SLP boys hockey split games over the weekend

Saranac Lake Placid’s Bailey Bartholomew looks to make a play on the puck during Friday’s game against Niskayuna. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

SARANAC LAKE — On the opening weekend of the season, the Saranac Lake Placid boys hockey team managed to split both of its games in the Casey McHugh Memorial Showcase this weekend.

The showcase is typically played as a tournament, but due to COVID-19 concerns, the tournament was replaced as a showcase in which the SLP boys were able to face off against two non-league teams from the Capital Region.

Playing at the Saranac Lake Civic Center, the team defeated the Niskayuna Mohawks 4-1 on Friday while falling to the Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa Spartans 3-2 on Saturday.

“I thought overall it was a really good weekend. You never know how these opening weekends are gonna go and I thought we learned about ourselves,” SLP head coach Brennen McHugh said. “It was a good place to start and build from there.”

For McHugh, Friday’s victory was the first of his career as the head coach of the SLP team. He earned the victory in the showcase that honored his late brother.

Saranac Lake Placid’s Evan Willett, left, celebrates with his teammates Ryan Gallagher and Foster Wood after scoring his first career varsity goal on Saturday against Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa at the Saranac Lake Civic Center. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

On Friday, SLP got things rolling early when Kaden Darrah found the back of the net within the first five minutes of play. Darrah’s goal — the first of his varsity career — came on the power play and was assisted by Hugo Hobson.

With early momentum, the SLP boys finished off the first period by outshooting the Mohawks 13-7. The momentum stayed with the team into the second period. SLP’s Hobson and Bailey Bartholomew both scored to make the game 3-0.

SLP scored once again at the start of the third period when Noah Munn found the back of the net off of assists from Evan Willett and Bartholomew.

With around five minutes left in the game, the Mohawks got their first goal when forward Andrew Velasco shot the puck right past SLP’s goaltender Brayden Munn to make the game 4-1.

The score would not change, giving SLP its first win of the season. The team outshot the Mohawks 31-18 in its dominant performance.

Kellan Duffy, of Saranac Lake Placid, skates down the ice with the puck during Friday’s game against Niskayuna. (Enterprise photo — Parker O’Brien)

However, the momentum from Friday’s win did not carry over into Saturday’s game against the Spartans.

After a first period in which the SLP squad was outshot 11-4, the team was lucky to have given up just one goal. The Spartan’s goal was scored at 14:48 into the opening period by Bernie Townsend.

SLP’s Brayden Munn was the team’s silver lining in the team’s lackluster first period. Munn, who recorded 17 saves in Friday’s win, finished the game Saturday with 25 saves.

At the start of the second period, SLP’s Willett took matters into his own hands when he wrapped around the net and scored to even up the game. Willett’s goal was the first of his varsity career.

Any bit of momentum SLP had was short-lived. BHBS responded by scoring two straight goals. The Spartan’s Thomas Pustolka and Jack Scalise were both credited with unassisted goals to close out the third period with a two-goal lead.

“Our message to these guys was it’s very hard to win hockey games and that’s three periods,” McHugh said. “You look around at scores every night it’s three-two, four-three, they’re tight games. If you take a period or half a period off and you’re chasing the game, it’s just really, really hard. Certainly against a quality opponent like that.”

Even though the SLP squad was down, the team came into the third period hungry.

The team’s biggest momentum shifter was when the SLP squad was down a man on the penalty kill and Noah Munn managed to skate past the defenders and put the puck into the back of the net. Munn’s short-handed goal was set up off a pass from Bartholomew.

Following the goal, the team found multiple scoring opportunities and appeared to outplay the Spartans, but was not able to tie the game up and send it to overtime.

“I really think that third period was a good way to end and build off and start next week, so I’m proud of them,” McHugh said.

The SLP boys opened up their season with a 1-1 record. The team will travel to Saranac Central on Tuesday for its first league matchup at 7 p.m.


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