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Hockey in Glens Falls and Lake Placid

Posted by Sean Rowland on March 18, 2018

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It’s been a rough March weather-wise in the Northeast, but thank goodness we got a break for a few days, as a Glens Falls – Lake Placid hockey opportunity only becomes a possibility every one or two years. My brother drove down to Jersey the day before to spend time with my daughter/his niece and then we left Friday Morning. Before Glens Falls, we stopped in Saratoga Springs, about 30 minutes away. This ritzy town was enjoyable to walk through and after lunch, we went to Congress Park to unfortunately find the museum closed. The spring water was available though as the fountains were running with the famous “healing” power of the mineral water this place became known for way back in the day. I tried the first one and it was refreshing, but the second and third, I just couldn’t get past that horrendous sulfur spell and carbonation. Wasn’t able to get myself to try Hathorn Spring One while Eric wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot-pole.

We went to Glens Falls for dinner and met a friend at the Downtown City Tavern before going to the arena. It’s amazing this tiny town has had professional hockey for so long and still does in this day and age. They’ve been close to losing hockey recently, but local ownership stepped up and the Thunder are in their second ECHL season. The building is small, but lovingly old-school. Just an opening, rectangular lobby in the front with corner food stands on the inside as the oval bowl steeply circles the arena. Way too many advertisements though, I mean, an insane amount. Definitely need to stop with the annoying PA saying “It’s another Queensbury Hotel Icing” in a soft voice or his grating yell of the “Catseye Penalty Kill…Catseye!”. Outside of that, the atmosphere is great and it reminded me so much of my childhood days going to Rochester Amerks games. Fans knowing the Referee name, booing the scratching of a player, ringing cowbells. Even though the arena was half-full, the crowd really shined during the exciting Overtime session as the Thunder scored with 57 seconds left on a nifty, patient move by Shane Conacher as they beat the Fort Wayne Komets 3-2.
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On Saturday, we made the 1.5 hour drive from Glens Falls to Lake Placid. Mountain weather quickly showed it’s teeth as a seemingly quiet morning gave way to wind-whipped snow as we snaked to the resort town by running through blowing snow from fields onto roadways. We started at the Ski Jumping Complex, where the burning wind and occasional snow showers didn’t damper a trip up the ski lift. At the top, the area around the 120m tower had some cool signs and markers that we read before taking the elevator to the observation deck. Wow, what a view and what a feeling. The snow cleared enough to give us an amazing visual of the surrounding mountains. Then looking down at that jump, while watching kids going off the 90 meter was awesome.

Afterwards, we drove into bustling downtown and parked at our hotel on the other side, the Lake Placid Summit Hotel. Lunch was at Big Mountain Deli and we hopped in and out of shops along this charming little town. Along the way, I kept picturing myself back to 1980 to think about how the Olympics must’ve been. We also took a walk on frozen Mirror Lake, while watching kids play hockey and sled dogs cross to the other side. It feels like another world up here! Then it was onto the Olympic Museum, a small, but well-done summary of the Games and impacts on Lake Placid. There was a youth hockey tournament going on as well and with the Museum being inside the Olympic Center that houses both the ’32 rink and the ’80 rink, it gave us a chance to tour the facility and for me to be in dreamland. The displays in the arena are really well done and both the lower bowl and scoreboard are first class. The upper-level though is really poor as they redid it so there is just a small balcony of wooden bleachers with most of seats obstructed by railings. Also the walkway/concourse behind the bowl led to quite the traffic jams and intermission long lines. All of this I can put up with though to soak in the arena history.

More sightseeing in town eventually led to dinner, but we didn’t start early enough at our first choice: Smoke Stacks. An hour wait was too long, so we walked over to Delta Blue for a more manageable 15 minute wait. The Louisiana-based menu looked really good, but the food was just eh. In the ECAC Tournament the night before, Princeton upset Cornell while Clarkson came back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat Harvard in OT. Thank goodness, because team fan support would’ve been low if it was Princeton-Harvard. The Golden Knights brought a very large contingent from Potsdam just over an hour away. Their green and gold colors filled the streets all day and they outnumbered Tiger fans in the arena 10 to 1. Frequent chants of “Let’s Go Tech” went for naught as Princeton took a 1-0 lead. It was a classic “underdog hanging on” in the third period, as the Golden Knights just couldn’t find the answer. Things were bleak and Clarkson had one last chance…and it went in! a miracle! šŸ˜‰ Nico Sturm’s deflection with 6.4 seconds left sent Herb Brooks Arena into hysteria as Clarkson fans went bonkers, jumping up and down all around. Eric and I just stared at each other with mouth’s wide open, soaking in the craziness. What a moment. The building digested what happened in the 15-minute intermission and my gut started swaying towards wanting Princeton. With Clarkson able to get an At-Large bid to the NCAA Tournament in spite of a loss, Princeton was win or go home and what a heartbreaking way for the go home part to happen. Yet, sure enough just 2:36 into the extra frame, Princeton’s Max Becker won it and the Tigers went crazy, celebrating their first ECAC title in ten years. They beat the #1, #2 and #3 seeds to do it with one of the conference’s most remarkable championship runs ever. The game capped a truly special weekend and the 15-minute walk back to the hotel in the -5 degree Lake Placid air was one I’ll never forget. For a sports and stadium nut like myself, I do believe.
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