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Nearly half of Section II hockey teams are merged programs

Nearly half of Section II hockey teams are merged programs

Niskayuna/Schenectady/Albany among five merged hockey teams
Nearly half of Section II hockey teams are merged programs
Albany student Yoni Eligberg and coach Sean O'Connell talk at ths Mohawks' practice Tuesday at Union College.
Photographer: PETER R. BARBER

SCHENECTADY —  Yoni Eligberg always felt he was missing out.

That changed last year when he and two other students became the first group from Albany High School to compete in the Capital District High School Hockey League.

"We grew up playing with the same guys, and they all had a school team to go to," said Eligberg, a senior forward. "We were the only school that didn't have an opportunity."

That came about from Niskayuna/Schenectady's need for players, and a desire by Eligberg, Christopher Gallagher and Patrick Trippany to play at the scholastic level, so in the 2017-18 season the Niskayuna/Schenectady Mohawks became Niskayuna/Schenectady/Albany Mohawks.

"Everyone knows everyone in the hockey community, and you hear things and talk to people. They were looking for a place to play, and the past few years we have struggled with numbers," Mohawks' coach Sean O'Connell said. "Two years ago, we had 17 at our tryouts. We had been looking around  for other schools."

Five Albany students are playing with the Mohawks this season, with Matt Trippany and Joe Rossi joining the original groundbreakers.

"They are all multi-sport athletes," O'Connell said. "Great kids. Great attitude. They've been a great lift for our program."

Eligberg serves as the team captain, and Gallagher, a junior forward, is the alternate captain.

"They are great for our depth," said Sean O'Connell's son, Ryan, who also coaches the team. "They give us a great skill set and a great work ethic."

Eligberg said more Albany students are on the way, which bodes well for the Mohawks, whose Schenectady numbers have dwindled in recent years. This season's team has only one Schenectady skater in senior defenseman Audrey Canty.

"Last year, Albany had three players and we're up to five," Eligberg said before Tuesday's practice at Union College. "More kids are coming up. It gives them something to look forward to."

Sean O'Connell said mixing students from the three high school has worked out well.

"There has been no issue bring together kids from different schools," the veteran coach said. "You put a jersey on and all of a sudden you're best friends."

"It's been great," Eligberg said. "I was a little scared at first, but they took us in immediately. We got close quick."

Of the 12 teams in the CDHSHL this season, five are merged teams with athletes from multiple schools joining forces. The others are Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa, GMSVS Storm (Guilderland, Mohonasen, Schalmont, Voorheesville, Scotia-Glenville), Capital District Jets (Shaker, Colonie, Columbia, Averill Park, Tamarac) and Adirondack (Glens Falls, South Glens Falls, Hudson Falls, Warrensburg).

"Not as many kids are playing. Numbers are down for a variety of reasons," Sean O'Connell said. "When you look at it, it's a trend across the state. A lot of schools have had to pull together."

Albany Academy will have a team playing in the CDHSHL this season, and another competing in the New England Prep League.

Bethlehem, CBA, La Salle, Queensbury, Saratoga Springs and Shenendehowa round out the CDHSHL teams for the 2018-19 season.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 518-395-3143, [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.

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