True, it holds the top seed for the Section III Class A boys lacrosse playoffs, with a great opportunity to end a 24-year await for a championship. And yes, there’s a bye straight into the semifinal round, meaning that just two wins are needed to claim that long-elusive prize.
Yet Baldwinsville has lost twice to the no. 2 seed, Fayetteville-Manlius, this season, including last Wednesday night’s regular-season finale, where a furious comeback by the visiting Bees fell just short in a 9-8 defeat to the Hornets.
The formula to solving B’ville was something F-M already knew. It started in the face-off circle, where Zak VanValkenburgh had dominated in the first meeting with the Bees, which led to a 12-8 decision in the Hornets’ favor.
But VanValkenburgh was out with a torn ACL suffered a week earlier in the Hornets’ OT win over West Genesee, so Tommy Ryu took over those duties in the Center X – and helped F-M get 15 of 20 face-offs on this night.
Back-to-back goals by Dan Burnam late in the first quarter broke a 2-2 tie. Meanwhile the Hornets’ defense bottled up B’ville’s potent front line, having to do more work since long-stick midfielder Brett Barlow was out with an injury, while goalie Ryan Boshart was piling up 17 saves.
In fact, the Bees managed just two total goals in the second and third periods. Burnam and James Rettinger connected on goals to stretch F-M’s lead to 8-4 as the fourth quarter got away.
The Hornets would need that cushion. B’ville’s attack roared to life early in the fourth quarter with goals by Ryan Gebhardt (his third of the night and 50th of the season) and Matt Dickman that cut the deficit to 8-6, which made Mac Fish’s goal with 4:59 left even more crucial for F-M’s cause.
Right to the end, it stayed tense. Charlie Bertrand cut it to 9-7 a minute after Fish scored, and B’ville maintained the pressure until Connor Smith found the net with 27 seconds to play, just after Boshart made his best save of the night.
Naturally, it came down to one more face-off, with Ryan Ingerson desperate to get the draw so that the Bees could use its remaining time-out to set up a tying goal. But Ryu got it after a long scramble, allowing the Hornets to run out the remaining clock and take much more momentum into the sectional playoffs.
Following the tension of back-to-back games that included a late-game loss at Cazenovia May 10 and a furious comeback to beat Cicero-North Syracuse in overtime two nights later, B’ville, no. 17 in the latest state Class A rankings, wanted to avoid more drama at Syracuse last Monday night, especially with the F-M rematch looming.
The Bees more than got its wish, handling the Cougars 12-6 in a game decided during the first half. John Petrelli, Patrick Delpha and the rest of B’ville’s defenders took away all of Syracuse’s options while the attack got rolling during a 6-1 second-quarter push.
Up 8-1 at halftime, the Bees could afford to relax a bit since its defense wasn’t going to let the Cougars rally and avenge its 10-6 defeat at B’ville in mid-April. The margin did close a bit, to 10-5, but the visitors cruised through the rest of the game.
Gebhardt, with five goals, and Bertrand, with three goals and two assists, both accumulated five points to pace the attack. Peter Fiorini had a goal and three assists as Dickman got a goal and assist. Connor Smith, Mark McCabe and Dillon Darcangelo had one goal apiece.
Despite all this, B’ville still got that top Class A sectional playoff seed and, with seven teams in the bracket, a ticket straight to Thursday’s 7 p.m. semifinal at Bragman Stadium, where either no. 4 seed Syracuse or no. 5 seed Cicero-North Syracuse (on its home turf) will await, depending on the result of Tuesday’s game between the Northstars and Cougars. One win gets the Bees to Saturdays’ 4 p.m. title game at the Carrier Dome.