The horn for the first goal served as an alarm clock for Shenendehowa.
The No. 2 seed found itself down, 1-0, to No. 7 Niskayuna/Schenectady at 4:14 in the first period. Then Plainsmen captain Brad Tardif knotted the score just 28 seconds later, and assistant captain Dave Hunter factored into five goals as Shenendehowa charged back for a 7-2 Section II Division I quarterfinal win Wednesday night.
The opening minutes, though, were wor-risome for the Plainsmen as the Mohawks were skating well and gaining the zone easily against a sluggish home squad.
“I was [expecting their energy], but I wasn’t expecting us to be as flat as we were,” Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. “That was probably the worst start to a hockey game we’ve had all season. But we recovered from it, we were fine. It was a little scary in the first two minutes just because it didn’t seem like we were awake and ready to play.”
Lucas Maloney was in front of the crease and took a pass from Evan Maloney from behind the net, tucking the puck away for a 1-0 lead for the Mohawks.
“We knew we had to try to catch them early,” Niskayuna/Schenectady coach Todd Templeton said. “I think had we put some of those extra chances we had in the first period in, it may have been a different story if they were pressing a little more.”
The line of Tardif, Hunter and Peter Russo took off with the drop of the puck, though, intent on evening the score. Tardif got his first of two goals in the game at the top of the crease at 4:32.
“It’s always a wake-up, getting scored on, but my hat’s off to Brad,” Hunter said. “That’s just great leadership. He took it all upon himself. Me, him and Pete Russo have been working well with this new line we’ve got. I really commend him [Tardif] for the kind of captain he has been.”
At 5:54, Ryan Mortka scored an unassisted goal skating in on the right side, shooting to the near side of the net and getting the puck to flip in though goalie Spencer Moran got a piece of it.
Max Papele got a power-play goal at 13:50 to establish a 3-1 Shenendehowa lead.
Although Hunter gave the Plainsmen (13-7-1) a 4-1 lead with a goal early in the second, the Mohawks (8-13-1) were far from out of it.
The Plainsmen took three penalties in the second, and the Mohawks outshot them, 6-2, in the last half of the period. Brian Walter, though, was up to the task and kept the lead at three goals.
Walter finished with 14 saves on the night. Moran made 33 stops for the Mohawks.
“We had our chances, especially on second-chance rebounds,” Templeton said. “We missed a few I think we should have had, but overall, the guys played hard. We gave it everything we could.”
Keeping the Mohawks from turning that energy into something more potent, the Plainsmen defensemen did a good job of not getting too involved in the offense and inviting rushes.
“Especially in the second period, we weren’t getting too aggressive off the blue line,” de la Rocha said. “We were controlling the rush, controlling the neutral zone a little bit more, and that was a struggle in the last few games.”
Shenenendehowa got another power-play tally early in the third, this time by Hunter from Papele, a reversal of the first-period man-advantage goal.
“I think a key is our power play,” Hunter said. “In January, we had 18 power-play goals in eight consecutive games, so it’s good to see that return tonight.”
Papele finished with a goal and two assists. Hunter had two goals and three assists, and Tardif scored twice. The Mohawks got one more goal in the third, off the stick of Tom Carrigan.
Shenendehowa will host No. 3 Shaker/Colonie (13-3-3) on Friday night in the semifinals. Shaker/Colonie survived an overtime scare from No. 6 Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa to win, 4-3, with Tyler Donaldson providing the winner 4:32 into the extra period.
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa (10-10-1) got a goal and an assist from Nick VanLiew.
Top-seeded Saratoga Springs (17-3-1) scored four times in the third period to beat No. 9 LaSalle, 6-0. The Blue Streaks outshot the Cadets, 42-6. Matt Flynn scored twice, and Cam McCall had a goal and an assist.
The Blue Streaks will face No. 4 Bethlehem (11-7-3) on Friday. The Eagles beat No. 5 Christian Brothers Academy, 3-2.
SHENENDEHOWA 7, NISKAYUNA/SCHENECTADY 2
Nisky/Schenectady 1 0 1 — 2
Shenendehowa 3 1 3 — 7
First Period — 1, Niskayuna/Schenectady, Lucas Maloney (Evan Maloney), 4:14. 2, Shenendehowa, Brad Tardif (Peter Russo, Dave Hunter), 4:32. 3, Shenendehowa, Ryan Mortka, 5:54. 4, Shenendehowa, Max Papele (Hunter), 13:50 (pp).
Second Period — 5, Shenendehowa, Hunter (Kevin Miles), :53.
Third Period — 6, Shenendehowa, Hunter (Papele), 2:59 (pp). 7, Shenendehowa, Tardif (Hunter, Russo), 8:06. 8, Niskayuna/Schenectady, Tom Carrigan (Ben Fisher, Matt DiVietro), 8:51. 9, Shenendehowa, Nick Quigley (Andre Thibault, Papele), 10:56.
Goalies — Niskayuna/Schenectady, Spencer Moran, 33 saves. Shenendehowa, Brian Walter, 14 saves.
SHAKER/COLONIE 4, BURNT HILLS/BALLSTON SPA 3 (OT)
BH/BS 1 0 2 0 — 3
Shaker/Colonie 1 0 2 1 — 4
First Period — 1, Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, Trey Swingruber (Clark Grabb, Ian Speck), :25. 2, Shaker/Colonie, Andrue Caruso (Kevin Egan), 10:23.
Second Period — No scoring.
Third Period — 3, Shaker/Colonie, Brendon Closs (Sean Leach), 8:05. 4, Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, Nick VanLiew (Speck), 10:09. 5, Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, Nick Hart (Swingruber, VanLiew), 11:45. 6, Shaker/Colonie, Sean Phillips (Andrew Serafino), 12:25.
Overtime — 7, Shaker/Colonie, Tyler Donaldson (Egan, Caruso), 4:32.
Goalies — Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, Austin Clark, 61 saves. Shaker/Colonie, Zach Dignum, 10 saves.
SARATOGA SPRINGS 6, LASALLE 0
LaSalle 0 0 0 — 0
Saratoga Springs 1 1 4 — 6
First Period — 1, Saratoga Springs, Matt Flynn (Drew Hasbrouck, Ryan Flynn), 11:33.
Second Period — 2, Saratoga Springs, Nick Winters (Tyler Bullard, Devin Smith), 13:57.
Third Period — 3, Saratoga Springs, M. Flynn (Bullard, R. Flynn), 1:02. 4, Saratoga Springs, Cam McCall (Smith, Brendon Wormley), 1:17. 5, Saratoga Springs, Grayson Rieder (Devin Coffey, Elliot Hungerford), 2:25. 6, Saratoga Springs, J.T. Rafferty (Hasbrouck, McCall), 13:25.
Goalies — LaSalle, Zac Rentz, 36 saves. Saratoga Springs, Dakota Smith, 6 saves.