It took a strong third-period defensive effort, but the Saratoga Springs hockey team turned back Christian Brothers Academy, 3-2, on Wednesday.
The Brothers scored twice late in the second period to cut their deficit to one goal, but the Blue Streaks allowed only three third-period shots on goal while applying a suffocating defense each time CBA gained the zone.
“We talked about it between the second and third,” Saratoga defenseman and captain Brendon Wormley said. “We had to come back out and play both ways. We had to take care of the puck, and that was big. Both the goals they scored were just defensive breakdowns — not taking care of the puck and not moving the puck with precision.”
The win moves the Blue Streaks (12-1-0 CDHSHL, 15-3-1 overall) back within a half-point of league-leading Shenendehowa with one game remaining. The Plainsmen host Bethlehem today in a game worth one standings point, while the Blue Streaks host Glens Falls in a game worth two standings points. A Saratoga win would be good enough to win the league title and the No. 1 seed in the Section II tournament, regardless of what Shenendehowa does.
Trailing, 3-0, the Brothers (8-4-3, 9-7-4) finished a couple of opportunities late in the second period, first with Nick Makarowsky beating Saratoga goalie Spencer Glaim after the Blue Streaks made a defensive-zone turnover. Glaim got a piece of the shot, but it flopped into the net.
Then R.J. Matos blocked a point shot by Saratoga’s Nick Conchieri, gathered the puck and took it all the way in, finishing at 13:16 to pull to within 3-2.
Chances like that became harder to come by in the third.
“They’re a quick hockey team, lines one through four,” CBA coach Blaine Drescher said. “Tonight, we tried our best to slow them down. Usually, you’ve got to slow them down from the defense, first. That’s something we just weren’t able to do tonight. We didn’t do the best job of putting pressure on their defense.”
Saratoga coach Dave Torres said his team’s defense was lacking a little focus in the first couple of periods, but they got it turned around in time.
“I think the defensemen were trying to get too involved in the offense,” he said. “We talked about that. So we played great defense in the third period; it was a great team effort in the third.”
Saratoga freshman forward Elliot Hungerford got the Blue Streaks on the board in the first period, slipping unmarked to the top of the crease as Devin Coffey skated the puck behind the net, and waited for Coffey to feed him a pass from below the goal line.
“I was just in front, and no one was covering me,” Hungerford said. “The puck slipped through, and you’ve got to finish it then.”
At 4:11 in the second period, Matt Flynn sent a pass from the inside edge of the left circle to his twin brother Ryan Flynn waiting at the right post for a 2-0 lead. At 10:10 in the second, Hungerford returned the favor to Coffey, sending a pass goalward from the right boards as Coffey skated across the top of the crease with CBA’s Makarowsky on his hip, and Coffey got a stick on it to slip inside the near post.
Torres started the line of Hungerford, Coffey and Grayson Rieder, who combined for a five-point night. Normally the checking line, he said their play in Friday’s loss to Shaker/Colonie earned them the start.
“It’s nice to have that luxury,” Torres said. “Most teams in the section, or anywhere, don’t have a third line in high school hockey. We’re lucky to have that third line.”
CBA 0 2 0 — 2
Saratoga Springs 1 2 0 — 3
First Period — 1, Saratoga Springs, Hungerford (Coffey, Rieder), 9:41.
Second Period — 2, Saratoga Springs, R. Flynn (M. Flynn, Patterson), 4:11. 3, Saratoga Springs, Coffey (Hungerford, Rafferty), 10:10. 4, CBA, Makarowsky, 11:07. 5, CBA, Matos, 13:28.
Third Period — No scoring.
Goalies — CBA, K. Stockman, 34 saves. Saratoga Springs, Glaim, 12 saves.