The Albany Academy girls’ ice hockey team has its first Division I player in Teagan Ketchum.
The Averill Park resident, a five-year varsity performer and academic standout, has made a commitment to compete for coach Tom O’Malley and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn.
“Once I visited the school and spoke with some students and learned about the business program, I knew it would be a great educational opportunity,” said Ketchum. “Then meeting coach O’Malley and seeing the team play, that’s when Sacred Heart became my number one choice.”
Ketchum, a forward and defender for Academy Academy and the Troy/Albany Ice Cats 19U team, had offers from Franklin Pierce, the University of New England, Nichols College, Castleton State, New England College, St. Michael’s College and Sacred Heart before opting to play for the Pioneers.
“Sacred Heart showed interest in me playing for them after seeing me in Connecticut at Christmas time in the Polar Bear Tournament, which is a top-level showcase,” said Ketchum.
Ketchum had overcome a rare hip disease (Legg-Perthes) to excel as a three-sport athlete (softball, volleyball). The two-year team captain produced 11 goals and 15 assists this past winter, and was named a first-team New York State Girls High School Hockey League all-star.
In Ketchum’s career, Academy went from a winless team over its first three seasons to the brink of the state final four earlier this year. The Bears just missed out when they lost to Beekmantown in the upstate title game.
“I like to think I was key in helping Academy go from a weak new program to one of the top teams in the New York high school league, and setting the pace for the team to go into the prep league,” said Ketchum.
Sacred Heart is a Division I independent coming off an 18-13-2 season.
Can Suburban Council baseball keep its impressive streak going this spring?
“The Big 10 dominates in basketball. With baseball, it’s tradition,” said Guilderland coach Doug LaValley, whose Dutchmen came within a victory of the 2010 state championship. “It’s something we’ve been strong in.”
Columbia’s extra-inning win over Shenendehowa last spring gave the Suburban Council eight Section II Class AA championships in 10 seasons. In a 14-year stretch before the fifth class was added, the league had 12 Section II title-winning teams in Class A.
“Columbia got it last year. They want to defend their title, but everyone wants it, too,” said Guilderland senior Lewis Lima. “No one wants to be left out. Everyone wants to have a winning season and have a shot at the Section II title. That creates good competition.”
The league has long been considered among the state’s most competitive, with tight games the norm rather than the exception. Even rebuilding teams are dangerous, such as Mohonasen, which pinned an early-season loss on Guilderland last season. Ballston Spa also made news when it knocked off Columbia.
“You’ve got to take care of business every day,” said Columbia coach and Suburban Council chairman Chris Dedrick. “You can’t take any team for granted. Ballston Spa beat us straight up, and that shows you can’t take a day off.”
“There are no easy games in the Suburban Council,” said LaValley. “The day you show up thinking it’s going to be easy is the day you’re going to go home with a loss.”
Stiff competition several times a week certainly prepares a team for the postseason rigors, yet that is only one part of the Suburban Council’s winning formula that has spread beyond the sectionals and into the state tournament.
Of the league’s 20 teams that won titles in Section II’s largest class-
ification since 1989, 11 of them claimed regional championships and eight played in a championship contest. Columbia won the New York Class AA flag in 2004, and while Shaker came up a game short of the Class AA title in 2011, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake went the distance at the Class A level.
“Baseball is important in a lot of these communities. It’s part of their culture,” said Shaker coach Steve Frank. “Kids get their feet wet, and they take off from there. For our kids in the North Colonie district, it’s been very beneficial.”
“Strong community programs support the school programs,” said Shenendehowa coach Greg Christodulu. “Kids develop at a younger age and they continue. High school is a by-product of what the community baseball programs are doing successfully.”
The Suburban Council holds the distinction of having the most final four teams from a large-school league in the history of the state tournament with 12.
“I think there are a lot more opportunities for kids these days, and they’re taking advantage of them,” said Frank. “They play in the summer and fall and do stuff in the winter.”
“We have numbers. Having more kids into something is always going to be beneficial,” said LaValley.
“I think having players as good as Brandon Cogswell helps,” said Christodulu. “Guys going on to college are role models. Kids say, ‘Hey, that can be me. I could be playing on TV,’ and they strive for that.”
“The coaches in the Suburban Council, they know what they’re doing, and guys buy in,” said Lima.
The Suburban Council has had at least three of the four Section II Class AA semifinalists every year since 2008.
“Guys are saying, ‘That guy is good.’ You’re not going to just roll the ball out there and compete with them,” said Frank. “You’ve got to work to keep up.”
Glens Falls scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning to beat Ichabod Crane Thursday in a non-league baseball game, 13-10, for coach Dave Casey’s 300th victory.
Casey is 300-207 with Glens Falls and St. Mary’s Academy of Glens Falls. He is the 26th Section II baseball coach to reach 300 wins, with Chris Wyanski of Duanesburg and Mike Lilac of Hoosick Falls closing in on the mark.
Casey picked up 21 wins last season when he guided Glens Falls to its first Section II championship since 1985. His Indians (21-3) won 20 consecutive games before a 7-6 regional loss to New Hartford.
Casey was the longtime athletic trainer for the Adirondack Red Wings and is a member of the hockey team’s hall of fame.