SARATOGA SPRINGS — Head coach Dave Torres is crediting the recent success of Saratoga Springs ice hockey to something simple: fun.
After losing back-to-back games against Section I’s Suffern and Pelham the weekend of January 17, and losing a third consecutive game at home against La Salle the following Wednesday, Torres and the team changed things up.
“We had a fun practice,” Torres said. “I didn’t want to work the guys hard. We worked hard enough. We tried to have fun again because guys were getting frustrated and disappointed. We came back and had a fun practice and played Niskayuna and did well. The first period was OK, but the second period we just turned it on and ever since then we’ve been at the top of our game and we’re getting better every period. We’re headed in the direction right now.”
The Blue Streaks (8-1-3, 11-5-3) head into tonight’s game at Christian Brothers Academy (4-9, 7-11) with the chance to end the regular season on a five-game win streak, which included a convincing 5-1 win over Shenendehowa last Thursday on Senior Night.
“There wasn’t much of a pregame talk by me,” Torres said. “The captains were really talking to their teammates and they really prepared these guys to play the game because there’s not much you can say. If you can’t get up for that game—Senior Night, Shen, 1,000-1,500 people in the stands—you can’t get up for any game.”
Three goals in the second period helped the Blue Streaks “take the wind out of Shen’s sails” and eventually win, 5-1.
If Shen loses to Bethlehem (4-7-1, 6-12-1) tonight and the Blue Streak win, Saratoga Springs will claim the No. 1 seed. But if Shen wins or ties, they secure the No. 1 slot.
Regardless, the Blue Streaks have officially clinched the No. 2 seed and home ice against an opponent that is yet to be determined with the CDHSHL league standings up in the air.
Aside from having fun, another key to the winning streak has been a full healthy roster, including the return of co-captain Matt Klingbeil and defenseman Cam McCall from injury.
“Matt especially, being one of our team captains and one of our leaders on and off the ice, having him back is a huge boost in the locker room,” Torres said. “We showed against Shen how deep we are and what this team has. Some folks don’t give us credit and that’s OK. They think we left it all out on the ice last year after winning the state title, but I think we’re back in the hunt and we’re here to defend our sectional title. It’s not going to be easy to take it away from us. We have the targets on our backs, but we’re certainly ready to defend it.”
With the season winding down and quarterfinals set for next Wednesday, Torres said he has seen a change, especially a sense of urgency in his seniors.
“The guys are focused and they know what’s in hand,” Torres said. ‘They know our season could be over next week. Our seniors certainly don’t want it to end like that. It hasn’t ended like that for them in a few years, so we’re going to take it one game at a time.”
That road will start with CBA tonight at the Albany County Hockey Training Facility. The Blue Streaks will need to contain senior forward Sean Glennon, who comes into the game leading CBA with eight goals and six assists, in the late Valentine’s Day game, scheduled for 9:15 p.m.
“We’re playing that game like any other,” Torres said. “We want to go into the playoffs on a winning note. We want to continue this winning streak all the way to Union College.”
Last Saturday, CBA lost a one-goal game, 4-3, to Shen.
“They don’t give up a lot of goals,” Torres said. “They’ve been winning lately; they won a couple games and gave Shen a tough game last week. Kyle Stockman (2.89 GAA)is one of the top goalies in the league. We’re looking to take it to them down there, but it’s going to be a tough battle.”
Playing tonight’s game like any other, Torres is hopeful to continue playing hot while peaking at the right time.
“I just look forward to [the postseason],” Torres said. “It’s amazing how fast the season has gone and I just hope the seniors think about it that way as well. Like I told these guys, ‘It could be over in a heartbeat.’ We want to keep going.”