With the regular season finished, the sectional matchups are all set. Let’s take a look.
#8 Niskayuna/Schenectady Mohawks (4-16-0) vs #9 GMSVS Storm (4-14-0)
Wednesday, February 15th, 8:00 PM
The first sectional game acts as a play-in game, with the winner facing off against #1 seed La Salle on Friday. Now, this game actually is really interesting. Niskayuna started off the season pretty solid, going 4-3-0 in their first 7 games, but they’ve lost 13 games in a row since. These two teams are the worst two in the league, but this game should still make for some pretty entertaining hockey. They split their season series, with Nisky winning the first meeting 2-1, and GMS bouncing back to win 5-2 the second time around. Nisky’s goaltending is their main issue, or lack of it. All 3 goalies have seen action, and have combined for a save percentage of .859%, and have given up a league-high 110 goals. Jack LoRe has seen the most action, and he’s been the best goalie they’ve had, but Tony Cotugno is back from injury, so that gives them a little competition in net. Offensively, they have two dangerous forwards in juniors Joey Laurange and Max Ronesi. They can both put the puck in the net, but other than that, nobody else really can. Laurange and Ronesi have 21 goals together; the rest of the team has 21 combined. On the other side, for the Storm, their team is centered around their goaltending. Junior Dan Cooper and senior Jenn Gregg are first and second, respectively, in the league in save percentage. Problem is, they both have faced more shots than anyone else. Sophomore forward Anthony Sericolo, with 15 goals, is extremely dangerous in open ice, as his 4-goal game against the Mohawks on January 14th will attest. However, he’s scored literally half of their goals this season, as the Storm don’t really have a lot around him. But because of the strength of the Storm goaltending, they’re the favorite in this one.
#2 Shenendehowa Plainsmen (10-9-1) vs #7 Shaker/Colonie Jets (6-13-1)
Friday, February 17th, 8:00 PM
This one is actually pretty interesting too. The two teams tied 2-2 way back on December 16th in their only meeting of the season. Jets goalie Dan Molloy played his best game of the year in that one, making 36 saves. This is an interesting matchup because Shaker/Colonie’s offense is pretty productive, with forwards Tyler Wilson and Joe Molloy, and defensemen Zach Turnbull and Sean Orr leading the charge. They can produce goals when they need to, and they’re a very persistent team. Dan Molloy is very good in between the pipes when he’s on his game. For Shen, they’re led by sniper Hayden Haldane, with 18 goals, but they don’t really score a ton. Sophomore Brennan Alheim and senior Forrest Marson have been their best two forwards besides Haldane this year. Goalie Jared Vandeloo has been very good for the Plainsmen this year in net, posting an .899 save percentage, and 3 shutouts. This could possibly be a trap game for Shen, who has been eliminated at home by a lower-seeded team in both of the last two postseasons (lost to #3 BHBS in semi-finals in 2015, lost to #6 Tri-Falls in quarter-finals in 2016). So while Shen is rightfully the favorite, if any first-round games are going to be on upset alert, it should be this one.
#3 Bethlehem Eagles (15-4-1) vs #6 CBA Brothers (9-10-1)
Friday, February 17th, 7:00 PM
I’ll say this right now, I think Bethlehem is the best team in the section right now. They are absolutely rolling. After a slow start in league play, the Eagles have reeled off 9 consecutive wins, including a 4-2 win over #1 La Salle. They’ve scored a league-high 108 goals, and allowed a league-low 40. Offensively, they’re led by a group of seniors that includes Thomas Liebold (30 pts), Hayes Meredith (26 pts), Brian Harder (25 pts), and Mike Lemieux (22 pts). They have a very balanced offense, and also get solid contributions from sophomore Connor Carroll, junior Pat Engelbride, and freshman Justin Chenaille. Andrew Kopplin leads the group of defensemen, and he’s a very big, physically imposing player. Goalie Alex Breiner is having his best season, posting a .907 save % and a 1.79 goals against average. For CBA, offense has been a bit of a struggle this season. They’ve scored 57 goals, which is almost half as much as Bethlehem has scored. Sophomore Hunter Pemrick has taken a bit of a step back from his freshman year, with only 23 points this season, compared to 33 last year as a freshman. He’s their leading scorer, and their only skater with over 20 points. They get solid work from their first line of Pemrick, Andrew Mesick, and Ryan Dollar, but none of the other lines really do much scoring. Goalie Brandon Mohrhoff has had a decent season, with a .882 save % and a 3.85 goals against average. Bethlehem defeated CBA 6-1 back on January 20th, and outshot the Brothers 36-21. With the way the Eagles have been playing lately, it’s very hard to pick against them here.
