The Shenendehowa hockey team is in the middle of a prolonged penalty kill not of its choosing.
Twelve players were suspended after they were allegedly caught smoking marijuana during the Plainsmen's trip to the SUNY Morrisville Tournament Dec. 29 and 30. The suspensions, plus injuries to two players, left Shen with 14 eligible players for its 3-2 loss to LaSalle last Saturday in Troy.
Despite being outmanned, the Plainsmen (3-7-1) have been playing some of their best hockey. Against LaSalle, Shen peppered Cadet goaltender Caleb Crowley with 17 shots in the second period, two of which went in to give the Plainsmen a 2-1 lead. Senior Kyle Hunter playing his second varsity game in goal made several key saves to keep Shen in the hunt until the end.
"I'm very proud of them," said Shen coach Juan de la Rocha. "I have no reason to hang my head. This group of kids has really made me proud."
To fill out the roster, de la Rocha called up his five practice squad players " forwards Andrew Plewinski, Anthony Barone and Zack DeRosa, and defensemen Kevin Sankel and Eric Chamberland. And though none of them factored into the scoring against LaSalle, de la Rocha was pleased with their on-ice contributions.
"They're just as much a part of our team as the others," said de la Rocha. "They practice with us every day, and they played very hard tonight."
Other young players have been stepping up for Shen lately. Sophomore forward Jason Wade scored both of the Plainsmen's goals against LaSalle, with help from fellow sophomores Michael McCarthy and T.J. Goodwin. Freshman Joey Ferraro and sophomore Tyler Ballantyne have aided Hunter on defense.
Still, the inescapable fact is that Shen will be shorthanded for the immediate future. The school district was expected to hand out its official suspensions to the 12 players Tuesday. According to the district's athletic code of conduct, players who use drugs or alcohol are subject to a five-game suspension for a first offense.
"My No. 1 concern right now is trying to get these kids ready for Sectionals " if we make Sectionals," said de la Rocha.
Shen was scheduled to return to action Wednesday with a Capital District High School Hockey League game at Glens Falls. The Plainsmen visit Niskayuna/Schenectady Friday before hosting Burnt Hills/Scotia-Glenville Wednesday, Jan. 14.""