Shenendehowa boys’ ice hockey rallies for 5-3 win over Mohawks in league opener

Shenendehowa's Evan Stocker tries to take a shot on Mohawks goalie Alex Doehla Tuesday at Messa Rink in Schenectady.

Shenendehowa's Evan Stocker tries to take a shot on Mohawks goalie Alex Doehla Tuesday at Messa Rink in Schenectady.

SCHENECTADY — Shenendehowa’s Matthew Truitt’s first varsity goal came at a crucial time.

Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha’s message to his team Tuesday was get the puck to the point, get in front of the goalie, then look to tip in shots. Truitt did just that with five minutes to play. It stood up as the game-winner as Shenendehowa topped the Mohawks 5-3 at Messa Rink in the Capital District High School Hockey League opener for both teams.

“It’s awesome,” Truitt said. “This is really an incredible feeling. This has been my dream for so long and, to be able to play out with these boys, it’s just, there’s nothing better than to have that goal.”

Truitt’s tally broke a 3-3 tie late in the final period, just minutes after the two teams traded goals 74 seconds apart. His tiebreaker was quickly followed by a goal by Freddy Hicks.

“I’m proud of the kids. They have to believe that they can come back in a game like that,” de la Rocha said.

The Plainsmen commanded the offensive zone during the opening minutes, but they were quickly in comeback mode. The Mohawks made their first push on net at 4:16 of the period. Thirty seconds later, Connor Foley had the opener, assisted by Caleb Kim.

The team, which consists of players from Niskayuna, Albany and Amsterdam and Broadalbin-Perth, had its first goal of the season — following three games and several scrimmages without finding the net.

Within two minutes, Foley made it 2-0.

“I was very happy with our effort in the first period. … We executed everything we talked about in practice,” Mohawks head coach Ryan O’Connell said.

The Plainsmen came out for the second back on the front foot and dictating possession. Hicks said de la Rocha imparted a message of “compete, compete, compete” during practices leading up to Tuesday.

“We’ve got to go as hard as we can, and in that first period we didn’t have it,” said Hicks, a junior captain. “[De la Rocha] tells us to pick it up. We picked it up in the second.”

De la Rocha also made a change in net, replacing senior Mason Snider with freshman Brendan Westrick, whose prior varsity experience consisted of five minutes in his team’s 10-1 loss to St. Mary’s Prep from Lancaster last Friday.

“He’s super athletic, technically very sound and does a very good job making the second save,” de la Rocha said of Westrick. “So, if we do our job and make the first save easy, every once in a while, when he has to make a second one that’s a little bit more difficult, he’s proven that he can, he can be big in those moments.”

Shenendehowa’s first goal came off the stick of John Westrick less than two minutes into the period.

The visitors kept up the pressure in the early minutes, including a shot by Hicks that forced an incredible save by Mohawks’ goalie Alex Doehla on a 1-on-1. The second-year starting netminder had 39 saves — 16 in the second. Soon after, the Plainsmen were in on net again, only for Mohawks forward Camren Mance to hustle back and cut off the chance.

Shenendehowa’s Steven Anslow took a penalty at 8:32 of the second for interference, putting the Mohawks on the power play. However, it was quickly followed 26 seconds later by a penalty by the Mohawks’ Matthew Sacco for tripping.

“We have things that we have to work out,” O’Connell said. “We actually have a very strong power play, but we didn’t get a chance to use it tonight.”

The Plainsmen tied the game at two just nine seconds later on a goal by Andrew Thornton. The play was another example of Shenendehowa thriving in situations with more open ice.

“We work on small area games all the time, so when we open it up we’re just that much more comfortable,” said Hicks, who assisted on the second goal. “We just see that extra space, [and] when there’s a guy open we move it to him. He can pick up speed, just draw guys, get shots, rebounds and then eventually, hopefully goals.”

Both coaches spoke about blending groups of returners moving into bigger roles and newcomers. Optimism was another commonality in their outlooks for the season ahead.

“It might take us a month or so to just kind of settle into expectations,” de la Rocha said, “get a little more comfortable with moments like this, and they’ll settle in.”

Shenendehowa 0 2 3 — 5

Mohawks 2 0 1 — 3

Shenendehowa scoring: J. Westrick 2-0, Hall 0-2, Berdar 0-1, Hicks 1-1, Rodriguez 0-1, Truitt 1-0, Thornton 1-1. Mohawks scoring: Foley 2-1, Desjardins 1-1, Kim 0-1. Goalies, Shenendehowa, Snider, 10 saves, B. Westrick, 7 saves. Mohawks, Doehla 39 saves.

Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, High School Sports, Schenectady, Sports, Sports

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