Back in the late 1970s, there was a romantic comedy titled “Same Time Next Year.”
The Section II hockey committee might want to adopt that for the slogan for their Division I championship game.
For the fourth straight year, Saratoga County’s biggest rivalry will head west across the Rexford Bridge, as Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa will square off for the Division I championship tonight at 7:05 at Union College’s Messa Rink.
The Plainsmen come in as the No. 1 seed, and have a 15-6-1 record. The Blue Streaks are the defending New York state champions, and are 14-5-3.
But the Blue Streaks have something else — Shendehowa’s number.
In the last four years, Saratoga has a 9-1-1 record against Shenendehowa, and has outscored the Plainsmen, 41-13. Shenendehowa’s only victory in that span was a 4-2 decision in the first meeting in the 2011-12 season, meaning the Streaks are 6-0-1 in the last seven games.
Saratoga won last year’s championship game, 4-0, on its way to the state championship, and prevailed, 5-1, the year before.
But Saratoga coach Dave Torres doesn’t want to talk about numbers. He’d rather talk about tangibles.
“I knew if our team came together, we could be this good,” he said Monday. “We always had the tools. We had 15 guys returning and they had a taste [of success] last year, and it was just a matter of some of them stepping up. We really expected to be in this situation again.”
Torres admits that his biggest question mark in the preseason was goaltending, but sophomore Danny Hobbs filled that gap nicely. Hobbs hadn’t played for a couple of years, concentrating on baseball instead, but decided to put the pads back on this season.
“He had some trouble in the middle of the season, but he bounced back and now, I think we’ve got the best goalie in the area,” Torres said.
Hobbs struggled in January, giving up 14 goals in consecutive losses to Suffern, Pelham and LaSalle, but he’s only given up 12 goals in his other 13 apperances this season, and as a result, the Streaks are chasing their fifth straight Section II title.
He’ll have to be sharp again tonight to stop Shenendehowa’s explosive offense, led by junior Peter Russo (20-27-47) and seniors Kyle Marr (22-19-41) and Ryan Mortka (14-27-41).
Saratoga’s top scorer, senior Drew Patterson (12-15-27) would only be fifth on Shenendehowa’s scoring chart.
And Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha thinks that offensive edge will work in his team’s favor tonight.
“I think we have a little deeper scoring punch this year than they do,” said de la Rocha. “That’s obvious when you look at our goals scored to their goals scored. But to their credit, they do a good job packing the D zone and not letting the opponent get the puck to the net. It makes for an interesting matchup.”
Saratoga may not score a lot, but it spreads its offense around. In a 5-1 victory over the Plainsmen on Feb. 6, five different players scored goals.
They also play a solid checking game in both zones.
There was a time when Shenendehowa was the king of Section II hockey, as the Plainsmen won six consecutive championships. But Shenendehowa hasn’t held the championship trophy since 2008.
But de la Rocha doesn’t want to dwell on past history.
“I feel like we’ve turned the corner this year,” he said. “The guys we rely on are seniors and juniors, and I think we’re pretty well-stocked. We know there are going to be mistakes [tonight], but we just have to make sure everyone stays loose, minimize our mistakes and capitalize on our opportunities.”