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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, December 31, 2009

Tempers flair in Wooden Skate rivalry between Dutchmen and Eagles

By Jordan J. Michael

DELMAR –– A hockey game with a lopsided score can be just as entertaining as one with a close score. Guilderland and Bethlehem provided evidence of that on Saturday night.

The Dutchmen and the Eagles were not spreading any holiday cheer on the ice the day after Christmas at the Bethlehem YMCA during the annual Wooden Skate Game between the two cross-town rivals. Bethlehem won the game, 7-1, but not before a handful of penalties and jarring between the two clubs.

It marked the Eagles’ first win in the Wooden Skate Game since its inception in 2003. Guilderland and Bethlehem only play once a year because the two Capital District High School Hockey League teams are in different divisions.

“We’ve had our way in this series until now,” said Dutch Head Coach John DeRubertis after the game. “Bethlehem is clearly the better team this time around. They’ve got some snipers. We’re a hard-working team, but not very deep at scoring.”

The low numbers in scoring for Guilderland have put added pressure on its goaltenders –– juniors Mike Alsante and Dan Golderman, and sophomore Nigel Simmons. The Dutchmen have scored 16 goals so far this season and have given up 40.

“All three guys have been fighting for the top spot in net,” DeRubertis said on Tuesday. Simmons started on Saturday and had 15 saves before being replaced by Alsante in the second period after the Eagles scored its fourth goal.

Simmons and Golderman are spending their third year on the team and Simmons is in his second season. “Golderman has played a significant role in the success of the other two,” said DeRubertis. “I’m looking for one of them to steal the position because we need our goalie to come up big and win games for us.”

Uneven affair

Bethlehem came into Saturday’s home game in first place in Division II and had no troubles finding the net. The team has scored 49 goals this season, while only allowing 13 against.

Three minutes hadn’t gone by in the first period and the Eagles already had a 1-to-0 lead. Kyle Barach was awarded a penalty shot after Guilderland’s Gary Waters hooked him on a breakaway attempt. Barach easily put the free scoring chance away past Simmons.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a penalty shot awarded that early in a game,” said Guilderland senior captain Anthony Liguori after the game. “We thought it was a good defensive play by Waters, but the refs thought otherwise. I think that got to our heads pretty bad.”

Josh Evans ripped a slap shot from the blue line and Liguori got his stick on it for a solid deflection, but the puck went just wide of Bethlehem net minder Alex Cooper. Minutes later, Eagle forward Eric Halek clanked the post with a shot.

Cooper made key saves in the first period, stopping quality chances by Nate Weinberg and Robby King. Cooper finished with 21 saves. “Cooper looked pretty good, but we should have been able to score,” DeRubertis said.

With 1:48 remaining in the first period, Halek sliced into the defensive zone of the Dutch and fired a slap shot past Simmons for a 2-to-0 advantage. The Bethlehem fans were elated.

“Being down by two goals after the first period is real trouble,” said DeRubertis.

The momentum stayed with the Eagles in the second period and the lead increased to three when Stephen Russo scored on a one-timer from Barach. Russo returned the favor to Barach four minutes later when he fed Barach a one-timer for another goal, 4-0.

Cooper came up huge again when Ryan Ghizzoni beat the defense and went to goal. The Dutch were outmatched and couldn’t keep possession of the puck. Simmons was pulled and Alsante came in with 5:42 left in the second period.

Waters and Sam Vincent both received penalties for roughing after the whistle and the frustration was building for Guilderland. The Eagles added a last-minute goal like it did in the first period when Barach picked up a loose puck off a face-off to Alsante’s left and fired it top shelf.

The score was now out of hand, 5-0, and Conor Hurley of Guilderland got called for roughing as the second period ended. “An uneven score leads to frustration at any level,” DeRubertis said.

The Skating Dutchmen were playing for nothing but pride in the third and final period, and the team got a goal from Ghizzoni off an assist from Casey Trejo. “My kids responded and went real hard in the third,” said DeRubertis. “Our issue is putting three periods together.”

Emotions boiled over with 4:33 left in regulation play. Waters crushed Barach into the end boards and the vicious hit sent the crowd into a frenzy. The players got into a shoving match as Barach lay on the ice in pain. Waters was thrown out of the game and the ensuing power play led to two more Bethlehem goals.

“The nature of the game is to be rough and penalties happen,” DeRubertis said. “I think the ref was obligated to make the call even though the hit looked a lot worse than it actually was. Tempers are always flying around on the ice.”

Guilderland is 1-4 in Division I and 2-6 overall as the team tries to find offensive scoring to build on as the season moves forward. The Dutch are searching for consistency, and history shows that the team usually peaks towards the end of the year.

“We always seem to be better at the end because the season is a work in progress,” said DeRubertis. “In the past, our strong finishes have helped us in the playoffs. Hopefully, that trend will continue.”

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