PLATTSBURGH — For the Beekmantown and Plattsburgh High boys’ hockey teams, the stakes don’t get any higher than this.
The Eagles (17-3-1) and Hornets (13-8) square off in a Section VII championship bout at 6 p.m. tonight at the Stafford Ice Arena with a NYSPHSAA semifinal berth on the line.
“A lot of coaches would like to approach it like any other game, but it’s difficult,” Plattsburgh coach Jamie Reidy said. “During our first team meeting Nov. 15, we discussed the automatic state semifinal berth. It’s a special year in that regard. It’s not often you don’t have to get through a regional game. Anything can happen, and our kids were well aware of it at the start of the season.”
Each team split the regular-season series at one game apiece. The Hornets picked up a 2-1 victory in the first matchup Dec. 19, while Beekmantown evened the score with a 4-0 blanking Feb. 11.
The top-ranked Eagles, who are sixth in the latest state rankings, are coming off a 4-0 semifinal victory over Saranac Lake last Thursday.
Nate Foster tops the section in points, totaling 47 in 21 games this season. The junior forward is currently in a tie with Lake Placid’s Eddie Kane in goal scoring at 27.
Brenden Carnright (11-26-37), Austin Bradish (18-11-29), Cole Carter (12-17-29) and Kyle Bisonette (15-12-27) have accounted for over 52 percent of Beekmantown’s total scoring.
“As a program, we’ve worked hard at creating that depth and getting younger kids into the lineup,” Beekmantown coach Justin Frechette said. “The last four years, we’ve been able to do that. This year is perfect example of getting balanced scoring. But when it comes to the playoffs, stats don’t matter. It’s a one-game scenario.”
The Eagles average an eye-popping 5.09 goals per game, while surrendering just 1.19.
Junior goaltender Dustin Plumadore has been the backbone of the Beekmantown defense.
After a 13-save performance against Saranac Lake nearly a week ago, Plumadore grabbed the Section VII record for shutouts in a single season with seven. That mark puts him in a tie for fourth all-time in the New York State High School Hockey Coaches Association record book.
“For us, it’s very important to note that (Plumadore) is the focal point of our defense as goaltenders usually are,” Frechette said. “He’s remained mentally focused with no lulls. He’s done a wonderful job this year, and nothing rattles him. It allows our team to play with confidence in the offensive end.”
No. 10 Plattsburgh High advanced to the title game with a 3-2 double-overtime defeat of Lake Placid last Friday.
Jack Tolosky, who scored the game-winning goal with 2:19 remaining in the second extra session, leads the team in goals (16), assists (23) and points (39).
Alex Maston (12-12-24), Eric Bechard (9-9-18), Andrew Bechard (8-6-14) and John Anthony Fine-Lease (4-6-10) all rank in the team’s top five point getters.
“What’s good for us at this point is we’re healthy without various injuries,” Reidy said. “Eric Bechard played a lot of the year back on defense. Now, we can add a player of his caliber up on a forward line. We’re fortunate to be healthy at this point.”
Senior Robby Knowles and freshman Giancarlo Ventre have split goaltending duties between the pipes this season.
The Hornets average 2.71 goals per game, while allowing 2.0 per contest.
Knowles ranks second behind Plumadore in the section with a .929 save percentage. Ventre has registered shutouts against Saranac and Northeastern Clinton, while sporting a .911 save percentage.
“We have been lucky in that regard,” Reidy said. “The team is confident in whichever goaltender starts. (Ventre) has certainly won us some big league games, which helped with the first-round bye, and (Knowles) has proven to be a leader. Our coaching staff has the utmost confidence in both.”
Frechette said the players featured in this game have worked their entire careers to get to this point.
“I think it’s not only great for local hockey, but for youth hockey players, too,” Frechette said. “This is why they played at 5 years old. All of the traveling and practices finally paid off. It’s a great opportunity for both teams.”
Tonight’s winner will face the Section III-VI victor in the state’s Division II semifinals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium March 9.
“It’s our hope that the kids are able to put on a good, fast-paced show that features clean hockey,” Reidy said. “For local hockey, it’s the next highly-anticipated game to Plattsburgh State-Oswego on the college level.”
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