As we enter the second half of the Capital District High School Hockey League season, there are some pleasant surprises and a couple of mysteries to solve.
Starting at the top, LaSalle (6-0-0 league, 8-0-2 overall) has gotten off to a very strong start. The Cadets have allowed the fewest goals in Section 2 (20), thanks in large part to senior goaltender Zac Rentz, who has given up an average of two goals per game in his six starts. Pair that with big offensive contributions from Logan DiScanio (15 goals, 12 assists) and Kevin Mainello (six goals, 15 assists), and you can see how LaSalle has become the team to beat.
Below LaSalle is an intriguing group of teams hovering around the .500 mark. Of those, Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa (4-3-0, 5-4-0) and Tri-Falls (3-2-0, 4-5-0) have looked the strongest, as their goal differentials are at or slightly above 50-50. Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa has three players with at least 10 points (Geordan Buffoline, Alec Lind and Sam Swingruber), as well as a a solid goaltender in Trevin Tidmarsh (5-3-0, 3.27 goals against average, .870 save percentage). Tri-Falls has an explosive offense led by Jared Thomas (18 goals, 10 assists) and Jordan Willis (10 goals, nine assists), but the defense has been shaky, as the Rivermen have allowed 40 goals in nine games. The Rivermen should be just fine in competing for the Division 2 title, which is a two-team race between them and Queensbury (0-3-1, 2-5-1), but they could do better against the rest of Section 2 with a better defensive effort.
The biggest mystery is Bethlehem. The Eagles have been great against non-league opponents (6-2-0), including victories over Greece (Section 5) and Mahopac (Section 1), but they have yet to beat a Section 2 foe (0-1-1). Their latest result was a 2-2 tie against Queensbury Wednesday, Jan. 4, in which they needed a third-period goal from Michael Lemieux to force overtime against the struggling Spartans. Given that Bethlehem entered the season as one of the favorites to win the league, the Eagles need to start winning, beginning with Friday’s showdown against a Shenendehowa squad that is also trying to right itself after a slow start (1-2-1, 1-8-1).
You can’t rule out the potential for a big run out of Saratoga (2-1-0, 3-5-0). The Blue Streaks have struggled against some of the top teams around New York, but they’ve also posted an overtime win against Shen and an impressive 5-2 victory over Christian Brothers Academy. Saratoga has non-league games at Ithaca and West Genesee this weekend, but then it’s nothing but CDHSHL opponents the rest of the way.
Then, you have the curious case of the Shaker/Colonie Jets (2-2-1, 2-6-1). They had some rough games in December, but then they posted a 7-4 victory over Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa on Dec. 30, fueled by Joe Molloy’s hat trick. The offense is starting to come around with Molloy (four goals, four assists), Sean Orr (four goals, five assists) and Ethan Poole (three goals, three assists) joining the fray with Zachary Turnbull (five goals, seven assists) and Tyler Wilson (five goals, four assists). You don’t usually see that kind of scoring balance on most Section 2 teams, and it could give Shaker/Colonie an advantage going into January and beyond.
One more team to keep an eye on is the Guilderland/Mohonasen/Scotia-Glenville/Voorheesville/Schalmont Storm (1-6-0, 1-8-0). Despite winning once all season, the Storm have quietly become far more competitive than in the past several years, as four of their eight losses have been by one goal. Credit the outstanding goaltending by Daniel Cooper and Jennifer Gregg, who have been dividing the starting duties. Cooper has a .932 save percentage, and Gregg isn’t far behind with a .910 save percentage. The Storm still struggle to score goals, but they are picking up the pace a bit with help from Anthony Sericolo (six goals) and Kyle Bennett (four assists).
There are three league match ups Friday night — Shaker/Colonie at LaSalle, Bethlehem at Shenendehowa and CBA at Guilderland/Mohonasen/Scotia-Glenville/Voorheesville/Schalmont (or GMSGVS, if you will). Saturday features Shen at Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa and Niskayuna/Schenectady (3-3-0, 4-6-0) at Shaker/Colonie. We should start seeing how the league will shake out beginning with these games.