Saratoga Springs senior goalie Graeme Bulmer is a lot like an umpire. As long as he’s doing his job well, no one really pays much attention.
Bulmer will try to be inconspicious again Saturday, when the Blue Streaks (18-4-1) face Section V champion Pittsford (18-6-1) at 10 a.m. in the New York state Division I semifinals at Memorial Auditorium in Utica.
“I know I can always count on Graeme,” said Streaks coach Mike Ricupero. “He’s very quiet and focused on the job at hand, and he doesn’t get all wrapped up in the hype.”
Actually, Bulmer, a first-team Capital District High School Hockey League Division I selection, should be creating the hype. In three playoff games, he’s given up three goals, leading the Streaks to the state semifinals for the first time since 2000.
“You can’t ask for better than that,” said Ricupero.
Bulmer wasn’t even Saratoga’s starting goalie at the beginning of the season. Last year, he and classmate T.J. Delaney split time in goal, and were very close, statistically, as Bulmer had a 2.20 goals-against average with an .890 save percentage, and Delaney put up a 2.02 GAA and an .882 save percentage.
When the current season began, it was Delaney who appeared to have the inside track to the No. 1 position.
“T.J. played a lot in the beginning, and he was very steady,” said Ricupero. “Graeme got overlooked, even by me. But I started playing Graeme at a point midway through the season, and something must have gone off in his head, because he just wanted it more. Graeme is the type of kid that once he gets down on himself, he’ll pack it in. But as long as he’s producing, he steps it up.”
Bulmer plays behind a fundamentally sound defense that has just one senior, Ryan Lee. But he’s as good as they come.
“Ryan isn’t much of a goalscorer, but he’s one of my favorite players because he’s so sound,” said Ricupero. “He always knows what to do in certain situations, and he doesn’t overcommit. I always tell my guys, ‘Defense isn’t how hard you work; it’s how smart you are.’ and he really understands that point. If I want to have one kid back there, I want Ryan.”
The Streaks reached the semifinals with a 3-1 victory over Ithaca last weekend.
Senior center Cody Nizolek had two goals, his first goals of the postseason, in that game, but the Streaks have been getting balanced scoring during the postseason. Senior Steve Cash assisted on two of Saratoga’s goals against the Little Red to push his team-leading totals to 20-15-35, but he hasn’t scored a goal in three playoff games.
“For the most part, we’ve got a little above-average speed, and we’ve got guys who are willing to dig in the corners,” said Ricupero. “A guy like Garrison Grant, I can put him with Cody and Steve, and be confident he’ll get them the puck.”
Pittsford (18-6-1) defeated Monroe-Woodbury, 6-2, in the regionals last weekend, after winning the Section V championship for the first time in 15 years.
The Panthers have 14 seniors, including forward Aaron Witzel, who scored two goals in the Section V championship game and got two more against Monroe-Woodbury. Senior goalie Ryan Haen had a 1.68 goals-against average during the regular season.
“I talked to the Monroe-Woodbury coach, Paul Bascardi, and from what he told me, [Pittsford] almost sounds like Ithaca,” said Ricupero. “Their defense is a little on the weak side, and if we do the same things we did to Ithaca, trapping them in their own zone, forechecking two guys in hard, we should get our share of opportunities.
“I think our depth will help us. If we can run three lines strong, it gives us an advantage. Late in a game, if you’re only playing two lines, you can exhaust your guys.”
The winner of the Saratoga-Pittsford game will face the winner of the West Genesee-Suffern game for the state championship at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
Section II champion Queensbury will also be in action Saturday, playing Section X champ St. Lawrence at 5:45 p.m. at Memorial Auditorium in the Division II semifinals.
The Spartans (16-7-1) turned back Rye, 5-3, last weekend to reach the state semifinals for the third time in the last four years. The Larries (17-7) rolled to a 7-3 victory over Burke-Catholic (Section IX) after falling behind, 3-0, in the first period.
St. Lawrence also trailed Ogdensburg Free Academy, 2-1, in the Section X championship game before scoring three goals in a span of 2:39 of the third period to win the title.