PLATTSBURGH — To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.
That’s the approach the No. 4 Beekmantown boys’ hockey team will have when it travels to the Brewster Ice Arena today.
The Eagles (17-4-1) will challenge top-ranked Pelham of Section I in the NYSPHSAA Division II quarterfinals. The puck is scheduled to drop at 3:15 p.m.
“You know, rankings are rankings,” Beekmantown coach Justin Frechette said. “Those are things that people put together on paper. The game’s played on the ice.
“I think we’re going to lean on our experience like we did in the Lake Placid game and understand that this game’s going to be 45 minutes. The key to any championship hockey game is understanding every second of the hockey game matters.”
The Pelicans (19-3-1) reached the state quarterfinals by virtue of a 5-3 win over 10th-seeded Rye in the Section I championship Sunday. Coach Ed Witz’s team owns a well-balanced attack with four players in double-digit scoring.
Scoring all of 125 goals this season, Pelham is led by Andrew Schauer (24-31-55), Will Cullen (27-27-54), Hogan Peters (18-21-39) and Ben Hurd (15-17-32). Cullen was named the section’s Division II Player of the Year.
Brandon Buksa, a senior forward for the Eagles, is excited for the opportunity to matchup against the Pelicans’ offensive prowess.
“We’ve got to track pucks, make sure we can do as much as we can to block shots and really not bite on too many things,” Buksa said. “We’ve just got to go and play our game and play good D-zone.”
Frechette said his group always talks a lot about team defense. His squad is surrendering just 1.81 goals-per game through 22 outings.
“We pride ourselves on playing a good team defensive game,” Frechette said. “That’s going to include backchecking, that’s going to include blocking shots. Everything we have to do to sacrifice to keep pucks out of our net our kids are willing to do. This time of year, you’ve got to be willing to do the extra because it’s a one-game series. We understand that.”
According to the Section I hockey website, goaltenders A.J. Gugliara (524:50) and Matt DeYoung (521:00) have each split between the pipes. Gugliara sports an 86.6 save percentage to go along with a 2.83 goals-against average, while DeYoung has stopped 84.5 percent of his shots faced, totaling a 2.50 goals-against average.
“We’ve got to get pucks on net, definitely get people in front and screen the goalie,” Buksa said. “Play our small game down low and do all the little things right like keeping our sticks down in the slot. Stuff like that.”
After falling behind 2-0, Beekmantown scored five unanswered goals to upend No. 3 Lake Placid for its second consecutive Section VII title at the Stafford Ice Arena Tuesday.
The Eagles, though, know a two-goal deficit at this stage of the game could prove costly.
“We’ve got to come out flying,” Beekmantown senior forward Kyle Bisonette said. “We can’t sit back. I mean, I feel like we did that against Lake Placid. They popped two on us quick, and we fell behind. We’ve got to be on them forechecking and just do our job.”
Offensively, the Eagles are led by Nate Foster (37-16-53), Kyle Constanty (20-19-39), Bisonette (14-14-28), Josh Barriere (9-17-26) and Buksa (7-12-19).
Dustin Plumadore, a senior goaltender, owns a 90.6 save percentage on 328 saves and 3.5 shutouts.
Each of those six players saw time in Beekmantown’s 4-3 overtime loss to Syracuse CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt in the NYSPHSAA semifinals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium a year ago
“Last year, we didn’t have as much experience,” Foster said. “We played a little timid at the beginning of our final four game. After (Austin) Bradish laid a pretty big hit, I think we settled in. I think we’ve got guys who are experienced now and some young guys that are just as good and ready to step up.”
Frechette is hoping to utilize that experience with a state semifinal bid on the line.
“It allows you experience in life to understand that it is a 45-minute game, and I know that’s something that coaches talk about a lot,” Frechette said. “But I think when you go through it and experience it; it starts to make a little more sense to you.
“The game slows down. The kids understand that the game’s going to be played on the ice, not in the crowd, not in the state rankings, not in a newspaper, not on Twitter. It’s going to be from goal line to goal line. I know the intensity level and the execution will be there. I just hope we get some bounces along the way, and I’m real excited about the opportunity.”
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