By Jordan J. Michael
SCHENECTADY –– When a situation is going poorly, you can give up and walk away, or keep fighting and try to search for answers. Falling to 0-17 after another hefty loss on Tuesday, the Guilderland-Mohonasen hockey team is facing a truckload of adversity.
The Dutch Warriors dressed only 13 skaters on Tuesday. The team has allowed 132 goals this season while scoring only 12 times. On paper, Guilderland-Mohonasen is by far the worst team in the Capital District High School Hockey League.
On ice, the Dutch Warriors are still in the pits, but the players and Head Coach Ed Koivula say that the team isn’t going to fold like a chair. Guilderland-Monhonasen has two more chances to try and scratch out a victory.
“Do you get into the fetal position and just lay down and die?” exclaimed Koivula after an 11-to-1 shellacking at the hands of Niskayuna-Schenectady at Union College. It was the second 11-to-1 defeat to the Mohawks this year. “Or, do you fight back and keep going and try to see positives?” he asked.
Captain Tyler Phillips more or less answered his coach, saying that the Dutch Warriors would try to finish the season strong.
“We got to get a win,” said sophomore Nolan Renna. “We have to give it our all.”
Seniors Tom Carrigan (three goals, three assists) and Matt DiVietro (three goals, five assists) combined for 14 points for the Mohawks on Tuesday. There wasn’t much hope for Guilderland-Mohonasen after the first period.
The Dutch Warriors continued to skate, but some of the players’ heads were down. At this point, losing has gotten old.
“The chances of us winning are slim, but I always like to finish off a game to get my full ice time in,” Phillips said, his hair soaked from sweat. “I know I would regret it later if I didn’t finish the game.”
During a contest at Plattsburgh on Jan. 4, Guilderland-Mohonasen skated off the ice with seven minutes remaining in regulation play, but it was because of a hostile environment, not due to the score. “There was a lack of safety,” Koivula said. “Things were getting out of control.”
The Dutch Warriors have lost by scores of 13 to 1, 12 to 0, and 10 to 0. How bad do these scores hurt?
“In the third period, when we’re down by so much,” senior Will Wilson said, “it’s just…how are we ever going to get that back?”
Koivula is new to Guilderland-Mohonasen this season. He remembers being an assistant coach for Shaker-Colonie when the team lost its first 50 games. Guilderland formed a hockey team in 2001 before joining forces with Mohonasen a few years ago.
The Dutch Warriors aren’t a new team, but every game this season has felt like a fresh start.
“We really don’t have a lot to work with here,” Renna said. “We try to make the best of what we’ve got and go out there as hard as we can.”
Wilson slouched against the wall of the hallway after the game. His face and quiet tone expressed the agony of losing.
“It just lets you down when you see how much you’re losing by,” Wilson said.
Phillips said that Guilderland-Mohonasen still has fun, but getting beaten by such wide margins does put a damper on the activities. Phillips, Renna, and Wilson smiled not once.
“The games are probably the least fun part,” said Phillips. “I think the future will be brighter.”
Guilderland-Mohonasen’s low roster numbers are a huge concern. Most teams have at least 20 skaters, but hockey talent is tough to find in the area because most top players join elite club teams.
Niskayuna-Schenectady was very quick with good skills and a deep rotation. The team is 5-10-1, but Koivula said the Mohawks’ record isn’t indicative of how the team plays.
Phillips said that Guilderland-Mohonasen conditions real hard, but 13 skaters just aren’t enough.
“It’s not that one of our players doesn’t want to hustle to the corner,” said Koivula. “He’s tired. Everyone is tired. Opponents see that and dump the puck down in our zone. They make us chase all day.”
The Dutch Warriors have been learning Koivula’s forecheck system. In hockey, a forecheck is a defensive play made in the offensive zone to apply pressure on the opposing team’s puck mover, forcing a turnover. In Koivula’s system, the first guy will ankle a player and force him to one side while another player steps up and locks him down. It’s a left or right wing lock system.
“We don’t have much team speed, so it’s hard to get in on the forecheck,” said Koivula. “Most of the time, we’re just backing up.”
On Tuesday, Guilderland-Mohonasen struggled with Niskayuna-Schenectady’s team speed. The Dutch Warriors didn’t take care of business in the corners, didn’t win battles, and were slower to the puck.
“We need to start approaching games like we want to win them,” Renna said. “We have to play with heart. We can’t just come out and let them score four goals in the first period.”
With just two regular-season games remaining and one playoff game upcoming against the seventh seed, it might be too late to make significant changes. Guilderland-Mohonasen will look forward to next season while trying to find more hockey players.
“It’s disappointing, especially when we know we have a chance if we play our best,” Phillips said. “We can compete with these teams, but it’s hard with our low numbers.”
Guilderland-Mohonasen is the least-skilled team in the league. The situation might be different if the team had depth or more talent. Simply, there isn’t much to go around.
“It’s frustrating because we can play with these teams, but we come out and get embarrassed,” said Renna. “We mess it up. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be playing better.”
One look at the lopsided scoreboard, and the skaters’ heads turn down towards the ice.