought as a complete game, this was probably one of the best games we’ve put together as a whole. With it being Senior Night and all, I think they had a little extra incentive to get out there and play.”
Sophomore Zsofi Szegletes had the lone goal for Ithaca (5-7-1), assisted by classmate Clara Karastury, at 6:37 of the third period, cutting the Lakers’ lead in half. But Skaneateles goalie Amanda Lupo (27 saves) came up big for her team in the final period with 11 stops, including three in the final 45 seconds when Link pulled goalie Alex Stagliano (18 saves) for an extra attacker.
Wednesday’s game was the final home contest of the regular season for Ithaca seniors Stagliano, co-captains Lauren Herrick and Jackie Cornell, and forwards Allison Miettunen and Kaleigh Stilwell. Link called them the “bridge” that helped her get through to the team as they all adjusted to each other.
“I’ve relied on them, as a group, to lead these guys while I’ve been learning the ropes a little bit,” said Link, a 2005 Brown University graduate who was a two-time All-ECAC Hockey selection for the Bears and a three-time all-academic team member. She finished her career ranked fifth on Brown’s all-time scoring list with 157 points (83 goals-73 assists) in 124 games.
Skaneateles (7-4-1) got second-period goals from sophomore Claire Michel and junior Riley Donahue in support of Lupo’s solid job between the pipes. Wednesday’s game was the third between Ithaca and Skaneateles, including a preseason scrimmage, and the Lakers went 2-0-1 with two one-goal victories and a 1-all tie.
The game was delayed for several minutes while the Little Red switched from its home white jerseys to the road red; prior to the season, Skaneateles informed the league that they would have only one set of jerseys for the season, and they would be white.
“That was just something that had slipped everybody’s mind,” Link said. “Just like this whole season has been for us, it’s been about adjusting. But it didn’t seem to faze us, they did a good job of just moving past it and playing the game.”
Ithaca plays at Potsdam on Saturday, then will open Section 3 playoff action next Thursday at Cass Park against Alexandria Bay. Faceoff will be at 7:30 p.m.; Skaneateles will play Oswego in the other sectional semifinal. Ithaca and Alex Bay met twice this season, with the Little Red winning both games, 2-1 on Dec. 21 in Ithaca, and 4-3 on Jan. 11 at Alex Bay.