Saratoga Springs hockey coach Dave Torres wasn’t pleased with his team’s undisciplined play in a 4-2 loss to rival Shenendehowa in late December.
Whatever he said to his team after that loss has taken.
The Blue Streaks all but clinched the top seed for the upcoming Section II playoffs with a 5-1 home ice win over the Plainsmen on Tuesday night at the Weibel Avenue Rink.
“I think it’s a statement to the rest of the section that we mean business,” said Torres, who took over the head coaching job with the Blue Streaks after the season started. “We’ve got a nice thing going right now. We’re peaking at the right time, and we hope we get the No. 1 seed and move on from there.”
Senior Tom Naples scored 18 seconds into the second period to give the Blue Streaks the lead for good. The win gave them an 11-2-0 record and 18 points atop the Capital District High School Hockey League Division I standings.
“You know whoever scores that first goal, the momentum is going their way,” said Torres. “Our kids responded. We talked about it in the locker room. We had to come out with some jump and get on the scoreboard first.”
“When you come at the start of the period, the momentum’s up for anybody,” said co-captain Alex Luse, who added a goal late in the middle period for the defending Section II champions. “You want it on your side. When you score in the first 18 seconds, that’s big.”
Fellow co-captain Brendon Wormley scored on a power-play for a three-goal Saratoga advantage early in the third period, Tyler Bullard had four assists, and goaltender Ryan Bourgeois finished with 27 saves.
“It changes the momentum,” Wormley said of Naples’ goal. “But we knew we had to keep the pressure on, keep getting deep in the zone and work the puck.”
Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha knows his team has to get better defensively if it is to make a postseason run.
“I don’t really believe that was a 5-1 hockey game,” he said, after his team fell to 8-2-0 in the league and remained tied with CBA and Shaker/Colonie behind the Blue Streaks. “What happened was, we made some mental mistakes in he second period that changed the course of the game.
“We’ve got to figure out a way to minimize those mental mistakes and become a better defensive hockey team.”
A lot of Saratoga’s success came from driving to the net and forcing Shenendehowa goaltender Brian Walter to deal with second and third shots.
“Every day in practice, the coaches emphasize getting the shots low and going for the rebounds,” Luse said.
“I thought our goaltender played well,” said de la Rocha. “We’ve just got to give him more support, both on the scoreboard and in front of the net.
“We’ve got a younger team, and they’re learning. There’s a lot of things we can take from this game. They’re a dangerous hockey team. They’ve gotten better, and we expected that.”
“We’ve changed a lot of our defensive game,” said Luse. “We’re coming back hard on defense. We’ve got a better work ethic now. It showed tonight.
“This time of the season, you’re getting close to the playoffs and you want to be playing at your full potential. You want to start peaking. Getting a win right now puts us in the right direction.”
“We got out focus to where it needs to be,” said Wormley, who also assisted on two goals.
“Our goal since Jan. 6 was to get the top seed,” said Torres, whose team concludes league play next week against LaSalle. “If and when we do that, we’ve accomplished the first goal that we set. We’ll see what happens after that.”
Shenendehowa 1 0 0 — 1
Saratoga Springs 1 2 2 — 5
First period — 1, Sar, Devin Smith (Brendon Wormley, Tyler Bullard), 4:50. 2, Shen, Ryan Mortka (David Hunter), 9:32.
Second period — 3, Sar, Tom Naples (Mike Layman, Alex Luse), :18. 4, Sar, Luse (Wormley, Bullard), 13:05.
Third period — 5, Sar, Wormley (Bullard, Luse), 4:44 (pp). 6, Sar, Nick Winters (Bullard), 7:08.
Goaltenders — Shenendehowa, Brian Walter, 30 saves. Saratoga Springs, Ryan Bourgeois, 27 saves.