BH/BSpa’s 3-0 win over Shen a long time in the mak­ing

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - SPORTS - By Stan Hudy [email protected]­gian.com @StanHudy on Twit­ter

GLENVILLE, N.Y. >> It wasn’t the Stan­ley Cup Fi­nal, but the cel­e­bra­tion by the Burnt Hills/ Ball­ston Spa ice hockey team after the horn sounded Satur­day night at the Sch­enec­tady Area Recre­ational Fa­cil­ity may have given the ap­pear­ance that it was.

The Spar­tan/Scot­ties de­served to en­joy its mo­ment, a mem­o­rable, if not his­toric 3-0 win over Shenen­de­howa, it’s first dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son against the Plains­men in the past 10 years.

Burnt Hills ju­nior for­ward broke the score­less tie with his even­tual game-win­ner four six min­utes into the sec­ond Shenen­de­howa goalie Kent Leighton stretches out in an at­tempt to block Burnt Hills/Ball­ston Spa’s Con­nor Ce­cals from scor­ing in the first pe­riod Satur­day night at the Sch­enec­tady Area Recre­ational Fa­cil­ity in the league tilt. pe­riod, pick­ing off a pass at the red line and then skat­ing in for one of the most im­por­tant goals in the com­bined pro­grams his­tory in the last decade.

“I beat the de­fender and popped his stick and got the puck, went around, right to the goal,” Noah Sin­clair said. “There was a guy chas­ing, I

pulled back and just a quick shot.”

It was the fruits of the Spar­tans la­bor, out­play­ing Shenen­de­howa through­out the sec­ond pe­riod and the goal was pre­cious as the Plains­men ral­lied later in the sec­ond pe­riod and took ad­van­tage of three Burnt Hills penal­ties and put pres­sure on goalie Kyle Grace.

“Our PK (penalty kill) was key in the sec­ond pe­riod, we had two or three penal­ties and our goalie was the best player on the ice for us on a PK,” Burnt Hills coach Jim Buf­fo­line said. “All eight guys, two groups of four, blocked shots and did what they were sup­posed to do and we got through it.

“The best thing to hap­pen in the sec­ond pe­riod was that it ended and Shen didn’t score. We were lucky to get out of that late in the game.”

The Spar­tan goalie was all grace un­der pres­sure dur­ing the Shenen­de­howa flurry and through­out the night as Shenen­de­howa out­shot the Spar­tans, 18-14 through the sec­ond pe­riod.

“I just go out there and try to do it for my team, go out there, stop as many pucks as pos­si­ble, let time run out, go back to nor­mal,” Kyle Grace said. “My de­fense, they played re­ally great, they stopped tons of shots for me. I couldn’t do it with­out them, with­out the for­wards, with­out the whole team.”

The Spar­tans gave it their all, in­clud­ing some blood as Grant Rice scored the all-im­por­tant in­sur­ance goal in the third pe­riod after be­ing sent off the ice to be at­tended to for a split lower lip.

“I turned around in the cor­ners a lit­tle bit of a high hit. I came back in the locker room, cleaned me up, came back out there and I’m all right,” Grant Rice said.

The in­jury didn’t af­fect his de­sire to get re­venge – on the score­board.

“They were a lit­tle spread out on the point there, I had room to shoot and let it go and for­tu­nately it went in,” Rice said.

Down by two goals, Shenen­de­howa Coach Juan de la Rocha pulled his goalie for the 6-on-5 ad­van­tage and the Spar­tans were fi­nally able to ig­nite the Burnt Hills/Ball­ston Spa stu­dent sec­tion with an empty net goal on the third at­tempt to send the puck long range down to the op­po­site end.

It was an ex­cla­ma­tion point on the win for Burnt Hills and a dis­ap­point­ing pe­riod on the fi­nal for the Plains­men.

“They did a good job in the neu­tral zone against us, when we did break out of our zone a lot of times we were out-num­bered and to use your words, we couldn’t break through,” Juan de la Rocha said. “We couldn’t cre­ate two-on-one sit­u­a­tions.

“It’s still a hockey game, but it’s still a mat­ter of you have to get the puck deep and get on your fore check. When we got on our fore check we got some good looks and we when we had good looks we ei­ther miss the net or we weren’t re­ally chal­leng­ing the goalie too much.”

The chal­lenges con­tin­ued to build on the ice and then moved into Shenen­de­howa’s psy­che.

“You work, you work, you work and you come up with noth­ing, then it starts to de­flate con­fi­dence a lit­tle bit and then that has an im­pact on your work ethic,” de la Rocha said. “We didn’t start out with a good first pe­riod; they out-played us in the first. We did a great job on our power play, we came up short.”

Burnt Hills/Ball­ston Spa ended the Plains­men’s sea­son with a play­off win on the road in 2015 and then earned its pre­vi­ous win in Jan­uary of 2009, both at the Clifton Park Arena. The last near-vic­tory came in a score­less tie at home in Jan­uary of 2008 for the then Burnt Hills/Sco­ti­aGlenville squad.

“The kids are just com­mit­ted to be­ing a good team, they’re all work­ing hard,” Buf­fo­line said. “We’re able to roll 14 to 15 guys out there, our goal­tender played ter­rific to­day; he kept us in the game.

“I give Shen a lot of credit, they worked re­ally hard, we had mo­ments where we couldn’t get the puck out and our goalie kept us in. Our fore check and they just played a to­tal and com­plete game. We con­stantly tell the kids to hound the puck and play 201-feet and that’s what we did tonight and came out on top.”

The win put the Spar­tans atop the Sec­tion 2 stand­ings and con­tin­ues a run of big game wins by Burnt Hills. They top­pled Beth­le­hem Cen­tral, 7-4 on Jan. 5 and Chris­tian Brothers Academy, 3-1 in early De­cem­ber, adding to their top-team tro­phy case of wins.

“We’re deep, we have three solid lines that we can run through­out the game and keep rolling,” Sin­clair said. “It’s big for our team. We want to win the sec­tion this year, want to make big things hap­pen.”

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