As Saratoga Springs begins its fifth month of hockey, junior forward Dan Going and sophomore defenseman Brandon Wormley are just getting warmed up.
Both Going and Wormley skipped a year of high school hockey to play in juniors, and are used to an extended schedule. Going played in 61 games for the Capital District Selects during the 2008-09 season, and Wormley played 59 games for the Syracuse Junior National Midgets last year.
The Blue Streaks, ranked fourth in the state, will be playing game No. 24 today when they travel to Potsdam to the face Section X champion Sandstoners at the Pine Street Arena at 1 p.m. The winner will advance to the Division I state semifinals on March 12 at the Utica War Memorial.
Going, who also began the 2009 season with the Selects before returning to the Blue Streaks, is the team’s second-leading scorer with 22 goals and 15 assists, and was selected to the all-Capital District High School Hockey League fi rst team.
Wormley is the only underclassman on a defensive unit anchored by two other CDHSHL all-stars, seniors Jimmy Murray and Justin Wormley.
“We were fortunate to have those guys come back,” said Saratoga Springs coach Mike Ricupero. “I think it’s a testament to our program and our winning tradition. The junior level can be such a grind. They come back, and their family and friends can come out and watch them play. It’s all about having fun.”
Ricupero could see a big change in Wormley’s game, in particular.
“He went from being a defensive blueliner to having an all-around game,” Ricupero said. “He played against some top-notch teams at Syr acuse and the experience helped him immensely. His passes are quicker, he reads the ice better. He’s only a sophomore, but he has the hardest pass on the team.”
The Streaks (20-2-1), who are unbeaten (11-0-1) in their last 12 games, defeated Shenendehowa, 3-2, last week to win their second straight Section II Division I title. Three days later, Ricupero was in Potsdam to watch the Sandstoners upset top seed Massena, 3-2, in the Section X championship game.
“Massena outplayed them,” he said. “Potsdam got a couple of lucky breaks. They’re a good team, but they’re not anything we haven’t seen before. I think we’ve played better competition around here. But like I told my guys, they’re here [in the regionals] for a reason.”
The Sandstoners head into the regionals with a 14-8-1 record, and were 0-3-1 in their last four regular-season games before getting hot in the sectionals.
Sophomore James McDonald (14-24-38) and Trevor Kerleher (16-16-32) are Potsdam’s leading scorers, while senior brothers Ryan and Matt Merriman anchor the defense in front of goalie Sam Miller, who has a .895 save percentage.
“It’s never easy going into someone else’s barn,” said Ricupero. “It’s a smaller surface than we’re used. We just have to outwork them and try to expose their weaknesses on defense.”
But winning big games on the road is nothing new for Saratoga. The Blue Streaks knocked off Ithaca at the Little Red’s home rink in the regionals last year on their way to the state Division I championship game, where they lost to undefeated West Genesee.
Section II Division II champion Queensbury (17-2-2) also will be in action today, hosting Section VII champion Saranac Lake at the Lake George Forum at 6 p.m. The Spartans defeated Glens Falls, 1-0, on a Cory Cottrell goal to win their fifth straight Section II championship last weekend.
Queensbury senior Kevin Valenti will continue his quest to break the Section II goal-scoring record today. Valenti goes into the regionals with 106 goals and needs three to tie the record set by Jason Krogman of Glens Falls from 1987-80. Another Glens Falls graduate, Mike Rabine (1991-95), also is ahead of Valenti, with 108.
Saranac Lake (15-5-2) upset top-seeded Beekmantown, 3-2, in the Section VII championship game.