Often, when teams reach regional competition, coaches lament the fact that they don’t know anything about their opponent.
That’s not the case with Saratoga Springs hockey coach Dave Torres. He’s seen plenty of the Suffern Mounties.
The Blue Streaks will be trying to avenge a regular-season loss, and earn a trip to the New York tournament semifinals in the process, when they take on the Section I champion Mounties, ranked No. 1 in the state, in a Division I regional game at 7:30 tonight at Sport-O-Rama in Monsey.
The two teams met in the regular season on Jan. 25 at the Saratoga Springs Ice Rink, and although the Blue Streaks dominated the game, they dropped a 3-1 decision, mainly because of the play of Mounties junior goalie Nick Modica, who made 31 saves.
And that’s not the only time the Streaks have taken a good look at the Mounties (19-3). The Section I championship game last weekend between Suffern and Mamaroneck was streamed online, and the Saratoga Springs staff and most of the players watched together as the Mounties pulled out a 3-2 overtime victory.
“We saw what they are running for a forecheck, we saw that their power play is pretty much the same as it was when we played them,” said Torres Thursday. “We got a good look at them.”
Saratoga (19-3-1) is back in the regionals after defeating Shenendehowa, 4-0, to win its fourth straight Section II title. The Blue Streaks are ranked sixth in the state in the most recent rankings.
In the first meeting between Saratoga and Suffern, the Blue Streaks had a 32-13 advantage in shots on goal and were awarded six power plays, compared to one for the Mounties. Torres would love to see numbers like that again.
“All we need to do is score more goals,” he said. “That game was 2-1 with a couple of minutes left, and we didn’t have our lines settled then. Our second line was a mish-mosh, and our third line was a mish-mosh.
“Our shot selection in that game wasn’t very good, and we didn’t get a lot of rebound opportunities. Our power play has really developed since then, so it should be interesting.”
Both teams have deep offenses and outstanding goaltenders. If the Mounties, the defending state champions, have a weakness, it’s on defense.
“They only roll three defensemen, and that should make it tough for them against us,” said Torres.
Modica, a junior, covers up for a lot of the defense’s mistakes, as he has a 1.27 goals-against average with a .915 save percentage.
But the numbers for Saratoga senior Dakota Smith are just as good. Smith came up with three straight shutouts in the sectional tournament, lowering his goals-against to 1.30 and his save percentage to .924. The defense, anchored by senior Brendon Wormley, has been outstanding, as Smith only faced 37 shots in victories over LaSalle, Bethlehem and Shenendehowa. Smith hasn’t had the red light come on behind his head since the Blue Streaks lost to Shaker/Colonie on Feb. 1.
Senior Matt Flynn has been on fire in the playoffs, coming up with five goals and four assists to lead the Streaks’ offense. Senior Tyler Bullard leads the overall scoring with 49 points (26-23), and Nick Winters goes into the regionals with 42 (17-25).
The Mounties are also solid up front. Mike Redgate was the hero against Mamaroneck, scoring just his fifth goal of the season to give the Mounties the overtime victory. Junior Kevin Hill leads the scoring with 52 points (31-21), with senior Nick Jaeger (15-14-29), sophomore Justin Tiso (13-13-26) and senior Robert Clark (5-20-25) bunched behind him. Jaeger scored two of Suffern’s goals against the Blue Streaks in January.
Although Torres admits he’d rather face the Mounties at home on the bigger ice sheet at the
Weibel Avenue rink, the Streaks are pumped up about getting another shot at Suffern, regardless of the venue.
“This time, we’re more determined. and more solid defensively,” said Torres.
Section II Division II champion Queensbury (11-7-3) will have home ice advantage when it takes on Section I champion John Jay Cross River (21-1-1) at 3:30 today at the Lake George Forum.
Semifinals in both divisions will be played March 9 at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.