Coaches love to look down a roster sheet and see a lot of players with the letters SR next to their names, because seniors mean leadership and experience.
Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha is no different, and loves the fact that he’s got 10 seniors to lead a team that hasn’t won a Section II championship since 2008.
But he doesn’t want anyone to overlook his junior class, either.
“We’ve had a couple of years where we’ve had a lot of seniors,” said de la Rocha Tuesday after the Plainsmen scrimmaged Queensbury in preparation for their opener against Guilderland/Mohonasen/Scotia-Glenville today at 5:30 at Union College. “It’s just a matter of getting the right mix. But this year, we’ve got a real good junior class, too.”
One of Shenendehowa’s top returning players is junior forward Peter Russo, who had eight goals and 21 assists last season. Junior defenseman Cameron Kuhl is back from an injury, junior Tate Cretti has returned from the CP Dynamo junior team and Austin McDonough has returned from Albany Academy.
The return of Kuhl and Cretti will add depth to Shenendehowa’s defense, which was going to be the team’s strong suit, anyway. Senior Peter Sacks was the team’s best defenseman last year, and Tanner Cretti and Ryan Rosmarin are also coming off solid campaigns.
“We’re going to be a little different on defense this year because this is more of an offensive-minded group,” said de la Rocha. “You’ll see more of an offensive element from the guys on the blueline this year. They’re going to show up more on the stat sheet.”
Senior Ben Farstad was Shenendehowa’s No. 2 goalie last year and should step up to the starting job this season. He appeared in eight games last season, finishing with a 1.66 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. But the 6-foot, 150-pounder only has 163 minutes under his belt.
De la Rocha should be able to skate three blanaced lines, with Russo, senior Kyle Marr (18-13-31) and Ryan Mortka (9-13-22) all capable of big numbers. and Sacks (3-15-18) can also contribute from the blue line.
The Plainsmen lost to Saratoga Springs, 4-0, in the Section II championship game last season, but this could be the season that the Plainsmen get back to the top.
“We played a period against Saratoga in a scrimmage and it was a good match,” said de la Rocha, “But they don’t have the studs they’ve had the last couple of season.”
The Blue Streaks, who won the New York state Division I championship last season, graduated a ton of talented players, including leading scorer Tyler Bullard, who is playing for the CP Dynamo junior team this year, standout defenseman Brendon Wormley and both of their goalies.
The Streaks do have eight seniors back, with Matt Klingbeil the leading returning scorer with 11 points (2-9). Senior goalies Zach Jones and Ryan Paton combined for just 52 minutes of action last year.
Queensbury has already locked up the Section II Division II championship and a spot in the state semifinals. That’s because Glens Falls has joined forces with South Glens Falls and Hudson Falls (to be known as the Rivermen), leaving Queensbury as the only Division II team in the section.
The aforementioned Guilderland/Mohonasen/Scotia-Glenville merger will be known as the Storm.
Sean O’Connell is the new head coach at Niskayuna/Schenectady and has a solid junior class, anchored by Matt Peretti (5-10-15) and Joshua Kim. But senior Stephan Pearse and sophomore James Blanchfield are untested in goal.
Both Shaker/Colonie and Bethlehem should be contenders for the regular season Capital District High School Hockey League championship. The Jets will be led by seniors Jeff Bink (10-8-18), Jordan Vetrone (7-11-18) and Kevin Egan (8-3-11), as well as junior goalie Zach Dignum (10-3-2, 2.36 goals-against average, 8.75 save percentage).
The Eagles should have no trouble scoring goals, as seniors Chris Caswell (12-12-24), Andrew Carroll (11-10-21) and Zach Flagler (5-10-15) had good juniors seasons, but there is no experienced goaltender.
Goaltending won’t be a problem for Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, as the Spartans will have senior Austin Clark (2.51 GAA, .913 save percentage) between the pipes. The Spartans only have three seniors, but do have two outstanding forwards in juniors Trey Swingruber (10-12-22) and Ian Speck (9-11-20).
LaSalle has to find some offense, as the Cadets scored just 35 goals in 20 games last season.