SLP hockey teams heading into short seasons
LAKE PLACID — The spirit was upbeat late Tuesday afternoon at the Lake Placid gymnasium.
After numerous challenges, the boys on the combined Saranac Lake Placid hockey team were one day away from playing their first game.
In a pandemic altered winter season that’s planned to last just one month, SLP has had to overcome not having a home rink to practice or compete at and a pause in team training due to a positive COVID-19 test that forced players into a quarantine that ended earlier this week.
Thanks to the Tupper Lake Central School District, SLP has been fortunate to get some preseason ice time in at the Civic Center in that village, and Tuesday, the team utilized Lake Placid’s gym with a floor ball hockey session to get in the final required practice needed to be eligible to compete.
With Keith Clark behind the bench is his second year as head coach, and senior co-captains Anders Stanton and Rhett Darrah leading the way, SLP played its opening game on Wednesday against Saranac Central at the Ameri-Can North Arena in Plattsburgh. Unfortunately, SLP gave up the final two goals of the game while falling 4-2.
Since the Saranac Lake Civic Center did not open this winter and Lake Placid’s Olympic Center shut down its rinks early for a major refrigeration upgrade, SLP’s boys will be exclusively road warriors for their short season, which will hopefully include about six games.
SLP’s second and third matchups are scheduled for this weekend with a game against Northeastern Clinton Saturday at Rouses Point and a contest in Plattsburgh Sunday with the Hornets.
In addition to those opponents, SLP could also wind up facing Beekmantown depending how a tournament that is scheduled to start on March 25 unfolds.
“It’s looking good. We’re bringing just who we need and we’re planning on getting everybody playing,” said Stanton, a Lake Placid High School senior who has started in nets since eighth grade. “It is fun actually having a season this year, knowing we have games in some sort of section to play with.”
Stanton, who helped lead SLP to a Section VII title and a 15-7-1 record a year ago during the team’s first winter as a combined group, said he realized in January he might actually being playing some games in an SLP uniform in his final season of high school hockey.
“A number of us were practicing as a club throughout November, December and January,” said Stanton, who has been skating with the 46er team based in Malone. “We were practicing through the SLP organization and people were doing that on other teams, too.
“When we found out high school hockey was allowed, our coach jumped right on it and started meeting with other coaches in the area. But it’s been unpredictable right up to the moment. Last week we were in quarantine. Now we’re back and have a schedule to follow.”
An added challenge facing SLP’s boys is they will be competing against teams that have been together for over a month and are already well into their schedules.
“We have to come into these games knowing we have to put aside that our opponents have been playing for awhile,” Stanton said. “If anything, that should push us to play even harder. Let’s show them what we can do on four days of practice. But at the same time, you have to look at it normally. We’re out there, we’re playing hockey, we have to give it our all, no excuses. Wins and losses, you take them, but if we give it our all, leave it all out there, that’s a successful season in my eyes.”
“I’m excited, we’re excited,” said Darrah, Section VII“s fourth-top scorer a year ago with 21 goals and 14 assists in 21 games played. “I’m excited to have six games at least, for my senior season, me and Anders. Hopefully we’ll win some games.
“Some of these younger guys will have a chance to play. Everyone’s getting some ice time and we’ll have some fun,” Darrah continued. “We know the other teams we are playing will have more games, but we’ll just work hard. Get the puck deep, forecheck, score some goals.”
In addition to having the opportunity to compete in his last year, Stanton said the short time SLP’s players will get to be together should benefit the team in seasons to come.
“I see this as a building year, especially for the younger guys who will be coming back,” Stanton said. “Rhett are I are moving on. If we can get them working as a team, we’ll be successful. We just have to be thankful for what we have.”
“I hope we can win all six games and make a good run and maybe be champions in our tournament coming up,” Darrah added. “That would be great. Really, we’re just happy to have the opportunity to have a season.”
Girls start delayed,
While the boys were set to get their season going, SLP’s girls were dealt a setback attempting to play their first game. The team was slated to play three times this week, but a COVID-19 outbreak among the Malone and Beekmantown squads upended the schedule. On Wednesday, SLP head coach Butch Martin said a planned six-game slate has now become four, starting with a game Friday against Plattsburgh. That matchup will be the only one for the girls this week, and they are scheduled to play three more times next week with two games against Plattsburgh and one meeting with Beekmantown, which is expected to see its players released from quarantine on Tuesday, according to Martin.
Martin said he found out about Beekmantown’s situation while his team was wrapping Sunday’s practice at the Tupper Lake Civic Center. He then learned that Malone was facing the same issue on Monday.
“At this point, we’re just happy to have four games,” Martin said. “With COVID disrupting the schedule, we’re fortunate that Plattsburgh was able to get in a game with us for Friday. Our girls are taking this really well. Most of the girls have been playing on youth teams, so we’re not going in green.”
Martin said SLP has 13 skaters and a goaltender on the roster, and a big focus has been honoring the team’s two seniors, Rylee Preston and Whitney Battistoni.
“It’s their last year and we’re just happy they can play,” Martin said. “I think we’re all excited to play. When we get on that bus, it’s all about having fun.”