Jim Buffoline was a pleased coach Saturday night, and getting his 100th win with the Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa ice hockey team was just one part of that.
His team played well once again and generated a bunch of goals on its home ice, and as a result it picked up two key points in the Capital District High School Hockey League’s new streamlined schedule with a 7-1 win over La Salle.
“Those were two big points,” Buffoline, in his ninth season with the BH/BS team, said. “The league is going to be so tight this year. Every game we play is huge.”
Each of Section II’s 12 hockey teams have played a handful of CDHSHL games thus far, and each will play 14 in all this season. Each team was also allowed to schedule six non-league games.
“We have balanced the league schedule,” Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. “In past years everyone had to play everyone once, and teams had the option of playing any team they wanted a second time. You could have a team playing 12 league games and another team playing 16, 17 league games.”
CDHSHL teams have been divided into three regional divisions this season with Shenendehowa in a mix with Adirondack, Saratoga Springs and Queensbury, and Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa in a group with the Capital District Jets, the NASA Mohawks and the GMSSV Storm. Bethlehem, Albany Academy, CBA and La Salle form the other division.
Teams will play each of their division opponents twice, and each out-of-division opponent once for the 14-game total. As far as points distribution, division games (or conference games) award one point for a win and a half point for a tie. Non-division games (or league games) award two points for a win and one point for a tie.
No points are available in non-league competition.
“With our schedule, everyone started the season with an opportunity to get a maximum of 22 points,” Buffoline said.
Eleven of the 12 CDHSHL teams are eligible for the Section II Division I tournament, with Queensbury the lone exception with its Division II classification. Eight Division I teams will make the sectionals, based on point tabulations.
“Even if you don’t win it [league title], you’re trying to get a high sectional seed and home ice,” Buffoline said.
The early-season CDHSHL leader is two-time defending regular season and Section II Division I champion Bethlehem (3-1 CDHSHL, 9-1 overall, 5 points), followed by CBA (3-0-1, 6-2-2, 4.5), GMSSV (3-0, 3-2, 4), Adirondack (3-2, 4-4-1, 4), Queensbury (3-1, 5-2-1, 4), Shenendehowa (2-3, 5-5, 4) and Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa (2-1, 7-2, 3).
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa and Queensbury have both strung three straight wins, Shenendehowa has won four in a row and Bethlehem has won five straight.
“We have a chance to go far if we stay together and stay focused,” said Buffoline, who, along with assistant coach Rob Mergen, is working with 11 Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake student-athletes and nine from Ballston Spa. “We have a chance to have a real good season.”
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa posted an 8-2 non-league win over Monroe-Woodbury Friday before topping La Salle Saturday.
“Fifteen goals in two games over the weekend,” Buffoline said. “We’ve played well all season, but we’re really hitting our stride right now. We changed our forecheck and that’s helped. We’re getting good goaltending and our defense is playing well, and we’re rolling out three good lines.”
Buffoline is 100-64-8 with Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa.
“It’s not something I would have mentioned to the kids. I didn’t want to take their focus away from the game,” Buffoline said of his 100th victory with the BH/BS program. “I didn’t even know about it until the night before when my assistant coach told me I needed one more win.”
Buffoline’s team has been a Section II final four regular in recent years, and his 2015 squad made it to the title game before losing to Saratoga Springs.
“All the credit goes to the kids,” Buffoline said. “You can’t win without talented kids.”