CLIFTON PARK — In an hockey season filled with uncertainty, the Adirondack Rivermen became a team of destiny, capturing their first-ever Capital District High School Hockey League title in their ninth game of the year, sending its coach and goalie out in style.
The Rivermen, created in 2013 with players from four schools — Glens Falls, South Glens Falls, Hudson Falls and Warrensburg — defeated Shenendehowa 4-0 at Capital Ice Arena Saturday night.
Adirondack senior goaltender Benjamin Di Fiore turned back all 32 Plainsmen shots for the shutout championship victory.
“This is what I’ve been waiting for my whole life,” Di Fiore said. “My dad [coach Mike Di Fiore] started coaching before I was even born. Going to the rink all the time, I just wanted this, this was my high school goal.”
The Rivermen offense, coming off Friday’s 7-1 semifinal win against Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, didn’t show any signs of slowing down, scoring twice in the first period before adding a goal early in the third. An empty-net tally late in the third sealed the deal.
“Sometimes you get puck luck, and we did,” Rivermen coach Mike Di Fiore said. “It’s in the back of the net at the right time, and it deflates the other team.”
Mike Di Fiore confirmed that Saturday was his last game behind the bench with the Rivermen. He said he’s looking forward to following Benjamin play junior hockey next year.
The 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.
“All I wanted was for the kids to get a chance to play and then it came, and we were overworked,” Mike Di Fiore said. “It’s difficult with four schools, COVID forms, temperature checks, getting everybody in the right spot and this really put the cherry on top.”
Daalten DeMarsh put Adirondack ahead three minutes into the first period with an unassisted goal from the left side. Nat Scarincio scored with three minutes left in the opening period after Derek Cormie won the face-off in the Plainsmen end and fed the puck to him for the score.
The early lead didn’t put Mike Di Fiore at ease after losing to Shenendehowa last Saturday after building a 2-0 lead, and remembering the Rivermen falling to Bethlehem in last year’s semifinal with the same lead.
Nick Parker scored five minutes into the third period, clanking the puck off the left post, and sending the Adirondack senior parents admitted to the rink into a frenzy. Tyler Carruthers sealed the deal with his empty-net goal with less than a minute remaining.
“Two of the three goals were unassisted. That means they’re off of turnovers, which is part of the reason why we got into a hole early is we had turnovers that put us behind the eight ball,” Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. “It didn’t change our effort, but it put us in a hole that we didn’t need to be in.
“We outshot them, we stayed out of the [penalty] box more than they did, they just took advantage of their opportunities.”
The Rivermen have been playing home games at the Glens Falls Recreation Center in Glens Falls without fans in the stands as part of an agreement between Glens Falls High School and the Warren County Department of Health.
On the road Saturday, the Rivermen made history in front of a limited number of family members of the nine seniors on the squad.
“The atmosphere was so much better,” Benjamin Di Fiore said. “It felt really good to have parents and friends back in the stands.”
Adirondack 2 0 2 — 4
Shenendehowa 0 0 0 — 0
Adirondack scoring: DeMarsh 1-0, Scarincio 1-0, Parker 1-0, Carruthers 1-0, Cormie 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: None. Goalie saves: Adirondack, Di Fiore 32 saves. Shenendehowa, Lasher 18 saves, Coons 7 saves.