TROY, NY − The La Salle Hockey team has not had quite the start to the new year that they would have liked. In their first two games of 2020, they lost to Burnt Hills 7-1 and then handed the Niskayuna/Albany/Schenectady/Amsterdam Mohawks their first win of the season 3-2.
Despite the rough start, head coach Tim Flanigan feels his group has the fortitude to bounce back.
“In this game, in any sport really, we are teaching the kids to be resilient, to keep working hard, and we have got to keep playing as hard as we can,” said Flanigan. “You try to play the game the right way and if you don’t get the result you want you have to rebound, restart, and come back another day.”
The loss to Burnt Hills was on January 4. The loss to the Mohawks was just four days later on January 8. La Salle did not play bad for long stretches in those games, but mistakes piled up which allowed opponents to pounce.
“Against Burnt Hills, we had a lapse where they scored three goals on us in two minutes, that’s something that normally doesn’t happen,” said Flanigan. “We haven’t had too much luck with bounces and getting scoring opportunities, aside from the two mistakes at the end of the game [against the Mohawks] I thought my team played well.”
Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa is currently two spots away from La Salle in the Section II standings despite a 7-2 record overall and 2-1 conference record. The Mohawks are a spot above La Salle after earning their first conference and overall win of the season.
La Salle is 1-3 in conference and 3-7 overall.
“That is one of those games we will have to rebound from, but I think the kids will and I think they will be good to go,” said Flanigan.
Last season, La Salle finished eighth in Section II with a 6-10 conference record and 8-13-1 overall record. Their leading scorer, Jack O’Bryan, finished with 30 points including 11 goals. O’Bryan is now gone, along with the second and third top scorer.
“Every year it is a different group and they are growing, sometimes it takes a little longer,” said Flanigan. “We are heading in the right direction, we will bounce back.”
“Every year it’s a different group and I think we have a really good core group of juniors and seniors.”
La Salle’s three seniors this year are Mike Baker, Spencer Carpenter, and D.J Pauley. A ten player junior class is what stands out, including goalies Leo Paul and Kyle McGee, Reid Murray, and D.J’s brother, Nic Pauley.
With back to back losses to start the new year, and just three wins this season, the question becomes why is this happening to a seemingly talented group of players with a deep junior class?
“We’ve had quite a few injuries this year, we lost our first lince center Nic Pauley the first game with a broken ankle and he’s probably going to miss maybe the whole season,” said Flanigan. “We’ve had some guys miss with some concussions that were out, Owen Scannell started the season off of knee surgery and he didn’t get cleared to play until the first week of December. We’ve had a bunch of injuries and the guys have done a good job, the guys who could play through them did.”
Owen Scannell has four points this season in seven games. Pauley had two points in his two games. Both players put points up last season, with Nic Pauley being fourth on the team with 12. A full season with both those players in the lineup makes the roster deeper and more versatile down the stretch.
“We are growing as a group. Adding those injuries into the start, it’s been a tough start,” said Flanigan. “[The injuries] also give other kids the chance to step up.”
Spencer Carpenter currently leads La Salle with ten points in ten games. Brendan Witte is not far behind with eight. This year’s La Salle team is not relying on just one player to generate a bulk of offense. It will be a team effort, with puck cycling and bodies banging out front.
Luckily, Flanigan and La Salle are known for being a tough, hard hitting, defensive team. Hard hitting may not be best way to describe them, but physical. La Salle finishes their checks, rarely reaches with their stick, and will knock bodies off of the puck if they are in the middle of the ice.
“I try to teach them that they have to play the game the right way and they have to play through the body,” said Flanigan. “A lot of them are used to just stick checking, but if you get caught fishing for the puck and you hit the man, it’s not good. It’s not about how hard you hit guys, it's about effectively checking them off the puck.”
Flanigan added that teaching checking in practice has been hard this season with the injuries and injury concerns running through the team.
La Salle has ten games still on the schedule. There’s some ground to be made up and that can be done in the new year, but it will not be easy, and Flanigan and his bunch don’t plan on looking too far ahead on the schedule.
“In all of my years, we look to the next game, the next practice,” said Flanigan. “ I have got a good group of kids, they work hard, they are trying to do what I ask them to do. I know it’s a cliche but we really just focus on one game at a time and that’s what we are doing.”