Something special is brewing in Bethlehem.
The Bethlehem hockey team has been running roughshod over the Capital District High School Hockey League. The Eagles have outscored their opponents 62-17 on their way to an 8-1 start under first-year coach Andre Rodrigue.
I knew the talent was there. It was just a matter of getting them to believe in themselves and believe in my offensive system, said Rodrigue.
What separates Bethlehem from the rest of the league is that it has two forward lines that can score goals and a strong goaltender in Alex Cooper that allows the Eagles to take chances on offense.
"Coop's easily one of the top two goalies in the area," said Rodrigue. "You can talk about win-loss record [6-1] and goals against average [1.53] all you want, but when push comes to shove, Coop's stopped 94 percent of the shots that he's faced this season."
Cooper had one of his best performances last Tuesday when Bethlehem downed defending Section II Division I champion Shaker/Colonie 5-1. The senior netminder stopped 27 of the 28 shots he faced against one of the highest-scoring teams in the CDHSHL.
"Playing physical and focusing on the defensive side of the puck was the key to that victory," said Rodrigue. "[Shaker/Colonie's] top line has three of the top five goal scorers in the league, and to hold them to one goal is a tribute to our defense and Coop."
Bethlehem's top forward line is potent in its own right. Seniors Stephen Russo, Erik Halek and Kyle Barach have combined for 30 goals and 32 assists in the first nine games, with Russo (12 goals, 15 assists) leading the way.
"He's an unselfish player, he works hard and he puts the team ahead of himself," Rodrigue said of Russo. "He never takes a shift off, and that spreads like wildfire because the others see that and want to work hard."