At the beginning of the season, few coaches in the Capital District High School Hockey League knew a lot about Saratoga Springs junior forward Cody Nizolek.
Now, most of them can’t forget him.
Nizolek, who spent last season at the Loomis Chaffee School in Hartford, Conn., was named the CDHSHL Player of the Year Monday, on the eve of the Section II tournament.
Nizolek finished the regular season with 38 points, tied for fourth in the CDHSHL, and his 25 goals were second to the 41 put up by Mohonasen/Schalmont senior Kyle McKelvey.
“We finished third behind CBA and Shaker/Colonie, and they’ve both got some real good players, so, yes, I was a little surprised [by Nizolek’s selection],” said Saratoga coach Mike Ricupero. “Also, he’s only a junior. But he’s a physical player, and is very skilled, as well, and I think his attributes were seen throughout the league.”
Ricupero coached Nizolek two years ago, and when he returned to the Blue Streaks this season, Ricupero saw a real difference.
“He was bigger and stronger, but he was also a lot more confident with the puck,” said Ricupero. “He knows how to get guys the puck. That was one of the things we struggled with early in the season, finding the right guys to play with him.”
The Blue Streaks (15-7-2) are seeded third for the sectionals, and will host old rival Shenendehowa at 6:45 Wednesday night at the Weibel Ice Rink. Shenendehowa (7-12-4) has won six straight Section II Division I titles, but the Plainsmen have struggled since a drug-related incident decimated their lineup in late December.
The Streaks and the Plainsmen split their regular-season series, with each team winning on the road.
“We building some confidence back after our four-game bump in the road,” said Ricupero.
The Division I tournament begins tonight, when No. 4 seed Guilderland (10-10-1) takes on No. 5 LaSalle (8-14-2) at Messa Rink at Union College. The Dutchmen, led by all-CDHSHL pick Colin Burg, a senior forward, defeated the Cadets by scores of 6-3 and 3-2 during the regular season.
In the other first-round game on Wednesday, No. 2 seed CBA (12-8-3) hosts Niskayuna/Schenectady (7-15-2) at the Albany County Hockey Facility.