When Guilderland began its varsity hockey program in 2001, the Dutchmen struggled through some growing pains before making a respectable run through the Capital District High School Hockey League.
The Dutchmen are faced with a similar challenge this season. Though they have 11 returning players, many of them are having to assume key roles following the graduation of a talented senior class.
I told the kids that I felt this team is similar to that first team we had, said Guilderland coach John DeRubertis. "The difference is our schedule is 10 times tougher than the one we had that first year."
Guilderland's 2-5 record is a reflection of how difficult that schedule is. The Dutchmen's five losses have come against some of the top programs in the state " Kenmore East, Kenmore West, Canton, Potsdam and Mamaroneck.
"We played four really strong teams to start, and we got beat up pretty well," said DeRubertis.
The Dutchmen have learned from their losses, though. They opened their CDHSHL season with a 3-1 victory over traditional power Saratoga Dec. 8, and they pulled out a 4-3 overtime victory over Lake Placid in Friday's opening round of the Guilderland Holiday Tournament at Union College in Schenectady.
"Those four beatings we took to start the season, the speed we saw from those teams helped us against Saratoga," said DeRubertis.
Guilderland even had a chance to beat Mamaroneck in Saturday's championship game. The Dutchmen led 2-1 with five minutes left in the second period, but a series of penalties gave the Tigers new life. Mamaroneck scored three power play goals in the final five minutes of the period to take a 4-2 lead and tallied again with the man advantage to start the third period, which effectively put Guilderland away.
"We really played well enough to beat that team. We just didn't stay focused," said DeRubertis.