Saratoga regains DI crown

Prom­inent on the crest of the Saratoga Springs’ hockey team’s sweater is a lightning bolt. That bol
JT Rafferty skates over to goalie Danny Hobbs after the Saratoga Blue Streaks defeated the Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa Spartans at Messa Rink Thursday, February 26, 2015.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
JT Rafferty skates over to goalie Danny Hobbs after the Saratoga Blue Streaks defeated the Burnt Hills-Ballston Spa Spartans at Messa Rink Thursday, February 26, 2015.

Prom­inent on the crest of the Saratoga Springs’ hockey team’s sweater is a lightning bolt.

That bolt struck Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa six seconds into Thursday night’s Section II Division I final, as the Streaks skated to an 8-3 win at Messa Rink.

The win allowed Saratoga to right a perceived wrong from last year, when Shenendehowa ended the Blue Streaks’ run of playoff titles at four.

The capacity crowd hadn’t even settled in when Saratoga showed its experience — and rattled the championship game newcomers — when JT Rafferty scored.

The goal may not have been the prettiest Saratoga’s top line has produced all season, but it likely was the most important.

Saratoga won the opening faceoff, moved into the Spartans’ zone, and seconds later, Rafferty’s soft toss at goal was in the net.

“Elliott [Hungerford] won the faceoff to me,” said Rafferty. “We had a plan to get the puck deep. I flipped it up and it took a few lucky bounces and found its way in.

“That’s about as good a start as you can get.”

Hungerford, who finished with a hat trick, stressed the importance of the first goal. Not that he ever dreamed it would come so quickly and so easily.

“When you first get on [the ice] it’s loud in here and you can’t hear anything,” said the 11th-grader. “To bury one, and for JT to get that bounce, it’s huge for our confidence.”

Nick Koszelak got one back for his brother, goalie Ben Koszelak, a little over two minutes later. But Saratoga was too quick, too physical and had too much firepower, and took a two-goal lead into the first break on goals from senior Zach Guzi and sophomore Jake Fauler.

“We got better as the game went on, but it was a tough first period,” said Spartans coach James Buffoline, whose team beat Shenendehowa in overtime in the semifinals. “The kids battled. They did the best they could. Credit to Saratoga. They played a great game.”

And he made sure to come to the rescue of his goaltender, who finished with 27 saves.

“Our goalie, all year long, kept us in games,” he said. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Ben Koszelak.”

Saratoga extended its lead to 5-1 on power-play goals from Hungerford and Josh Dagle.

Aaron Thorpe got BH/BS to within three with 48 seconds left in the middle period, but Hungerford snuffed out any comeback on another lightning strike, scoring on a breakaway with five seconds left.

“They had momentum going into the third period, and we didn’t want that at all,” he said. “I just wanted to do my best to help the team tonight. If scoring three goals does the trick, then that’s what I’m doing every time.

“It was just on my stick tonight, but it could have been anyone that buried them.”

Fauler fed Hungerford for another man-up goal midway through the third before Brandon Gaudin of the Spartans and Dagle traded goals for the final score.

“It feels so much better than last year,” said Rafferty as his teammates gathered the sticks and gloves they had tossed in celebration minutes earlier. “We worked hard all year making sure it didn’t happen again.”

Senior defenseman Ian Frey refused to let his high school career end without experiencing another championship.

“Winning it two years ago, then losing last year, that was a horrible feeling,” said the tri-captain. “That was burning the whole time, We used that to push through the season.”

The 15-6-2 Blue Streaks play downstate at the Section IX champions in regional play next Saturday. The Spartans finished 17-5-1.

BH/BS 1 1 1 — 3

Saratoga 3 2 2 — 8

First period — 1, Sara, J.T. Rafferty (Elliott Hungerford), :06. 2, BH/BS, Nick Koszalek (Brady Campbell), 2:28. 3, Sara, Zach Guzi (Josh Dagle), 5:01. 4, Sara, Jake Fauler, 7:40.

Second period — 5, Sara, Hugerford (Dagle), 9:28 (pp). 6, Sara, Dagle (Cam McCall), 13:01. 7, BH/BS, Aaron Thorpe (Trey Swingruber, Koszelak), 14:12. 8, Sara, Hungerford, 14:55.

Third period — 9, Sara, Hungerford (Fauler), 7:40 (pp). 10, BH/BS, Brandon Gaudin (Alec Lind), 12:58 (sh). 11, Sara, Dagle (Garret Smith), 14:52.

Goaltenders — Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, Ben Koszelak, 27 saves. Saratoga Springs, Danny Hobbs, 21 saves.

Categories: High School Sports

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