The Shenendehowa hockey team has ruled Section II almost from the moment Juan de la Rocha took over as head coach in 2001.
De la Rocha added a fifth consecutive Division I title to his impressive resume last Wednesday night after his team defeated Christian Brothers Academy 4-1 at Union College.
It’s the kids. Every year, you’ve got a fresh new crop of faces coming in, and that’s really what it’s all about, de la Rocha said.
Senior goaltender Greg Hitchko rebounded from a tough semifinal performance against Guilderland by stopping 32 shots to lead Shen (22-4-2) to victory.
`I couldn’t have asked for anything else tonight,` said Hitchko. `I told myself before the game to relax and concentrate.`
`The past six years that I’ve been here, goaltending has been the key to our success, and it was no different tonight,` said de la Rocha.
The Plainsmen struck first just 42 seconds into the game with their first shot on CBA freshmen goaltender Andrew Blood. Senior Steve Caruso found junior Adam Hitchko in the neutral zone and hit him with a pass in stride. Hitchko’s shot trickled through Blood’s legs for a 1-0 lead.
`Their first goal was a fluke. It bounced off somebody, and it got redirected and just kind of snaked its way through Bloody’s pads,` CBA coach Ron Kuhl said.
Shen increased its lead to 2-0 several minutes later. Catching CBA in a line change, Jon Fentekes intercepted a pass, skated in alone on Blood and beat him with a shot underneath the crossbar.
`We wanted to take advantage of the fact that they had a freshmen in goal,` de la Rocha said. `Bloody’s a great goaltender, but we thought he would be a little nervous coming into a big game like this without any experience. We definitely wanted to jump on him quick.`
CBA (20-9-3) played better in the second period. The Brothers put 12 shots on goal, including two point-blank attempts by Brad Medici and Patrick Raike. Greg Hitchko’s superb goaltending was the only thing that prevented CBA from tying the game.
`I really thought that we controlled a lot of the play and had the better scoring chances throughout the game,` Kuhl said.
Caruso gave Shen a 3-0 lead 11 seconds into the third period when his wrist shot from the blue line eluded Blood. Andrew Sellner scored 4:09 later off a pass from Marc Meybaum, but Nathan Palmer added the final goal with 7:37 left by finishing a 2-on-1 break with Jesse Elliot.
Shen advances to the regional final this weekend against Section I champion Suffern.
`We’re not letting up now that we’re moving on. From here on out, everybody’s got to be clicking, or we’re not going to go any further in the playoffs,` said de la Rocha.
CBA earned an at-large berth into states, but the Brothers suffered a 7-6 loss to Clarkstown North Saturday.“