Aside from sufferers of triskaidekaphobia, there’s really no reason to fear numbers.
But the numbers 37-49-86 are making Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha a little nervous.
Those numbers represent the goals, assists and total points amassed by Scaradale junior James Nicholas so far this season, and he’ll be looking for more when the Knights come to Clifton Park to face the Plainsmen at 4 p.m. today in the regional finals of the New York state hockey tournament.
The winner of today’s game earns a berth in the semifinals next weekend at the War Memorial Auditorium in Utica.
Nicholas, who is also an outstanding running back at Scarsdale, anchors one of the most prolific lines in the state. His linemates are junior Devon Schell (39-24-63) and senior Matt Blakely (22-37-59). Their total of 98 goals is more than the entire Saratoga Springs hockey team scored this season.
But that’s where the offense ends. After Blakely, the next highest scorer has 16 points.
Sounds pretty simple. Shut down the Nicholas-Schell-Blakely line, and shut down the Knights.
“They’re tough to match lines against,” said de la Rocha, whose team takes a 16-6-1 record into today’s game. “Those kids never come off the ice. Out of a 45-minute game, Nicholas is probably on the ice for 40 minutes. When he’s not playing on offense, they move him back to defense to keep him on the ice. That’s the way they play in Section I.”
The Knights (20-3) won their first Section I title ever last weekend, defeating Suffern, 4-3. Nicholas had two goals in that game. and Blakely had the other two.
“Scarsdale reminds me of Suffern, which had one kid who was a very dynamic player [Kevin Hill, who scored 59 points],” said de la Rocha. “Although we lost to them, 3-1, we did a good job bottling him up by taking angles and playing the body. That’s now you have to play against players like that.
“From what I’ve been told, Suffern wasn’t physical with [Scarsdale], and allowed Nicholas a lot of room on the ice. But Scarsdale lost to Pelhem, which was a very physical team.”
The Plainsmen won their first Section II title since 2008 on Tuesday, blanking rival Saratoga Springs, 5-0. Since giving up the first goal to Bethlehem in the opening round of the sectionals, the Plainsmen have outscored the Eagles, Niskayuna/Schenectady and Saratoga by a combined 26-0.
Senior goalie Ben Farstad, who was on Shen’s practice squad as a sophomore, has stopped 54 of the 55 shots he’s faced in the last four games, all victories.
Shenendehowa’s offense is led by Peter Russo (21-28-49), Kyle Marr (23-21-44) and Ryan Mortka (15-27-42).