Bethlehem hockey holds on for title

Eagles repeat with 4-2 win over Shenendehowa
Mike Bievenue of Bethehem and TJ Novitsky of Shenendehowa battle for the puck in Sunday's Section II title game at Messa Rink.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
Mike Bievenue of Bethehem and TJ Novitsky of Shenendehowa battle for the puck in Sunday's Section II title game at Messa Rink.

SCHENECTADY — The Bethlehem ice hockey team found out Sunday night just how hard defending a championship can be.

The Eagles jumped out to a quick two-goal lead and spent the rest of the Section II Division I title game holding off stubborn Shenendehowa in a 4-2 victory at Union College’s Messa Rink.

Mike Bievenue had a hat trick for Bethlehem, starting with his 50th goal of the season just 22 seconds in, and Ben LaVigne delivered the clincher with 1:46 left to derail the Plainsmen’s comeback effort.

“Back to back. It’s an unreal feeling,” said Bievenue, who picked up a fourth point with an assist on LaVigne’s goal. “I’m lost for words.”

When Bievenue gave Bethlehem (No. 1 seed, 20-2-1) a 2-0 lead 3:26 in looked as though another title-game rout could be in the making. Bethlehem had rolled past La Salle a year ago 7-0 for its first Section II flag. Shenendehowa (No. 2, 16-6-1) wasn’t willing to cooperate.

“I’m just so proud of our fight tonight after how we started,” Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. “That was a pretty demoralizing start. The way we clawed back was a testament to the kids.”

Tyler Sullivan got Shenendehowa within 2-1 in the second period, and Brennan Alheim made it a 3-2 game in the third.

“After we got up 2-0, we knew they were going to come at us hard,” Bethlehem coach Dylan Lappe said. “We played them before and we knew that. In the third period, they were all over us. We had to fight for every inch to get the win.”

Shenendehowa’s Dylan Kowalsky hit the pipe on a drive with 13:05 left in the third, and Alheim notched his goal with 10:41 left.

Shenendehowa had a good opportunity to draw even when William Bievenue was called for a trip with 4:22 left and was sent off for two minutes. Bethlehem goalkeeper Michael Kurdziolek made three of his 11 third-period saves while Shenendehowa swarmed on the man-up.

“When the intensity picked up, when the physicality picked up, I thought that was to our favor,” de la Rocha said. “We were coming after them.”

LaVigne had a pair of assists before his goal off a rebound gave Bethlehem its third and final two-goal advantage.

“They [Shenendehowa] were coming on strong,” said Mike Bievenue.

Shenendehowa had handed Bethlehem one of its two regular season defeats on Dec. 14 by a 4-3 score.

“We weren’t afraid of them,” de la Rocha said of Bethlehem, the state’s No. 7 team. “Once we settled down, we became a more confident hockey team. We feed off each other.”

Sullivan scored with 11:17 left in the second, and Mike Bievenue completed his hat trick with 3:35 remaining in the second.

“If he’s got his wheels going, he’s awfully hard to stop,” Lappe said of his star junior forward.

Bievenue’s first goal came on a breakaway. His second came on a rebound following a drive by LaVigne.

“Usually we’re a second and third period team,” Bievenue said. “To get a lead early in a big game like this was insane. It gave us momentum. We lost it in the second [period] and a little in the third.”

The teams won their semifinal games Saturday, with Bethlehem knocking off CBA 4-0 and the Plainsmen edging Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa in overtime 4-3 on a goal by Alheim.

Bethlehem will travel to Section I Saturday for a regional game with Suffern (21-1-1). Suffern, ranked No. 1 in the state, beat Mamaroneck 4-1 for its first Section I championship since 2013.

Shenendehowa 0 1 1 — 2

Bethlehem 2 1 1 — 4

First period — 1, Beth, Mike Bievenue (un), :22; 2, Beth, M. Bievenue (Ben LaVigne), 3:26.

Second period — 3, Shen, Tyler Sullivan (Brendan McAuley, Brennan Alheim), 5:43; 4, Beth, M. Bievenue (LaVigne), 13:25.

Third period — 5, Shen, Alheim (un), 6:19; 6, Beth, LaVigne (William Bievenue, M. Bievenue), 15:14.

Goalkeepers — Shenendehowa, Kent Leighton, 26 saves. Bethlehem, Michael Kurdziolek, 24 saves.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

Categories: High School Sports, Schenectady County, Sports, Your Niskayuna

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