All season long, the strength of the Clifton Park Dynamo 18U hockey team has been its defense.
That defense, anchored by goalkeeper Brandon Rathwell, will need to remain stingy next week when the Dynamo competes in the USA Hockey Tier I Nationals in Green Bay, Wisc.
“We focus from the net out,” said Dynamo coach Brad Shaver, whose 43-11-5 team has outscored its opponents, 237-89. “We’ve only had one or two times where it got away from us.
“Our goaltending is solid, and our defensemen have played very well.”
“I don’t think I’ve seen five breakaways all season,” said Rathwell, a senior at Guilderland High School who has surrendered just 56 goals in the 40 games he’s played for the New York State champions. “We play from the defense out. That’s what we’ve been taught, defense first and capitalize on our opportunities.
“We do a very good job of keeping everything to the outside, and the forwards, even if they’ve just taken a big hit at the other end, bust it to get back.”
The Dynamo roster is composed of players from throughout the Capital Region, and includes a pair of players from Pittsfield, Mass.
Tyler Bullard, who helped Saratoga Springs to a state high school title in March 2013, leads the team in goals (41), assists (45) and points (85). Linemates Josh Haskin (East Greenbush) and Jake Juron (Latham) have acounted for another 97 points.
“Coming into this year, I didn’t have many options,” said Bullard. “It was either HVCC full-time, or come play here and go to school part-time.”
Defenseman Charles Barber of Queensbury is third on the team in scoring with 16 goals and 43 assists, and another blueliner, Sean Allen (Malta), is tied for fourth with forward Dylan O’Sick with 51 points. Allen has 43 assists, O’Sick has 38 assists.
“We’ve got six guys who can play defense” said Shaver. “Barber is a good skater. Allen is a good skater. They can jump in.”
The Dynamo, who beat the Buffalo Regals for the state tourney last weekend on O’Sick’s goal in overtime, play Thunder Hockey of Huntsville, Ala., in Wednesday’s first game of pool play. They get Wisconsin on Thursday and St. Louis on Friday.
The top two teams in the four pools advance to Saturday’s quarterfinals.
“We’ve got to go 1-1-1 or 2-1-0 to get to the quarterfinals, and that’s our goal,” said Shaver.
“There are no bad teams. We’re hoping to hold each team to two or three goals to give ourselves a chance. We’re looking for low-scoring, grind it out games.”
“We’re looking forward to playing the best competition and putting our name out there, where we’re from, what we’re about,” Bullard said.