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