Niskayuna/Schenectady vs. Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa: Skating siblings are Mohawks mentors, pupils
SCOTIA This band of brothers is a family within a family, and hockey is the tie that binds them all together.
When the Niskayuna/Schenectady Mohawks take to the ice, half of the team has a relative either playing alongside them or rooting loudly for them on the bench.
There are four brother combinations playing for the Mohawks. Although the competitive spirit can create rivalries among many other athletic siblings, such is not the case here. All four tandems have an older brother playing tutor to a younger one, and each duo is genuinely happy for the experience.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had this situation before in my coaching career,” said Niskayuna/Schenectady coach Todd Templeton. “It’s extremely rare, but it’s been an interesting experience for all of us. Three of the four bother combinations are seniors with younger brothers who
are either sophomores or freshmen. The other is a junior/sophomore combination. We’d like to think that we’re all one big family here, and it’s really true. It is a family here on the hockey team, and the brother combinations make it all that much better for all of us.”
Templeton said he seldom sees any sibling rivalry in this bunch.
“They have their battles, but it’s not because they are brothers fighting each other. They are all on the same page here. Remember, they are playing with each other, not against each other,” he said.
“Having an older brother on the team is great for the younger guys, because they can learn from someone they really like and respect. But it’s also good for the older guys, because they can be leaders. All the guys on this team are really good, and they follow directions well. The four older brothers give quite a bit of leadership to the younger ones. In fact, two of the four older brothers are our captains, and Luke Miller plays like a captain even though he doesn’t wear the ‘C.’ ”
Although the Mohawks have struggled so far, compiling a 1-4 mark in the Capital District High School Hockey League and a
1-7-1 mark overall, they have been competitive in nearly all of their games. In Saturday night’s game with Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, they outshot Burnt Hills, 45-28, but couldn’t solve their goalie and ended up losing, 6-3.
“We’ve played well enough to win in all but one of our games,” said Templeton. “We can’t seem to put good goaltending and good scoring together in the same game. We scored a bunch of goals early this season, but our goalie was struggling. Then our goalie started playing well, and he didn’t give up any goals, but we just couldn’t score.
“In a game like tonight, when we have put a lot of shots on goal, they don’t go in. Hopefully, the bounces will go our way soon.”
Lucas Maloney, a 5-foot-7, 160-pound senior forward, is the Mohawks’ top offensive player with seven goals and one assist. He’s in the top five among the CDHSHL’s top scorers. His brother is 5-6, 165-pound freshman Evan Maloney, who has two goals and two assists so far.
“My brother will be a great player someday. He’s a freshman now, but I’m so proud of him,” said Lucas Maloney. “We’re about the same size, and we have just about the same type of game. We bond a lot, and we are very supportive of each other. It’s different trying to give him advice when you are just about the same size, but it’s nice to have another player on the team that I can talk to about hockey. His game is a little bit different than mine right now, but I know he’s getting better every day. We are very close, and we both love the game. Having my brother playing on the same team as me is a great experience. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Senior Luke Miller and soph-omore Jake Miller are each about 5-10, although Luke is 15 pounds lighter than his younger brother. They both slide back and forth from the blue line to the wing, but they are almost always on the ice at the same time. Saturday night, they were the Mohawks’ starting defensemen.
“We both play on the same line together, so it’s a lot of fun for both of us,” said Luke Miller, who has three assists. “Being on the same line is great. I love playing hockey with my brother. Yes, we’re very competitive with each other, but in a good way. Our games comp-lement each other, and we really play well together.”
The Millers are seldom apart, both on and off the ice.
“We help each other out, and we have each other’s backs,” said Luke Miller. “We share the good and the bad.”
Jake Miller has one goal has played in one fewer game than his brother.
Junior Justin Peretti, a 5-11, 185-pound defenseman, and sophomore Matthew Peretti, a 5-7, 140-pound forward, take advantage of their relationship to improve each other’s games. Matt Peretti has one goal and two assists, while his brother has two assists.
“He plays offense, and I play defense,” Justin Peretti said. “We love practicing one-on-ones
together. It really helps me to play against him, but he’s a pretty good player. He makes me strive to be better. He knows my moves, and I know his. Our sense of brotherhood brings us all together. In fact, everyone on this team has each other’s backs. We hope to turn this season around eventually, but until we do, it’s great playing on the same team with my brother. I think we all feel that way.”
Ben Fisher is a 5-10, 150-pound senior forward with two goals and four assists, while his brother, Jack, is a 5-8, 140-pound sophomore defenseman.
“We are pretty close,” said Ben Fisher. “He follows my example. I don’t necessarily tell him what to do, but he just seems to do what I do. It’s weird having so many brothers on this team, but I like it. We spend a lot of time together both on and off the ice.”
Win or lose, most of the Mohawks have at least one person on the team who wants nothing but the best for his family within a family.
“This is quite an unusual situation,” said Templeton. “But having this many brother combinations on this team has done nothing but made it better for all of us. These are a great bunch of guys.”