Saratoga Springs wants to get off to a quick start.
Shenendehowa would prefer to see the pace a little slower.
Both would like to dictate how the Section II Division I hockey championship plays out when they meet tonight at 7:45 at Union College.
The Blue Steaks and Plainsmen finished 1-2 in the Capital District High School Hockey League standings this season, Saratoga edging Shenendehowa by 11⁄2 points for the title.
Two of the wins the 18-3-1 Streaks recorded were against 14-7-1 Shenendehowa, including a 7-0 victory in their most recent meeting.
“They’ve outscored us, 9-0, but if you take away one brutal period we had in the last game, it’s not as bad as it appears,” said Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha, referring to a four-goal Saratoga second period in their last meeting. “They have great scorers and a lot of speed. We need to find a way to slow them down.”
Saratoga has posted shutouts in both of its postseason games in setting up a rematch of last winter’s sectional final, which the Blue Streaks won, 5-1, Shenendehowa has gone the other route, outscoring its quarterfinal and semifinal foes by a combined 13-8.
“We’ve got to bring that enthusiasm from the second and third period,” said Saratoga coach Dave Torres of his team’s play in the final 30 minutes of a 5-0 semifinal win over Bethlehem. “I expect the guys who have been there before to remind the younger guys what to expect. Not to be awed by it, but to get it done on the ice.”
“We need to pick up our play in the first period, right from the first shift,” said Tyler Bullard, who leads Saratoga with 27 goals and 25 assists.
Torres tinkered with his lines late in the season, moving Bullard off the top scoring line with Nick Winters and Devin Smith. The senior now centers twin brothers Matt and Ryan Flynn.
“We’ve mixed and matched lines, and no one has complained about it,” said Torres. “They just go out there and get the job done.”
Bullard had played with the Flynns before the twins opted for junior hockey instead of varsity competition.
“They know exactly where each other is out there,” Bullard said. “They both move their feet. As long as the puck is there, they’re going to try to feed you.”
Winters (19-26-45) and Smith (15-17-32) are next in scoring for Saratoga. Matt Flynn has scored three goals in the playoffs, bringing his season total to 11. The sectional final will be a first for him and his brother.
“They’ve played at a higher level, but they’ve never played in front of 2,000 people at Union College,” said Torres. “I’m sure they’re looking forward to it.”
“I’m very excited. I heard it’s a fun game to play,” Matt Flynn said.
Shenendehowa will be looking for a way to take the fun out of it for the Blue Streaks, who have won the last three titles.
”We’ve got to stay out of the penalty box, and we’ve got to play smart,” said de la Rocha, well aware of Saratoga’s potent power play. “The last four or five games, the other team has scored first, but we’ve settled down and managed to overcome it. We don’t want to be in that position again.”
That includes coming back from a one-goal deficit four different times in a 6-5 overtime semifinal win over Shaker/Colonie.
“That showed me something, that they had the composure to keep at it, not get rattled and get the win,” de la Rocha said. “We need to get a lead and hold it.”
Peter Russo, the team’s leading scorer with 10 goals and 34 points, came up with the goal that sent the semi to overtime. Dave Hunter has two goals and four assists in the playoffs, and Brad Tardif shows three goals and a pair of assists in postseason play.
Saratoga has scored 110 goals and surrendered 34 this season. Shenendehowa has 102 goals for, and 58 against.
“We’ve been a little short-handed most of the season, especially on defense,” said de la Rocha.
GLENS FALLS — Queensbury won its seventh straight Section II Division II championship with a 2-0 victory over Glens Falls.
Michael Pagels and Richard Conlin scored for the 11-7-3 Spartans. Michael Carpenter had the primary assist on both goals, and Teddy Nolan made 22 saves for the shutout.
The Indians (15-6-0) got 35 saves from Tyler Mello.
Glens Falls 0 0 0 — 0
Queensbury 1 1 0 — 2
First Period — 1, Queensbury, Michael Pagels (Michael Carpenter, Joey Moore), 9:10.
Second Period — 2, Queensbury, Richard Conlin (Carpenter), 10:39.
Third Period — No scoring.
Goalies — Glens Falls, Tyler Mello, 35 saves. Queensbury, Teddy Nolan, 22 saves.