#4 Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa Spartans (10-8-2) vs #5 Saratoga Blue Streaks (8-12-0)
Saturday, February 18th, 8:15 PM
Here’s another good matchup. BHBS swept the season series with Saratoga, beating them 4-2 on January 11th, and 5-2 on January 28th. The Spartans are led by senior forwards Geordan Buffoline (46 pts), Alec Lind (36 pts), and Nick Koszelak (25 pts). Junior defenseman Sam Swingruber has been a huge part in the offense as well, with 30 points. They also get contributions from guys like Henry Koch, Gianni Pleminik, and Connor Cecala. The top line of Buffoline, Lind, and Koszelak is one of the top lines in the section, producing most of the team’s goals. Junior goalie Trevin Tidmarsh has been solid in net as well, and he played well in both games against the Blue Streaks this season. For Saratoga, offensively, they’re led by Jake Fauler (43 pts) and Jonathan Luse (30 pts). Fellow forwards Matt Shamberger, Ryan Robens, and Sean Sesselman also contribute up front. Defensively, they don’t have much depth, but they do have one excellent defenseman in senior captain Eric Jess. The Streaks struggled with their goaltending most of the season, rotating between the three goalies, but they seem to have settled into a groove with senior Drew Rafferty, who played well in wins over Shen and Tri-Falls late in the season. BHBS should be the favorite in this one, but Saratoga is always dangerous, so never count them out of it.
Section 2 Division 2 Championship: Tri-Falls Rivermen (5-13-1) vs Queensbury Spartans (6-11-3)
Thursday, February 23rd, 7:00 PM
This is another really good matchup. Queensbury has won the Division 2 title in nine consecutive seasons, the last three by default, with no other teams in Division 2. That changed this year, because Tri-Falls no longer has any players from Hudson Falls, giving them only the student populations from Glens Falls and South Glens Falls, and thus the Rivermen moved down to Division 2. The two teams are arch-rivals, and meet once a year for the annual Stick Game. Queensbury won the Stick this year, winning a shootout after the teams battled to a 5-5 tie. One thing is for sure, if you want to see goals, there will be goals. Tri-Falls is led by junior forwards Jared Thomas and Jordan Willis. Thomas led Section 2 in points during the regular season, with 57. Willis finished tied for fourth in points, with 43. Forwards Drew Nizolek and Will Cormie contribute as well, and defenseman Andrew Rizzo is a key part of the offense as well, with 19 assists. Defensively is where they struggle. They’re not overly deep in the defenseman category, and their goaltending has struggled. Brendan Meehan has taken over as the starting goalie, and has posted a .873 save percentage and a 3.99 goals against average. They’ve scored 78 goals, which ranks third in the section, but they’ve allowed 86, which is more than any team besides Shaker/Colonie and Niskayuna/Schenectady. For Queensbury, they had a horrid start to the season, but they’ve turned it around, and actually have proven to be one of the most resilient teams in the league. They have a good first line, with senior Ryan Mosher (28 pts), freshman Jack Merkosky (26 pts), and junior Austin Gordon (17 pts). Their defensemen don’t have a ton of skill, but they’re physical and tough. Goaltender Owen Smith has posted a .872 save percentage and a 3.93 goals against average in his sophomore campaign. When they met back in the Stick Game on February 1st, Tri-Falls jumped out to a 5-2 lead going into the third period, and Queensbury fought all the way back to earn the tie. The Spartans outshot the Rivermen 44-36 in the high-paced contest, and this game should be no different. Tri-Falls has struggled lately, losing their last 4 games, while Queensbury has recovered from their bad start to play a lot better at the tail end of the season. It should be a very good game, but Queensbury has a bit of an edge here.
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