Sometimes, certain aspects of sports are simply overrated.
Former Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson felt that way about practice, going on a rant at a 2002 press conference that is still easily found on YouTube, and often quoted.
Shenendehowa hockey coach Juan de la Rocha feels that way about playoff experience.
When the second-seeded Plainsmen (13-7) host Niskayuna/Schenectady (9-11) at 8 p.m. Wednesday in the quarterterfinal round of the Section II playoffs, three of de la Rocha’s most productive players will be seeing action in their first postseason game.
“To be honest, people have been gunning for us all year,” said de la Rocha Monday. “All our league games have been so emotional because teams want to knock us off. So many of our games had a playoff feel to them. All they know is varsity experience, but they’ve already been in a lot of big games.”
Two freshmen — forwards Brendan Fess and Chris Aarons — and junior goalie Matt Cheico have literally come out of nowhere to put up impressive numbers.
Fess, who didn’t make the varsity last season, is the team’s No. 2 scorer with 11 goals and 14 assists. Aarons played at Queensbury as an eighth-grader last year, scoring six goals and four assists in 19 games. His family moved to Clifton Park during the summer, and he easily made the transition to Plainsmen hockey. This year, he’s upped his production to 13 goals and 10 assists.
But there’s a good reason for their inflated numbers. They’re on the same line as senior
Peter Russo, the co-Player of the Year in the Capital District High School Hockey League this eason. Russo leads Section II in scoring with 43 points (17-26).
“What happened was, Austin McDonough got reinjured, and Austin had been Peter’s right-hand man,” said de la Rocha. “Through some trial and error, we put Peter with Fess and Aarons. What has happened since speaks to why Peter is the Player of the Year. You see Fess’ and Aarons’ stats go through the roof because Peter has the ability to make everyone around him better. They’ve really been on a roll.”
Cheico enters the playoffs with a 2.27 goals-against average and an .893 save percentage, after essentially splitting time with Jordan Moffre.
“Matt played our first game against Scarsdale, which was No. 1 in the state, because Jordan was hurt, and Matt played an outstanding game [making 32 saves in a 6-5 loss],” said de la Rocha. “When he played, he showed that he deserved every opportunity as Jordan was getting, so in a sense, they really ended up splitting time. Both had their good games and had their not-so-great games, but it ended up that Moffre went out because of injuries, and we’ve gone with Cheico ever since.”
Although Niskayuna is the No. 7 seed, the Mohawks might be peaking at the right time, compiling a 5-1 record during the last six regular-season games.
The Mohawks are led by first-team all-star Evan Maloney, whose 18 goals led the CDHSHL. Goalie James Blanchfield has a 2.90 goals-against average and a .901 save percentage.
Robby West scored two goals, including the game-winner with 1:07 to play, to give Christian Brothers Academy a 2-1 victory over Shaker/Colonie in a play-in game Monday.
Justin Bryar made 22 saves for the Brothers (5-16), who will face top seed Saratoga Springs in the quarterfinals.
Shaker/Colonie 1 0 1 — 1
CBA 0 1 1 — 2
First period — 1, Shaker/Colonie, Hudy (Wilson, Poole), 8:44.
Second period — 2, CBA, West (A. Mesick, Bundy), 13:02.
Third period — 3, CBA, West (Walsh, Kopp), 13:53.
Goalies — Shaker/Colonie, Dignum, 4-4-9 — 17. CBA, Bryar, 5-7-10 — 22.
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Categories: High School Sports