While their underclassmen get up to speed, a key for the Niskayuna/Schenectady Mohawks early this season has been masking their inexperience.
In Sunday’s 5-4 overtime shootout victory against North Rockland in the consolation game of its holiday tournament at Union College, Niskayuna/Schenectady did better with the first part than the second.
“You can tell they’re new to high school hockey with how they are out there sometimes,” Niskayuna/Schenectady senior Evan Maloney said of his younger teammates.
That showed in the moments right after the Mohawks’ win. Following successful shootout turns from Niskayuna/Schenectady seniors Kevin Canty and Maloney, the latter had to wave his teammates — unsure the game had been decided — onto the ice to celebrate.
“But they all have skill,” said Maloney, who had a goal and an assist against North Rockland. “Our first couple lines are filled with sophomores.”
Head coach Sean O’Connell said the team’s youngsters have grown more confident each week, and played a key role in the team’s 4-3 start.
“There’s a learning curve with them, but they’re starting to get it,” O’Connell said.
“It’s been a good experience for our younger kids to get their nerves settled down,” said Canty, who had a goal and two assists in Sunday’s win. “For a lot of them, it’s their first time playing [high school hockey], and they’re growing.”
Against North Rockland, freshman goaltender Tony Cotugno provided a spark for Niskayuna/Schenectady. Alerted an hour before warmups that he’d spell senior James Blanchfield for a game, Cotugno made 26 saves in his first varsity action and survived the shootout without allowing North Rockland to find the back of his net.
“I loved it,” Cotugno said. “That was fun.”
Niskayuna/Schenectady trailed 1-0, 2-1, and 4-3 in the contest. But even after North Rockland’s final score put the visitors ahead with less than four minutes to go, the Mohawks kept their composure. In the final two minutes, that steadfast nature was rewarded when a give-and-go sequence between Canty and Maloney ended in an overtime-forcing goal from the latter.
In regulation, sophomores Nathaniel Kim and Max Ronesi joined Canty and Maloney in scoring goals for Niskayuna/Schenectady.
In the opening round, the Mohawks fell 4-1 to Essex Junction, which won the tournament with a 4-1 victory against La Salle Institute.
If there has been a frustrating aspect to this season’s Mohawks, O’Connell said, it’s the Jekyll-and-Hyde nature of a youthful team that has nine underclassmen amongst its 21-deep roster.
“We lay an egg and then we play a good game of hockey — then we lay an egg and play another good game,” O’Connell said.
While true, Niskayuna/Schenectady has been able to secure at least one win each weekend since it started play Dec. 4 with a 5-1 win against Saranac Lake. While the absence of a winning streak has prevented the Mohawks from building significant momentum, the ability to stay away from a losing string has kept Niskayuna/Schenectady afloat as it enters a crucial January schedule of Capital District High School Hockey League games.
“Getting that one win a weekend has been huge for us,” Maloney said.
North Rockland 1 1 2 0 — 4
Nisky/Schdy 1 2 1 0 — 5
Niskayuna/Schenectady won shootout 2-0
First period — 1, North Rockland, Matthew Posillipo (un), 9:01; 2, Niskayuna/Schenectady, Kevin Canty (Evan Maloney), 11:26.
Second period — 3, North Rockland, Bryan Jensen (Charles Lowther), 3:41; 4, Niskayuna/Schenectady, Max Ronesi, (Canty, Jack Lynch), 5:03; 5, Niskayuna/Schenectady, Nathaniel Kim (Joseph Laurange), 8:56.
Third period — 6, North Rockland, Chris Hilliard (James Morina, Justin Miklos), 2:13; 7, North Rockland, Steven Apicella, (Dylan Cool), 11:38; 8, Maloney (Canty), 13:04.
Overtime — None.
Shootout — Niskayuna/Schenectady (Canty G, Maloney G).
Goalkeepers — North Rockland, Kenny Hoppe, 18 saves. Niskayuna/Schenectady, Tony Cotugno, 26 saves.
Suburban Council foes Shaker and Colonie will square off for the championship of the Colonie Holiday Tournament tonight at 6:30.
Colonie (5-3) rode a 23-point performance by Erin Fouracre to a 55-46 victory over Catholic Central in Sunday’s first round, while Shaker (7-1) rallied from a 21-12 first-quarter deficit to defeat Averill Park 62-47.
Aliyah Wright chipped in with 14 points, five assists and six steals for Colonie.
CeCe Mayo led Shaker’s balanced attack with 17 points, and Shyla Sanford (12) and Arienna Denault (11) also finished in double figures.
COLONIE 55, CATHOLIC CENTRAL 46
Benton 2-1-5, E. Field 1-0-2, Fountain 7-2-20, Fitzgerald 2-2-6, Harris 2-0-4, H. Field 2-0-4, Clement 1-0-2, G. Field 1-1-3. Totals: 18-6-46.
Wright 4-6-14, Almonte 4-0-8, Fouracre 10-2-23, Isaacson 0-1-1, Paeglow 3-1-7, Triblet 1-0-2. Totals: 22-10-55.
Catholic Central 11 15 6 14 — 46
Colonie 15 6 13 21 — 55
Three-point goals: Fountain 4, Fouracre.
SHAKER 62, AVERILL PARK 47
Jankovic 3-8-13, Stacknow 1-1-3, Morgan 2-0-4, Laranjo 1-3-5, K. Wood 5-2-12, Kelley 5-0-10. Totals: 17-14-47
Denault 4-0-11, Miller 2-0-4, Matino 4-0-9, Shufelt 1-0-2, Mayo 7-3-17, Sanford 5-0-12, Mailcki 1-0-2, Rossier 1-0-2, DeBentham 1-0-2. Totals: 26-3-62.
Averill Park 21 7 11 8 — 47
Shaker 12 20 16 14 — 62
Three-point goals: Jankovic, Denault 3, Matino, Shufelt, Sanford 2.
Daniel Buie scored 20 points, and Brandon Holmes added 16 as Troy defeated New Hartford 73-62 in the consolation game of the Bishop Ludden Tournament.
McLaren 6-2-14, Carmello 5-2-12, Buie 9-1-20, Evans 3-0-8, Holmes 4-7-16, Drye 0-1-1, Hudson 1-0-2. Totals: 28-13-73.
Faro 2-0-5, Policelli 8-7-24, Henderson 1-3-5, Deck 1-1-3, German 7-2-18, Cruito 3-3-9. Totals: 22-16-62.
Troy 18 19 21 15 — 73
New Hartford 14 18 12 18 — 62
Three-point goals: Evans 2, Buie, Holmes, German 2, Faro, Policelli.