Saratoga stops streaks vs. Shen

Shenendehowa's Tom Relyea controls the puck during its CDHSHL game against Saratoga Springs at Weibel Ice Rink on Wednesday.ERICA MILLER / GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Shenendehowa's Tom Relyea controls the puck during its CDHSHL game against Saratoga Springs at Weibel Ice Rink on Wednesday.

By Jim Schiltz
Gazette Sportswriter

SARATOGA SPRINGS — The hottest team in the Capital District High School Hockey League got cooled down by an old rival Wednesday night, one looking to begin its own streak.

“It’s funny about this team,” Saratoga Springs senior Jake Fauler said after a 4-2 comeback win at Weibel Avenue Ice Rink. “If we can play like we play when it’s Shenendehowa, we can beat anybody.”

Up and down Saratoga used a three-goal burst in the second period and a 29-save performance by Drew Rafferty to erase a 2-1 deficit and end Shenendehowa’s seven-game win streak.

The Blue Streaks at the same time ended their own three-game slide on a night their nine senior players were honored.

“That’s ’Toga hockey,” Saratoga coach Dave Torres said. “It’s what we preached all year. It’s not all about talent. It’s play with heart, play with grit. Play for the guys who started it all.”
Saratoga beat Shenendehowa 3-2 in overtime in late December.

Fauler, one of the key holdovers from last year’s state semifinal team, notched two goals Wednesday and picked up an assist on Sean Sesselman’s tally that capped the second-period run.

“They were working really, really hard and taking it to them,” Rafferty, a senior, said of the scoring spurt that included a power play goal by Eric Jess. “It was really going our way for a few minutes there.”Shenendehowa took a 1-0 lead on a first-period goal by Tom Relyea, and went up 2-1 when Jake Nigriny scored in the second. Saratoga’s response took less than three minutes.

“The problem after that is we never regrouped,” Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. “We stopped playing as a team. A guy got the puck and tried to do it by themselves.”

Shenendehowa (7-3-1, 8-9-1) could have moved into a first-place tie with LaSalle in the CDHSHL Division 1 race had it prevailed and picked up the one standings point that went to Saratoga (6-5-0, 7-11-0).

“It’s not the end of the world, but it’s certainly one we wanted to have,” de la Rocha said.

Saratoga had lost to Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa in its previous outing, and dropped games against LaSalle (3-1) and Queensbury (5-3), a Division 2 team, before that.

“That’s a good win. It’s always tough to beat them,” Torres said. “They were on a seven-game win streak and we had lost three in a row, and we could have come in and hung our heads. Right off the first puck drop I knew we came to play.”

Fauler described the victory as a statement game.

“With them on their streak and us on our streak, it’s nice to get a win under our belt,” the senior captain said. “We want to show teams in the section we’re not going to quit. We’re not going to stop playing.”

Saratoga played a lot of defense in the third period, which included two successful penalty kills. Rafferty made eight saves over the final 15 minutes, one coming on a blast off his facemask, after stopping 12 shots in the second period and nine in the first.

“This is a huge confidence booster, especially for Drew,” Fauler said. “I’m so proud of him and the team.”

Fauler scored 6:24 into the second period to pull the Blue Steaks into a 2-2 tie. Jess broke it 7:56 in, and Sesselman — wearing a captain’s C for the first time — delivered 9:10 in when he pounded a rebound past Jared Vanderloo (20 saves).

“Getting a goal right after a goal, we needed that,” Fauler said. “It’s something we haven’t been doing.”

Fauler scored in the first period off a Shenendehowa turnover to create a 1-1 tie, and finished with his fourth multi-goal game this season.

“It wasn’t a very good first period on our part,” de la Rocha said. “I told the guys, ‘Put those 15 minutes behind you. Let’s make some good plays.’ We got one in and they [Saratoga] picked it up. They played very well tonight.”

Shenendehowa    1 1 0 — 2
Saratoga    1 3 0 — 4

First period — 1, Shen, Tom Relyea (un), 4:12. 2, Sara, Jake Fauler (un), 9:58.
Second period — 3, Shen, Jake Nigriny (Cole Haldane), 5:24. 4, Sara, Fauler (Ryan Seales), 6:24. 5, Sara, Eric Jess (Sean Sesselman, Xavier Clarke), 7:56. 6. Sara, Sesselman (Fauler, Jonathan Luse), 9:10.
Third period — None.
Goalkeepers — Shenendehowa, Jared Vanderloo, 20 saves. Saratoga, Drew Rafferty, 29 saves.

Reach Gazette Sportswriter Jim Schiltz at 395-3143, or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.