He isn’t faster than a speeding bullet, and he certainly can’t leap tall buildings in a single bound, but if there’s one thing Greece Athena/Odyssey junior goalie Ian Cumming can do, it’s stop a puck.
Cumming, probably the hottest scholastic goalie in New York state, will lead the Thunder against Section II champion Saratoga Springs in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Division I semifinals at 5:45 today at the Utica War Memorial.
In five playoff games, Cumming has stopped 93 of 97 shots for the Thunder, who began the Section V tournament as the No. 6 seed. He made 20 saves in a 4-2 victory over top-seeded Fairport in the Section V championship game, and then posted his second shutout of the postseason with an 18-save performance in a 2-0 win over Ithaca in the regionals last weekend.
“The moral of the story is, we have to be patient against him,” said Blue Streaks coach Mike Ricupero. “He’s a good goalie, and like most good high school goalies, he’ll make the save on the first shot. What we have to do is get rebounds and second-chance opportunities. If we can get him moving laterally, I think we can generate some good shots against him.”
The Streaks (21-2-1) are in the state semifinals for the second year in a row, after beating Potsdam,
3-1, in the regionals last weekend. Greece Athena/Odyssey (16-7-1) won the state championship two years ago, posting a 27-0 record to become the first unbeaten, untied team to win the state Division I title in nearly two decades.
Although the Streaks go into the semifinals with a 13-game unbeaten streak (12-0-1), Ricupero is still waiting for his team to play its best hockey.
“We have yet to put three good periods together,” he said. “We had two good periods against Shen, two good periods against Bethlehem, two good periods against Potsdam. But at this level, if we make a mistake in the third period, it’s going to cost us.
“That’s what happened when we played Gates-Chili,” added Ricupero, referring to Saratoga’s last loss, on Jan 7. “We were tied, 2-2, going into the third period, then they got two goals and an empty-netter and beat us, 5-2. We have to close teams out.
“Potsdam is a perfect example. We had a 2-0 lead and had all the momentum for a period and a half, and I kept saying, ‘Let’s close them out before they throw a monkey wrench into it,’ and look what happened.”
Although the Streaks held on to defeat the Sandstoners, Potsdam had a 14-4 advantage in shots on goal in the third period.
While Cumming and Tyler Grimshaw (6-16-22) anchor the Thunder defense, the offense is led by Anthony Crawford (13-23-36), Justin Simonelli (12-18-30), Mike McNeil (62-11-27) and Jared Tam-Grimshaw (11-12-23).
Although Alex Luse (22-19-41) and Dan Going (23-15-38) are Saratoga’s top offensive threats, Ricupero was pleased to see junior Jamie Bartoszek get a goal and an assist against Potsdam. Those were Bartoszek’s first points since Saratoga’s 11-0 win over Guilderland/Mohonasen in the quarterfinals of the Section II tournament.
“Sometimes, Jamie tries to do too much on his own,” said Ricupero. “I’m trying to get him to work with his linemates [Going and Tristan Sperry] more. Jamie’s got great hands, and he’s got to be more patient, waiting for them to get open instead of trying to do too much by himself.”
Ricupero will have to do a little juggling for today’s game, as sophomore forward Nick Winters, who plays on a line with Luse and Mike Layman, has a leg injury and won’t be in the lineup.
Ryan Bourgeois will get the start in goal. He replaced Tyler Ellor in the semifinals against Bethlehem, when Ellor struggled in the first period, and Bourgeois has been solid ever since, beating Shenendehowa, 3-2, in the sectional championship game and Potsdam in the regionals.
“Ryan has been outstanding,” said Ricupero. “He can perform at a high level when he chooses to. He wants to be in these pressure situations.”
The winner of today’s game will play in the championship game at 3:30 Sunday at the War Memorial. In today’s first semifinal, at 3:15, Suffern (Section I) will take on Williamsville North (Section VI).
Section II champion Queensbury (18-2-2) will play Section III champ Cazenovia (23-0) in the Division II semifinals at 12:30 today, also at the War Memorial. Queensbury senior Kevin Valenti scored four goals in a 10-2 regional win over Saranac Lake last weekend to break the Section II goal-scoring record. Valenti raised his career total to 110, breaking the record of 107 set by Jason Krogmann of Glens Falls from 1987-90.