Niskayuna/Schenectady skates its way to finals

First period deficits. Spectacular comebacks. Great goaltending from a converted defenseman. Two overtime wins.

This is the playoff rEsumE of the Niskayuna/Schenectady hockey team a last-place squad on the cusp of winning the Section II, Division I title.

The seventh-seeded Mohawks (9-15-2) edged No. 3 Christian Brothers Academy 5-4 in triple overtime last Wednesday and defeated No. 2 Saratoga Springs 2-1 in last Saturday's semifinal to set up a Sectional final meeting with regular season champion Shaker/Colonie Thursday at Union College.

In all my years of coaching, I've never seen anything like it," said Niskayuna/Schenectady coach Todd Templeton. "We had some close losses, so I don't think our team was as poor as our record indicated. We were certainly capable of doing this."

Two players in particular have been stepping up for the Mohawks during their playoff run " senior forward Mike Tenenboym and senior goaltender Ben Phillips, who switched from defense to goaltender at the start of the season on Templeton's request. Tenenboym scored both of his team's overtime goals in the playoffs, while Phillips made save after save to put the Mohawks in a position to win.

"He's been seeing a lot of shots (in the playoffs), and he's played well when he's needed to," Templeton said of Phillips, who stopped the final 25 shots he faced against Saratoga after allowing the first shot to go by him. "He's had a little luck along the way " a couple of Saratoga's shots hit off the post " but he's come up big when we've needed him to."

Phillips' standout play in goal has been the catalyst for Niskayuna/Schenectady's comebacks. The Mohawks dug themselves out of a 4-0 first-period deficit to defeat CBA in the quarterfinals with Phillips stopping 39 shots along the way, and they gathered themselves after allowing a goal less than a minute into Saturday's semifinal to shut down Saratoga.

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