CLIFTON PARK — Shenendehowa junior forward Noah Sullivan found the back of the net twice Friday afternoon as the Plainsmen defeated Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa 3-1 on the opening night of the Section II ice hockey season at Clifton Park Arena.
Ice hockey, one of the four winter “high” risk sports — basketball, cheerleading and wrestling are the others — had its start delayed until Feb. 1 by state authorities, with the ultimate decision left up to local health authorities. Saratoga County had to see its seven-day rolling rate of positive coronavirus tests fall to 4% or lower before the sports could begin full-contact practice. That mark was met Feb. 4, and was followed by permission being granted from individual school districts, with Friday serving as the opening night for several Saratoga and Schenectady County teams.
Also Friday night in Section II ice hockey, the Niskayuna/Schenectady/Amsterdam Mohawks faced Saratoga Springs.
“We’ve had six practices and met once in the weight room,” Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa coach Jim Buffoline said. “We’re just trying to piece the lines together, we have seven or eight new kids on the team, we’re trying to figure out their roles.
“It’s going to take us a couple weeks for us to figure it out.”
Sophomore Parker Caswell scored the opening goal with 10 minutes remaining in the first period for the Spartans from a J.D. Townsend assist.
Shenendehowa scored the next three goals, the first by senior Justin Mayo later in the first period, and then a pair from Sullivan.
The Plainsmen owned the second period, dominating the offensive end of the ice and pelting Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa goalie Cam Folli with 12 shots. Sullivan got through with six minutes left.
“I thought we had good legs as the game went on, but it was a little rough in the second period,” Buffoline said “I think we got a little gassed. . . . We got trapped in their zone quite a bit.”
Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha saw his squad rally from a slow first period start.
“It was a little sloppy in the middle of the ice, when going from [defensive] zone to offensive zone it was getting a little sloppy, but it’s to be expected for the first game,” de la Rocha said.
In the second, the Plainsmen found their groove.
“We started with a lot of new players. We’ve had to rethink, calm ourselves down, think about that the game was really about,” Sullivan said. “We went out there and figured it all out, got it all together and started flying.”
Sullivan, who had not scored since late January last season, tallied his second of the night on an unassisted marker with eight minutes left, skating end-to-end and flipping the puck past Folli.
Shenendehowa senior goalie Lucas Lasher turned back 26 of 27 shots on the afternoon.
“[Lasher] played great,” de la Rocha said. “Any look that they had, he just made it look easy.”
BH/Ballston Spa 1 0 0 — 1
Shenendehowa 1 1 1 — 3
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa scoring: Caswell 1-0, Townsend 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: Sullivan 2-0, Mayo 1-0, Palmer 0-1, Niazga 0-1. Goalkeepers: Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, Folli, 29 saves. Shenendehowa, L. Lasher, 26 saves.