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Looking ahead to Shen vs. Saratoga

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Tonight’s Section 2 hockey matchup between Shen and Saratoga has some important implications on the line.

Shen has 3 league games remaining, including this one, and they can earn 4 more points if they win out. That would give them 17 league points, which means they can finish with the #1 seed if La Salle loses at least one of their final three games. They need La Salle to lose, because even though they would both finish with 17 points, La Salle already has 11 league wins, meaning they’ll have the tiebreaker over Shen if they finish tied in points. Shen’s rise in the league standings has been largely propelled by senior goalie Jared Vandeloo. Vandeloo, who transferred from CBA following last season, has pulled away with the starting job, posting a .902 save % and a 2.99 goals against average. The Plainsmen don’t particularly light up the scoreboard in terms of goals, but senior Hayden Haldane has led the charge again this season. For the second year in a row, he’s been the team’s only reliable goal scorer, and he is a pure goal scorer. His stats attest to that; 16 goals, only 4 assists. He also has taken a bit of the enforcer role for the team this year, leading the Plainsmen in penalty minutes. Sophomore Brennan Alheim has had a good year as well, with 14 points in 17 games. Those two, along with senior forward Forrest Marson, are the only 3 skaters on the team with double-digit points. Again, though, this is a team led by their defense. Vandeloo has outright won them games completely by himself at times; he posted a 28-save shutout against BHBS, where his team only mustered 15 shots on goal, he made 37 saves in his team’s comeback win over La Salle.

On the Saratoga side of things, it’s pretty much been the opposite story. The Blue Streaks are a team led by their forwards, and dragged down by their goaltending. They’ve lost 3 consecutive games, and currently sit in 5th place in the league. They can still pick up 4 more points, which would put them at 13 total. However, the points won’t come easy: They have Shen tonight, a 2-point tilt on Friday with Bethlehem, and a rematch with Tri-Falls, who they lost to 5-4 earlier in the season. The Streaks goaltending has been nothing short of horrendous this season. They have three goaltenders on the roster, and still have struggled to get one of them in a rhythm at all this year. Drew Rafferty was perceived to be the starter coming into the season, but he’s struggled mightily. Freshman Brad Blake has also seen consistent time in net. In their 5-3 loss to Queensbury last week, senior Dylan Ellor and Rafferty split time in net, and neither fared very well. Ellor allowed 3 goals on 17 shots, and Rafferty allowed 2 on 19. They gave the next start to Brad Blake following that loss, but Blake gave up 3 goals on 6 shots in the first period against La Salle, and Rafferty came in and made 13 saves in a 3-1 loss. Rafferty then went on to allow 4 goals on 33 shots in a 5-2 loss to BHBS the next day. To give you a full sense of how bad the goaltending has been for them this year, here’s a stat. Their combined goalie save percentage is .838%, and their combined goals against average is 4.57. On the positive side, let’s take a look at their forwards. Saratoga is led by seniors Jake Fauler and Jonathan Luse, who have both been great. Fauler leads the team with 36 points, and Luse is second with 26. They’ve also seen contributions by senior Ryan Robens and junior Matt Shamberger. Eric Jess, the captain, leads the team on defense, but they don’t really have anyone particularly terrific to play with him, which certainly doesn’t help the goalies.

In the first meeting between the two teams, Saratoga defeated Shen 3-2 in overtime off of a Jon Luse game-winner. Shen actually outshot the Blue Streaks 29-16 in the game, but Vandeloo struggled in that game, allowing 3 goals, while Saratoga’s Brad Blake had the best game of his career, making 27 saves in the win. However, the way these teams have been trending lately, I’m going with Shen in this one.