SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. -- The Shenendehowa ice hockey team opened with a split of non-league contests last weekend at the annual Don Kauth Memorial Hockey Tournament hosted by Saratoga Springs, but it was eye-opening for the players and staff.

The Plainsmen dropped Mamaroneck 5-1 Friday Night at home before falling to Williamsville North Saturday afternoon, 5-2.

“I think that you want to look to see if play with and against teams that are better than us or that are older than us, that are faster than us,” Shenendehowa coach Juan de la Rocha said. “We just have to learn when it's time to take chances and when it's time not to and I thought that right now we've got a lot of kids that haven't played with varsity experience yet and they're still adapting.”

Shenendehowa’s roster includes eight seniors and juniors with 10 sophomores and four freshmen.

“We’re in the early part of the season where we're making mistakes that I would hope that we're not making in January and those mistakes are leading to opportunities for our opponents,” de la Rocha said. “We gave up some two-on-ones today that I would hope in a few weeks from now we're not giving up. Our kids are learning that, what the work ethic, the work ethic that's required and what the game requires,”

It’s often referred to as the ‘speed of the game’ increasing at each new, higher level. All athletes are asked and most required to adapt to it...quickly.

“It took a couple of days to get used to the new speed and how it's played, but I feel like you just have got to work,” Shenendehowa senior Tyler Sullivan said remembering his start to the varsity quad. “You have to know the speed of the game and how fast people are going.

“You can't reach, you’ve gotta take the extra stride, make the hit there, take a hit to make a play. It's a whole different game from travel hockey to high school and it's the transition period that we've got to get used to.”

Their coach is asking for work on the ice every shift.

“He's really working hard and he's a good role model for younger players because he never stops working,” de la Rocha said. “When you're watching him on the ice it’s just admirable the way he comes back to the bench at the end of his shift and he's exhausted.

“He's teaching a lesson to all of our younger players of what the game requires. You don't have to be as talented as Tyler to be effective, he just happens to be gifted as well.”

De la Rocha was quick to point out the effort from the weekend set.

“Marty Magaletta (freshman defender) was caught behind the net with a puck and he had a Willy North player battling him,” de la Rocha said. “He broke through their forecheck and the kid was right on Marty's tail and it took four or five hard strides to escape that pressure.

“Because of his hard work, he drew a penalty and those are the things that we're trying to reward right now and making a point to everyone else. Look what the game required out of Marty and he put the extra work in and as a team we're benefiting from a power play.”

De la Rocha has all the tools for a championship run, looking at what the Plainsmen graduated and what they have replenished the line-up with.

“We have a mix of kids that were with us on our ‘B’ squad last year that are juniors so they're a little bit older and they're a little bit stronger, but now we're asking them to take the place of Brennan Alheim, Zach Rupert, and Brendan Mcauley and all the minutes that they were taking up last year.

“They have to fill those shoes so we're, we're expecting a lot out of some of these kids and some of them are freshmen like Marty, Nate Hutchens and Nolan Sullivan, they're sophomores, and they're doing just fine. They're just there that might not be as strong, but they're putting the work in and they're gonna learn, they're gonna make mistakes and that's okay as long as they make their mistakes working hard.”

Follow Stan Hudy on Twitter @StanHudy

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