By ROB JONAS
ALBANY – A three-goal flurry at the end of the first period and some late-game heroics from goalie Kent Leighton helped Shenendehowa defeat Albany Academy 4-3 Thursday, Jan. 10, in a Capital District High School Hockey League game at the Albany Academy Fieldhouse.
Leighton made several key saves in the third period as Albany Academy (6-1-0 league, 8-2-0 overall) attempted to pull even with the Plainsmen (3-1-0, 7-3-1).
“Great individual effort,” said Shen coach Juan de la Rocha. “He was playing solid all the way through. I love the way he was challenging the puck tonight. There was one play tonight … it was a centering pass that was really labeled for the goal, and somehow he got a blocker on it. It was about midway through the third period. It was tremendous.”
It was the first league loss for Albany Academy, which placed a team in the CDHSHL for the first time since the early 1990s when the school left Section 2 to play in the New England Prep League. The private school still operates a prep league team, with its CDHSHL entry serving as both a development program for younger players and an opportunity for older players to see more ice time.
“I thought we did an outstanding job,” said Albany Academy head coach Dave Rider. “They have an established program, they are very deep in talent [and] they’ve got experience playing in big games. For our kids, this is all brand new, and I thought they showed very well tonight.”
Anthony Sericolo gave Albany Academy a 1-0 lead when he tallied off a feed from Dan Moshier with 6:37 left in the first period. Shen responded less than three minutes later when Zach Rupert took a pass from Cole Haldane and fired the puck past goalie Dan Guy to tie the score at 1-1.
Albany Academy thought it had a goal with 2:17 left in the opening period, but it was waved off by the referee. That came back to haunt the Cadets, as JJ Novitsky and Tyler Sullivan struck for unassisted goals 11 seconds apart in the final 1:35 to give the Plainsmen a 3-1 lead.
Brennan Alheim kept the momentum going for Shen in the first minute of the second period when he launched a hard shot through traffic past Guy to make the score 4-1. The momentum was stalled, though, when one Shen player was called for a five-minute major penalty. The Plainsmen caught a bit of a breather when an Albany Academy player was sent off for a two-minute minor, but they found themselves in penalty trouble again when a second player was sent off for a minor with less than 40 seconds remaining in the major penalty.
Albany Academy took advantage of the short 5-on-3 opportunity it had when Sericolo fired a tough-angle shot that deflected off Leighton’s right leg and into the goal to pull the Cadets within striking distance. Leighton kept Albany Academy at bay from that point until Tim Carlson fired a shot through traffic past him with 4:17 left in the third period to make it a 4-3 game.
Albany Academy kept the pressure on Shen’s defense in the waning minutes of the third period, but the Plainsmen held on for the victory and two standings points in the CDHSHL.
“It’s a big win,” said de la Rocha. “I’d like us to be a better team. I’m happy that we found a way to get it done, but we were fighting ourselves for a lot of the game today. I was saying to my guys I could care less about what the score is – I care more about how you play, and I didn’t think we played our best.”
Leighton finished with 30 saves for Shen, while Guy stopped 22 shots for Albany Academy, 11 of which came in the first period.
Photos by Rob Jonas