School hockey: Plainsmen have a point to prove
Most coaches like their teams to forget about a loss and move on. But for the last three weeks, the Shenendehowa hockey team has been itching for a rematch with Shaker/Colonie.
That rematch will come tonight, when the second-seeded Plainsmen (12-9) host the Jets at 7:30 at Clifton Park Arena in the semifinals of the Section II hockey tournament.
Top-seeded Saratoga Springs, bidding for its third straight Section II title, will host Christian Brothers Academy at 6:45 at Vernon Arena in the other semifinal.
The two winners will meet for the championship next Thursday at Union College.
The Plainsmen still haven’t forgotten how they were manhandled by the Jets in a 6-4 loss on Jan. 28.
“I don’t want to make excuses. Shaker/Colonie took advantage of every opportunity they had in that game,” said Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha Thursday night. “We did not show up that night. We hoped that the brackets would play out so we’d get another shot at them. This is our chance for a re-do.”
Although the Jets, seeded third, have a 9-10-2 overall record, that’s a little deceptive. Shaker/Colonie posted an 8-4-1 record against Section II teams, and was 1-6-1 outside the section.
The Jets have a potent offense, and few teams have been able to slow down Joey Chiara (19-20-39), Eric Egan (17-20-37) and Mike Mineau (17-14-31). Chiara and Kevin Egan each had two goals and an assist in the Jets’ win over the Plainsmen on Jan. 28.
“We have to do a better job in the neutral zone against them,” said de la Rocha. “They have better size than we do, and I wasn’t able to match lines because we were the away team the last time. We let them push us around, and they got momentum and we ended up playing catch-up against them.”
Joe Ferraro, one of just four seniors on the team, anchors the Plainsmen’s defense in front of goalie Brian Walter, who has a 2.65 goals-against average. Juniors Kevin Miles (11-19-30) and Brad Tardif
(17-9-26) are the leading scorers.
“This is a funny group,” said de la Rocha. “They’re a young team and at times, they play like you’d expect a young team to play. But at other times, they’re exceptional. I think I expect more out of them because I know they’re capable of so much. That’s why I’m really looking forward to this rematch.”
Although Saratoga Springs (15-6) has already beaten CBA (10-10-1) twice this season, Blue Streaks coach Dave Torres isn’t taking anything for granted.
“They’re a good program, year in and year out,” said Torres, whose team has 4-0 and 3-2 decisions over the Brothers. “They skate hard, and their goaltending is very good. Dakota Smith is a Saratoga kid who always wants to play well against us. He always has a little extra incentive.”
Smith sports a 3.06 goals-against average for the Brothers, while Dean McMahon (14-19-33) and Evan Van Epps (13-20-33) lead the offense.
The Brothers, seeded fifth, knocked off No. 4 seed Bethlehem, 4-2, in the quarterfinals.
But the Streaks also have a little extra motivation. When the Capital District High School Hockey League all-star teams were announced earlier this week, junior goalie Ryan Bourgeois, who led the league in nearly every statistical category, came out third-best in the selection process. The league named an overall CDHSHL all-star team, as well as first and second teams, and Bourgeois’ name was on the second unit.
“We were all a little disappointed. In fact, I was shocked,” said Torres. “I’ve watched Ryan the last two years, and he’s clearly the best goaltender in the area and probably one of the best in the state. I don’t know why they overlooked him. Maybe it’s because our defense plays so good in front of him.”
Bourgeois finished the regular season with 14 victories, a .913 save percentage and was the only starting goalie with a goals-against average under 2.00 (1.91).
The Streaks also have the CDHSHL Player of the Year in senior forward Alex Luse (19-28-47) and one of the area’s best defensemen in junior Brendon Wormley.
The offense also features senior Mike Layman (12-15-27), who Torres calls “the best skater in our league” and juniors Nick Winters (14-18-32) and Tyler Bullard (15-14-29). Bullard had two goals and two assists in the Streaks’ 9-1 quarterfinal victory over LaSalle.
Although Saratoga has played in the last two state championship games, Torres doesn’t want to look past CBA.
“We’re still trying to climb the ladder to get back to the top, and this is the next rung on the ladder,” he said.