Coach Dave Torres said he expected a tough game when his Blue Streaks hockey squad played Williamsville North on Saturday. And that’s just what they got – a hard-skating, hard-hitting slugfest. But in the end, Saratoga came out on top, 5-3.
As they have in almost every game this season, Saratoga started the game slowly. Three and a half minutes into the first period, Williamsville drew the first blood with a slapshot from 20 yards in front of the goal that landed in the right side of the net.
It took seven minutes before co-captain Devin Smith collected a rebounding shot and punched it in for the tying goal. And exactly two minutes later, at 2:13 left in the period, Nick Winters scored the go-ahead goal with an assist from Tyler Bullard and Devin Smith.
“We came out slow,” said Winters. “We came back into it around the ten minute mark and started putting pucks in the net, getting rebounds, tips, deflections in the front, and we score a couple of goals, we get the lead.”
Coach Torres said he was disappointed in his team’s first period performance. “I can’t explain it. We try to do our best to get them pumped up for first period, but for some reason we usually come out flat, I don’t know why… Last year we had the same problem, and the same issues. I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
However, whatever he said during the break appeared to work. Saratoga took advantage of their speed to find more shots on the Williamsville goal. And less than two minutes into the second period the Streaks scored again, this time from Patrick Coyne, making it 3-1. But the Spartans would not give up. They began pounding Dakota Smith (25 saves) in goal. At 10:36 remaining in the period Tyler Bullard was called for hooking, and it took just 21 seconds of penalty time for Williamsville to capitalize on the power play with a goal from Bryce Ferrell, making it 3-2.
At 5:51 in the period, Winters scored his second goal on the night, making it 4-2, when he collected a rebound in front of the net and slipped it past the goalie. “I didn’t expect it to go in,” he said, “I just skated by the net and saw it slid under. I’ll take those goals though. They’re garbage goals, but they’ll help your team win the game.”
Williamsville still wasn’t finished though, scoring from in front of the goal with 2:06 remaining in the second period, and the teams went back to the locker room with the score 4-3.
The second period was much more physical, with Drew Patterson (L) and Patrick Coyne fighting for the puck
Saturday’s game was the second in a two-day away series for the Spartans. On Friday they were soundly beaten by Shenendehowa, 9-3. Williamsville coach Bob Rosen said his team’s play Saturday, especially in the second period, was the complete opposite of their effort on Friday. “A friend of mine said, which team is this, what happened to the team from yesterday?”
Perhaps both teams were tired from their second period shoot-out, but whatever the reason the final period was quieter. At 7:13 left in the game, Cam McCall was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking, but the Blue Streaks easily killed the penalty time. Then at 1:34 Devin Smith put in the insurance goal, making the score 5-3.
“Personally I thought I played better than yesterday,” said Smith. “I’ve got to continue do drive to the net. I think I have three goals in the past few games just driving and tipping them in, getting garbage goals. That seems to be how I’m getting all of them this year.”
The Spartans pulled their goalie with one minute left and managed several shots on Dakota Smith, but they couldn’t make another goal. Saratoga however scored an open net goal with ten seconds remaining, but it was waved away on an off sides call, and the game ended 5-3.
Goalie Dakota Smith makes a save late in the game
Tyler Bullard said the team is aware of their difficulty this year starting slow. “It’s something we’ve got to work on. We’ve got to come here focused earlier than we do. It hasn’t hurt us yet, but eventually it will catch up to us.”
Coach Torres agreed, saying they’ve got to be careful, or the slow starts will indeed catch up with them. “It can, no doubt. Especially if you have a team that’s going to come right after you. There are teams that come right after us. Queensbury tried it. Most teams try to get us off our game right in the first period.”
But Torres said he was happy to see how the team coped with getting behind early. “It was nice to come back from a one goal deficit. We’re not used to coming back. Usually we’re in the lead. And to come back from a one goal deficit was huge for us. There was no bickering on the bench, it’s like, okay guys, one at a time. We know we’re going to score goals, that’s our strength. So we’re usually not going to get shut out. The kids never give up.”
Saratoga’s first line includes Winters, Devin Smith and Bullard, and the three say part of the team’s success comes from the fact that they have been playing together for years. “Our chemistry’s really been building,” said Smith. “We’ve been together for two years now, and we’ve been playing with each other for like not even in high school, we’ve been playing with each other our whole lives, and I think that’s really helped too.”
And Winters agrees. “Playing for two years, we know where they are on the ice, where to throw the puck. I know where Tyler and Devin like to be when we’re entering the zone, if they want to drive the post or hold up for a drop pass, or shoot far post for them to get the rebound.”
Williamsville coach Bob Rosen said his squad is the youngest team he’s coached, but he said he’s happy with the way they played Saturday. “When we play well, we do the little things well. And basically we have kids in roles that aren’t quite ready to be there, so the consistency of effort isn’t always there. Today it was there. As a coach I was happy with the effort. Disappointed in the result, but happy with the effort.”
Torres, meanwhile, says his squad learned something on Saturday. “Our team, strength is our speed. Any time you play a team from out west, they’re more physical, they play a physical game. We talk to our guys about trying to be more physical. We keep talking about it but… (Tonight) we played them physical, we got a little better.”
Saratoga High Alumni also held a game Saturday
Michael Pawlick (#11) shoots on Brian Guild in goal
2012 alumni game participants
ON THE WIRE