The king is dead. At least for this year.
Sophomore Tristan Sperry scored a first-period goal, then set up Cody Nizolek’s breakaway 46 seconds into the middle period Wednesday night, as Saratoga Springs knocked off six-time champion Shenendehowa, 4-1, in the first round of the Section II Division I hockey playoffs at the Weibel Avenue rink.
The win against their biggest rival puts the third-seeded Blue Streaks, 16-7-2, into the semifinals against seventh seed Niskayuna/Schenectady, which upset No. 2 CBA. The Streaks will host the Mohawks Friday or Saturday.
“We battled hard, we won loose pucks,” said Saratoga coach Mike Ricupero. “I think the first goal gave us some momentum.”
That score, at the midway point of the first period, came off a faceoff, as Eamonn O’Donnell pushed the puck back to Sperry, who broke into the crease in front of Plainsmen goalie Peter Rakowsky.
“We had a good play, good drawback on the draw,” said Sperry. “I took my backhand and tried to shoot it on net.”
The puck slid between Rakowsky’s pads, giving the host Streaks a psychological edge.
“We normally come out pretty slow,” said Sperry, one of six sophs on a Saratoga roster that shows only three seniors. “Tonight, we came out strong and got ahead first.”
Nizolek’s goal early in the second triggered a three-goal period that added to the Streaks’ comfort. Brendan Whiteside and Stephen Cash added goals.
“That goal gave us a big lift. We needed to come out and step it up even more,” said Nizolek, named the league’s Player of the Year earlier this week. “It gives you a little more comfort. It hurts their confidence and helps us a lot.”
Trailing by four goals, the Plainsmen caught a break in the closing second, literally, of the period, when Saratoga was called for a pair of concurrent penalties.
Senior Nick Rainville did cut the lead to three when he scored 17 seconds into the third. But the Plainsmen had few good chances among their 19 total shots.
“We had a five-on-three to start the third period. Our goal was to score two times, get the game to 4-2,” said Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha. “We got the first goal real quick, and we thought we were in pretty good shape to score the second.
“It didn’t happen.”
Shenendehowa was forced to elevate several players to the varsity after 12 players — more than half of the team’s varsity roster — were dismissed from the team in late December after it was determined they broken the school’s athletic code of conduct by smoking marijuana during a tournament in Morrisville.
The dismissals not only cut into the team’s experience, but also its leadership.
“The biggest difference is senior leadership,” said de la Rocha. “The seniors we have provide leadership, no doubt about that, but there’s not enough. We’re a young group.”
Shenendehowa 0 0 1 — 1
Saratoga Springs 1 3 0 — 4
First Period — 1, Sara, Tristan Sperry (Eamonn O’Donnell), 7:29.
Second Period — 2, Sara, Cody Nizolek (Garrison Grant, Sperry), :46. 3, Sara, Brendan Whiteside (David Klapp), 5:11. 4, Sara, Stephen Cash (Luke Fauler), 6:31.
Third Period — 5, Shen, Nick Rainville (Michael McCarthy, Scott Brayden), :17 (pp).
Goaltenders — Shenendehowa, Peter Rakowsky, 7 saves; Jared Frazer, 11 saves. Saratoga Springs, Graeme Bulmer, 18 saves.
Mohawks upset CBA
Mike Teneboym scored 1:19 into the third overtime, helping seventh-seeded Niskayuna/Schenectady complete a four-goal comeback and upset the Brothers, 5-4, in another quarterfinal game.
Teneboym took a pass from Michael Casey and beat goalie Andrew Blood.
Elsewhere, Kyle Armstrong, John Guay and Kyle Hughes scored two goals each, leading Salisbury to an 8-0 non-league victory over Albany Academy.
NISKAYUNA/SCHENECTADY 5, CBA 4 (3OT)
Nisk 0 3 1 0 0 1 — 5
CBA 4 0 0 0 0 0 — 4
First Period — 1, CBA, Mike Dougherty (T.J. Lane, Steve Basile), 3:21. 2, CBA, Griffin Gaurino, 5:21. 3, CBA, Dougherty (Sam Male), 6:26. 4, CBA, Andrew Sellner (Basile, Dougherty),11:20.
Second Period — 5, N/S, Chris Farah (Michael Casey, Sam Hartz), 8:49. 6, N/S, Greg Ducharme (Hartz), 9:52. 7, N/S, Hartz, 10:26.
Third Period — 8, N/S, Nick Torcivia (Casey, Mike Tenenboym), 9:47.
First Overtime — None.
Second Overtime — None.
Third Overtime — 9, N/S, Tenenboym (Casey), 1:19.
Goalies — N/S, Ben Phillips, 39 saves. CBA, Andrew Blood, 29 saves.
SALISBURY 8, ACADEMY 0
Albany Academy 0 0 0 — 0
Salisbury 3 0 5 — 8
First Period — 1, S, John Guay (Kyle Hughes), 2:08. 2, S, Kyle Armstrong (Steven Cook), 9:31 (pp). 3, S, Guay (Connor Cunningham, Jack Barre), 11:52.
Second Period — None.
Third Period — 4, S, Gunnar Hughes (Mike McCann, Armstrong, 1:21. 5, S, Hughes (Armstrong, Brendan Russo), 8:27 (pp). 6, S, Hughes, 11:18 (sh). 7, S, Armstrong (Hughes, McCann), 12:43. 8, S, Barre (Cunningham, Guay), 15:09.
Goalies — AA, Colin Stevens, 52 saves. S, Andy Iles, 15 saves.