February 27, 2014 Story and photos by Eli Fisher
It should have been a close game.
Just a few days before Tuesday’s Section 2 hockey final matchup between Saratoga and Shenendehowa at Union College, the teams were ranked #6 and #7, respectively, in the New York State Sportswriters Association statewide rankings. It was a game Saratoga had won for four seasons running, not to mention that they had beat Shen 5-1 at home a few weeks earlier, the third game of the seven-game winning streak that was broken on Tuesday night. The teams tied 3-3 earlier in the season, and this was the first time since 2011 that Shen won a game against their rivals to the north.
While the streak showed that reigning state champion Saratoga was perhaps peaking at the right time after a somewhat hit-or-miss early season, it looked like that peak ended too soon. “I think they might have been more intense than we were,” Saratoga head coach Dave Torres said. “They were flying and had more scoring opportunities than we had.”
The Blue Streaks didn’t have trouble getting the puck out of their end, but failed to convert their shots into goals through Shen goaltender Ben Farstad and defensemen including Cameron Kuhl, who Torres called the best in the league, with the teams dead even 22-22 in shots despite the shutout. Saratoga’s shots just weren’t as well-positioned as Shen’s.
However, Shen had only a 2-0 lead until early in the third period. As the clock wound down, they got the puck in twice more while the Blue Streaks showed no signs of improvement. “We came into the third period stressing that we needed another goal to pit them out of reach…We had great work coming through the neutral zone and (Austin) McDonough gave me a backdoor pass,” Shen’s Peter Russo ’15 said. The Shenendehowa team did communicate very well on Tuesday night.
“We just wanted to keep it simple and get pucks on net and get rebounds, but we didn’t do that,” said Torres.
Shen’s goals were scored, in order, by Ryan Mortka ’14, Nick Quigley ’14, Russo, Cameron Kuhl ’15, and Kyle Marr ’14. All goals except Kuhl’s had two assisting players, for a total of eight assists, three of which were Marr’s.
“It’s a learning experience,” said Saratoga goalie Danny Hobbs ’16. The Blue Streaks had a somewhat younger team this year than Shenendehowa, showing promise for the future. “Obviously it’s just going to make us more hungry for next year. I just feel bad that we couldn’t get it done for the seniors this year,” he added.
Photos below include some from the earlier semifinal game against La Salle, as noted. Click on any image for full size.
Eli Fisher is a co-editor of The Lightning Rod and has covered the SSHS hockey team this year along with co-editor Justin Penman and social media manager Will Murnan.