CLIFTON PARK — Shenendehowa accomplished something Tuesday that it was unable to do in three tries last season, and that was score more goals than rival Saratoga Springs.
The 3-2 Capital District High School Hockey League win didn’t come without its frantic moments, though, including several in the closing minutes when the Blue Streaks had a pair of power play opportunities.
“I was nervous,” Shenendehowa senior Ryan Saelens said of watching his teammates fend off Saratoga. “My thought was, ‘Get the puck out of here.'”
The Plainsmen did, and secured the first game of a Tuesday-Wednesday home-and-home at Capital Arena while improving to 3-0.
“It’s like a college model where we’re playing on back-to-back days,” Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. “Once your head hits the pillow, it’s done. We’ll face another challenge tomorrow.”
The rematch in Saratoga will be played without fans like Tuesday’s game was. Had this been a normal season without COVID-19 protocols, the arena in Clifton Park would likely have been packed with fans for both sides in a frenzied atmosphere.
“That didn’t change the spirit of the game whatsoever,” de la Rocha said.
The fast and physical game saw both teams come back before Saelens scored to break a 2-2 tie with 27 seconds left in the second period. No goals were scored near the end of the third period, yet Saratoga certainly tried.
“They put a lot of pressure on us,” Saelens said.
Joe Celtruda made a key play for Shenendehowa when Saratoga got a man advantage with 3:37 left, with the junior defender going down to block a drive between the circles.
“You go from back on your heels, from defending, defending, defending, to getting some momentum on your side,” de la Rocha said of Celtruda’s effort. “That’s a big play.”
A scrum behind the Shenendehowa cage as time expired in that penalty led to more penalties, which resulted in a player from both sides being sent off on matching penalties as well as another from Shenendehowa exiting with 2:07 left. Saratoga pulled goalie Jesse Bradley to gain a 6-on-4 advantage, but could never settle into a man-up pattern as time ran down.
“They had plenty of guys with desire to put the puck in the net,” de la Rocha said when asked about Saratoga losing standout Will Detora on the matching penalties. “They still had six guys, and we had four. We were able to get the job done.”
Saelens scored his first goal of the season on a shot from the left circle after handling a pass from Justin Miazga.
“Miazga got the puck on the wall and slid it to me,” Saelens said. “I had a good screen from [Nate] Hutchens.”
Ty Bolster scored for Saratoga (2-1) in the first period, and Miazga answered for Shenendehowa. Justin Mayo gave the Plainsmen a 2-1 second-period lead, and Andrew Blanchard countered for the Blue Streaks.
“We’ve got to find a way to put more pucks on the net,” de la Rocha said. “What I like is when we do, we’ve got guys going to the net.”
Shenendehowa goalkeeper Lucas Lasher made 17 of his 39 saves in the third period.
Saratoga Springs 1 1 0 — 2
Shenendehowa 1 2 0 — 3
Saratoga Springs scoring: Bolster 1-0, Blanchard 1-0, Detora 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: Miazga 1-1, Saelens 1-1, Magaletta 0-1, Mayo 1-0, Haldane 0-1, Stocker 0-1. Goalies: Saratoga Springs, Bradley, 26 saves. Shenendehowa, Lasher, 39 saves.