GLENS FALLS – With apologies to Alfred Lord Tennyson, it is better to have played and lost than never to have played at all.
The Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa ice hockey team dropped a 7-1 decision on the road Friday to the Adirondack Rivermen in a Capital District High School Ice Hockey semifinal played at Glens Falls Recreation Ice Rink, but the team was at least able to get onto the ice.
The league’s playoffs were upended before they even began as La Salle and Christian Brothers Academy were eliminated before the opening round due to COVID-19 protocols. Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa was scheduled to face top-seeded CBA in a Wednesday quarterfinal, but instead took on The Storm — a team made up of players from Guilderland, Mohohasen, Schalmont, Scotia-Glenville and Voorheesville — that was inserted into the postseason mix to complete the bracket on short notice.
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa advanced with a 4-1 win over the Storm, then fell to the Rivermen who will face Shenendehowa in Saturday’s 7 p.m. championship game in Clifton Park. The Plainsmen dismissed rival Saratoga Springs 4-1 Friday to earn its spot in the championship game.
After topping The Storm, defeating Adirondack proved to be too difficult for Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa.
“We just got back on our heels and at the [re-surfacing of the ice between the second and third periods], we tried to change our forecheck around a little bit,” Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa coach Jim Buffoline said. “It seemed to work, but we just couldn’t keep up with them today. [They were] a little faster, a little more skilled than we were. We’re just too young. They have a lot of seniors.”
The ice hockey season got off to a late start after a lengthy wait for “high” risk winter sports competition to be authorized by the state Department of Health and local health authorities. The New York State Public High School Athletic Association is not sponsoring state championship competition in any sport this year, so the local ice hockey playoffs are the final prize for this year’s teams.
Adirondack pushed four first-period goals past sophomore goalie Alex Shear, who was pressed into action after junior starter Cam Folli was injured during Monday’s practice. Shear started two of the squad’s 15 games this year.
“We were up against it because of our injuries. Our goalie got a concussion in practice, that put our sophomore in net,” Buffoline said. “One of our best [defenseman] broke his arm, another kid is ineligible, and our goalie gets hurt – all in two weeks. It’s not an excuse, but the kids did the best they could. it was a battle today.”
Adirondack forward Will Bickford led the Rivermen with two goals and an assist, while Tyler Carruthers chipped in two goals, and forward Will Cormie tallied a goal and two assists. Ben DiFiore started in goal, and turned back 16 shots before turning it over to Andy Buser who made 13 saves.
Buffoline said his lines were filled with underclassmen; a freshman on his first line, two sophomores on his second and two freshmen on his third.
“The future looks really good for us,” Buffoline said. “This is a good experience for them to be a part of high school hockey.”
For Buffoline, the lesson learned for his young squad was to appreciate the journey.
“It’s been a long year,” he said, “but it’s been a great two months [of hockey] for everybody.”
In Shenendehowa’s 4-1 win against Saratoga Springs, Shenendehowa captain Justin Miazga scored a pair of goals and Plainsmen goalie Leo Coons turned back 32 shots.
Anthony Sassone added a goal and an assist in the win for Shenendehowa.
ADIRONDACK 7, BURNT HILLS/BALLSTON SPA 1
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa 1 0 0 – 1
Adirondack 3 2 2 – 7
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa scoring: Grabb 1-0. Adirondack scoring: Carruthers 2-0, Reynolds 1-1, Bickford 2-1, Cormie 1-2, DeMarsh 1-0, Scarincio 0-1, Walter 0-2. Goalie saves: Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, Shear, 18 saves. Adirondack, DiFiore, 16 saves; Buser, 13 saves.
SHENENDEHOWA 4, SARATOGA SPRINGS 1
Saratoga Springs 1 0 0 – 1
Shenendehowa 1 1 2 – 4
Saratoga Springs scoring: McCoskey 1-0. Shenendehowa scoring: Miazga 2-0, Mayo 1-0, Sassone 1-0, Celtruda 0-1, Haldane 0-1, Saelens 0-2. Goalie saves: Saratoga Springs, McNeil 16 saves. Shenendehowa, Coons, 32 saves.