CLIFTON PARK — Consistency. That’s what Shenendehowa boys’ ice hockey is building as area playoffs loom in just two weeks.
Wednesday night, the Plainsmen took care of the Storm 4-1 for their seventh Capital District High School Hockey League win — all but one coming by multiple goals. The defending Section II champions, with just four seniors, have progressed much as head coach Juan de la Rocha had hoped at the start of the season.
“I liked the things that we were doing today. … And I think our young guys are doing a great job with the roles that they’re in right now,” de la Rocha said. “So, what’s promising is we work on things in practice, and you see them execute them in games, and that’s kind of building their confidence.
“And those are part of our film sessions and highlight reels, and those are things we celebrate, looking at things that are working well and in order to motivate them to keep at it, and it’s creating chances for us.”
A keep-at-it mindset was crucial against the Storm. Goalie Shane McKone put up his third 40-save performance of the season and also received help from the crossbar and posts on several occasions to keep the Plainsmen at bay. But, as de la Rocha mentioned, Shenendehowa kept sending shots on net, not letting bad puck luck define the night.
A first-period Brayden Williams shot might have hit off the inside of the right post before it was cleared off the goal line. But an initial shot from above the left circle by Jake George bounced around and found Tyler Rodriguez, who slammed it home not even two minutes into the second period.
An Andrew Thornton wrist shot at a wide open net in the third hit the crossbar, bounced down and then out. And yet, Freddy Hicks and Nick Rourke were both able to beat McKone in the second. Despite some great chances bouncing out, the Plainsmen did not let up.
“In the beginning of February, you want to see their confidence start to grow. You want to see their hard work start to pay off in different ways,” de la Rocha said. “If it’s not paying off in goals, it’s at least paying off in opportunities, and that’s what we’re taking away from today.”
Thornton, a senior and captain, was one player de la Rocha said he noticed putting in a consistent effort against the Storm.
“He was always a part of the play, and I guess he personifies what we were talking about before — guys not getting frustrated or deflated when things aren’t going their way,” de la Rocha said. “He’s just pushing through, so he was the heartbeat of our team tonight, in a lot of ways.”
The heartbeat of the Storm, a team made up of student-athletes from Guilderland, Mohonasen, Scotia-Glenville, Voorheesville and Schalmont, is senior captain Dylan Bzdell. But one sign of progress for a very young Storm team this season has been those stepping up to share the load with him, especially a number of freshmen on defense.
Those defenders, including freshmen Hannah Bishop, Ethan Graber and Braiden Burns and junior Michaiah Minns, continually challenged the Plainsmen right alongside Bzdell in their own zone. They disrupted passing lanes, showed the ability to work forwards away from the center of the ice and greater confidence carrying the puck.
Storm head coach Ryen Young recognized continued need for improvement following his team’s loss, but growth is evident. They even exceed expectations at times.
“As the season progresses, [players] like Graber and Hannah Bishop, they’re getting their confidence,” Young said. “They’re freshmen, both of them, and they’re getting the confidence and they’re starting to have a little poise with the puck and be able to make the smart play.”
Along with solid defense, the Storm were finding opportunities on the counterattack. Finally, with 2:13 to play, Robbie Stubbs finished one of those opportunities with a goal. Despite Shenendehowa’s Nate Wolfe’s empty-net goal with 22.4 seconds to go, Young relayed a possibility of more scoring to come.
“We’ve been really trying to just push to get the shot on net, crash, look for rebounds and get those greasy goals,” he said. “As they get older, as we get more experienced, the passing will come and, those riskier plays, we’ll be able to execute them a little bit more.”
WHERE THINGS STAND
Shenendehowa remains on a different trajectory, despite being young as well. Elsewhere Wednesday night, first-place Adirondack knocked off Bethlehem, moving Shenendehowa into third place, a half-point above the Eagles, with its win. They also gained two points of separation on rival Saratoga Springs, which lost 5-2 to the Capital District Jets.
The Plainsmen play the Jets, currently tied for sixth, on the road Saturday night at 7:30 p.m., and still have games against Saratoga Springs, tied for sixth, (home on Feb. 8), Adirondack (away on Feb. 10) and Queensbury, second in the CDHSHL, (home on Feb. 15) to close out the regular season. The Spartans beat La Salle 8-0 Wednesday to move two points out of first and 1 1/2 points ahead of Shenendehowa.
Storm 0 0 1—1
Shenendehowa 0 3 1—4
Storm scoring: Stubbs 1-0, McGovern 0-1. Shenendehowa scoring: Wolfe 1-1, Rodriguez 1-0, Hicks 1-0, Rourke 1-0, George 0-1, Westrick 0-1, Anslow 0-1. Goalies: Storm, McKone 40 saves. Shenendehowa, Snider 11 saves.
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Categories: Clifton Park and Halfmoon, High School Sports, Rotterdam, Scotia Glenville, Sports, Sports