Plainsmen hockey coach reaches milestone
CLIFTON PARK Juan de la Rocha credited his players’ work with helping achieve a coaching milestone Friday night.
His Shenendehowa players passed the praise right back to their coach, as efficiently as they moved the puck in scoring three first-period power-play goals in a 5-2 win over Shaker/Colonie in a Capital District High School Hockey League game at Clifton Park Arena.
The win was the 200th for de la Rocha, in his 12th year as the head coach of the Plainsmen, who are 6-1-1 in the CDHSHL, 8-5-1 overall and on a seven-game (6-0-1) unbeaten streak.
“Good players. That’s all it is,” said de la Rocha of the milestone win. “There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but every coach puts in the work, whether it takes them 12 years or 20 years to get it. The players put a lot of work into it, too. It’s a matter of having the right players and getting them to buy into a system.
“I’m glad it happened with this group. It’s fun to be part of this.”
“It’s something special to be involved in,” said senior winger David Hunter, who had a hand in two of the man-advantage goals that gave the Plainsmen the lead for good.
“Coach’s 200th is big,” said senior defenseman Riley Irving, who scored his team’s second goal, and assisted on both of Shenendehowa’s second-period goals. “He’s been here awhile, and he deserves it.”
Platitudes aside, both coach and players emphasized the success of the power-play unit that helped Shenendehowa recover from an early deficit and end the Jets’ (6-1-1 CDHSHL, 7-2-2 overall) seven-game unbeaten run.
“We were making good choices with our shots. They moved the puck very well, and that was the difference tonight,” said de la Rocha.
“Our units have pretty much stayed the same the last couple of weeks. We’re just moving the puck a lot better right now.”
“I’m fortunate enough to be that unit,” said Hunter. “We really seem to be hitting it. It’s not an individual effort. We’ve got a lot of chemistry. We can throw guys together, and everybody plays well.”
“We worked the puck very well, and put three in the net. It’s good to take advantage when a team is taking penalties,” Irving said. “You’ve got to take it to them, especially when they come out and score the first goal.
“We work on special teams a lot, and it shows. It’s an important part of the game.”
Jeff Bink scored 39 seconds into the game for the Jets, but a succession of penalties allowed the Plainsmen to take control.
Hunter tied it when he scored from the right circle at 4:34. Irving put a pass in the upper corner with 4:02 left in the period, and Kyle Marr got the third man-up goal with 48 seconds to go.
Brad Tardif and Ryan Mortka scored in the second period as Shenendehowa took a 5-1 lead.
Hunter, Irving and Mortka all finished with a goal and two assists, Marr had a goal and assist and defenseman Peter Russo picked up three assists.
“The one thing we do have is the flexibility to move guys around,” said de la Rocha. “We’re starting to learn whom we want to start playing with whom. There’s always two guys we don’t want to take apart, but it’s a matter of finding complements for one another.”
“It was a big game, and it was the obligation of the seniors to need to start leading,” said Hunter, whose team plays at Bethlehem tonight. “All of us needed to step up.”
“It makes a mark for teams like Bethlehem and Saratoga when they see a 5-2 win against Shaker,” said Irving of the five-goal output. “They’ll know we can put pucks in the net.”
Shaker/Colonie 1 0 1 — 2
Shenendehowa 3 2 0 — 5
First period — 1, S/C, Jeff Bink, :39. 2, Shen, David Hunter (Peter Russo, Ryan Mortka), 4:34 (pp). 3, Shen, Riley Irving (Kyle Marr, Hunter), 10:58 (pp). 4, Shen, Marr (Mortka, Russo), 14:12 (pp).
Second period — 5, Shen, Brad Tardif (Hunter, Irving), 4:13. 6, Shen, Mortka (Russo, Irving), 8:36.
Third period — 7, S/C, Andrew Serafino, 1:15.
Goaltenders — Shaker/Colonie, Zach Dignum, 17 saves. Shenendehowa, Brian Walter, 21 saves.
BUFFALO — Zoe Shannon and Rachel Peterson combined on an eight-save shutout as Albany Academy for Girls blanked the Nichols School, 4-0.
Albany Academy 2 0 2 — 4
Nichols 0 0 0 — 0
Albany Academy scoring: Madison Hetmam 1-0, Nicole Spoelstra 1-0, Rachael Visser 1-0, Hannah Tulchinsky 1-0, Marielle McHale 0-1, Teagan Ketchum 0-1, Adienne Phelps 0-1, Emily Cassin 0-1.
Albany Academy goaltenders — Zoe Shannon, 7 saves; Rachel Peterson, 1 save.