High school hockey: Salmon River faces Skaneateles in state Division II tournament semifinals
Mar. 9—FORT COVINGTON — On paper, the Salmon River Central boys hockey team has consistently been ranked number one in the New York State Sports Writers Association Division II polls.
This weekend, the Shamrocks will be out to confirm that status on the ice at HarborCenter in Buffalo at the state championships.
"We have 12 seniors on this team who have been on a pretty good run the last few years with hockey and other sports, so this is a good time to make this happen. We're ready to go," said coach Tim Cook as the Shamrocks gear up to face Section 3 champion Skaneateles in the semifinals of the state Division II tournament at 11:20 a.m. Saturday.
Salmon River enters its semifinal matchup against Skaneateles with a 21-2 record and is returning to the HarborCenter for the second time in as many weekends after claiming a dramatic 4-3 victory over Section 6 champion Starpoint in the first round of the state tournament last Saturday.
"Starpoint was every bit as good as we thought they would be but even after we were down two-nothing going into the third period, we didn't really go nuts. We just kept the kids focused and they played like they were supposed to," Cook said. "One thing this group is really good at is, they don't make the game bigger than it is."
With the win over the Spartans, the Shamrocks earned their first trip to the semifinals since 2005 when they went on to lose in the championship game for the second straight year. Salmon River is tied with Massena for the most state championships with six, including a share of the Division II title in 1989 when they battled Skaneateles to a 2-2 tie through four overtimes before being declared co-champions. The Shamrocks last won a state title in 2002.
"Going back to Buffalo is almost like a home game for us. We're going to be on pretty much the same schedule and staying in the same place. And, we won there," Cook said.
The Shamrocks have gotten outstanding leadership from the strong senior core. Evan Collette, the reigning NAC Division II regular season MVP, has generated 69 points on 37 goals and 32 assists including the game-winner on the power play with 1:25 left in regulation against Starpoint. Connor Dishaw has produced another 33 goals and 30 assists, followed by Kade Cook with 47 points on 18 goals and 29 assists, Chase Lewis with 44 points on 25 goals and 19 assists, Caiden Cartier with 41 points on seven goals and 34 assists, Luke Miller with 38 points on six goals and 32 assists and junior Carter Johnson with 34 points 20 goals and 14 assists. Senior goaltender Rick Chatland is 18-2 for the Shamrocks with a 2.47 goals-against average and .904 save percentage.
"Our guys understand that if we want to win it all, we've got to get through everybody else," Cook said. "We took the first step last week beating Starpoint now we have to get ready for another one."
The second-ranked team in the state, the Lakers stand at 20-3 and have yet to allow a goal in their three postseason games, including a 4-0 win over CBA-Jamesville-DeWitt in their sectional final, followed by another 4-0 decision over Section 5 champion Webster-Schroeder in the first round of the state playoffs last Saturday. Sophomore Henry Major is the team's leading scorer with 27 goals and 39 assists for 66 points, followed by junior Andrew Gaglione with 22 goals and 15 helpers and classmate Jack Torry with 15 goals and 18 assists. Freshman Alex Whitlock is another threat with eight goals and 18 assists, while junior defenseman Andrew Falkenburg has doled out 17 assists. Senior Chad Lowe has handled the bulk of the workload in goal, having allowed just 20 goals through the entire season. The Lakers last won the state championship in 2019 and were undefeated heading into the 2020 tournament before it was canceled due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They don't give up a lot of goals and they've got some kinds that can score," Cook said. "From what I've seen, they play a real structured style with a good forecheck and judging by the numbers, they might have the best goalie in the state."
Section 1 champion Pelham Central is scheduled to face off against Saranac Central, which gained the at-large bid from Section 7, in the other Saturday morning semifinal starting at 9 a.m. The championship game is set for 11 a.m. Sunday.