By ROB JONAS
By any measure, this has been an eye-opening year for the GMSSV Storm.
The five-school program – consisting of players from Guilderland, Mohonasen, Schalmont, Scotia-Glenville and Voorheesville – are undefeated after six Capital District High School Hockey League contests and are in a tie with perennial power Saratoga Springs for second place in the standings. All of this is happening after years of being locked in the CDHSHL basement.
The Storm can add to their impressive resume Friday night at the Schenectady County Recreational Facility by defeating the team sitting in first place – two-time defending Section 2 Division 1 champion Bethlehem. The Eagles fly into Glenville on a nine-game winning streak and have scored more goals (70) than any other team in the league.
This will be the sternest test yet for the Storm’s defense, but they have risen to the challenge before. The Storm are tied with Christian Brothers Academy for the fewest goals allowed in the league (18). They’ve limited Queensbury and Shenendehowa each to one goal during their four-game winning streak, and they shut out Albany Academy 4-0 Jan. 10 at SCRF to avenge an earlier 3-2 overtime loss to the Cadets during a holiday tournament Dec. 27.
Bethlehem has also met the Storm this season and prevailed 5-0 in the same Albany Academy holiday tournament. Do not let the score fool you, though. The Storm held the Eagles to less than 20 shots on goal – a rarity for a team that has otherwise been thoroughly dominant. If the Storm can do that again Friday night, they will give themselves a chance to win.
Another factor working in the Storm’s favor is the emergence of junior goaltender Ryan McKone. The Scotia-Glenville junior has come up big in the Storm’s victories over Queensbury and Shen, stopping 54 of the 56 shots he faced in raising his season’s record to 3-2-0. McKone wasn’t in net against Bethlehem at the Albany Academy tournament, but he is likely to be between the pipes for the rematch.
The Storm’s other challenge will be getting the puck past Bethlehem goaltender Michael Kurdziolek, who leads the CDHSHL in goals against average (1.57) and save percentage (.947). The Storm haven’t scored a lot of goals this season (28 through 10 games), but they have been generating more scoring opportunities in recent contests. Scotia-Glenville junior Alex Bzdell leads the team with six goals and seven assists.
One more factor to throw in: this is a rivalry game for the two programs, dating back approximately two decades when Bethlehem and Guilderland battled each other for the Wooden Stick. Bethlehem has dominated this series, but the Storm seem poised to give the Eagles their toughest challenge since the early 2000s.
The puck drops at 7 p.m. Friday at SCRF.
Two other CDHSHL games hold significance this weekend. Shenendehowa travels to the Albany County Hockey Training Facility to face off against CBA Saturday, while Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa takes on Queensbury at the Glens Falls Recreational Facility.
Shen (3-5-0, 6-7-1) needs a victory Saturday to get back in the race for a Section 2 home playoff game. The Plainsmen missed one opportunity when they lost to Bethlehem 5-2 last week, so a victory over the Brothers (4-1-1. 7-3-2) would help them get closer to the top four. CBA hasn’t played since defeating BH/BS 4-2 Jan. 17, so the Brothers should be well rested for this contest.
BH/BS has struggled in recent games, going 1-2-1 entering Thursday’s contest against Adirondack. It will need a win against the Rivermen (4-4-0, 5-6-1) and a victory over Queensbury (5-2-0, 7-3-1) to right itself. It doesn’t help BH/BS that both games are being played up north, but the team has played well on the road (4-2-1 away from SCRF).