For the first time in his coaching tenure, Andre Rodrigue missed a Bethlehem hockey game.
Slammed by a stomach bug, Rodrigue stayed home while the Eagles lost to Section 4 power Ithaca 6-4 on the final day of the two-day Shaker/Colonie Thanksgiving Tournament Saturday, Nov. 29, at the Albany County Hockey Facility in Colonie.
Bethlehem (0-2-0) played well in Rodrigue’s absence. The Eagles tied the score at 4-4 early in the third period before the Little Red (2-0-0) scored the final two goals of the game.
“The first two periods, we played very well. We just got a little out of hand in the third period,” said Bethlehem assistant coach Jason Wood.
The Eagles hurt their own cause in the third period, as they took several penalties. That allowed Ithaca to dictate the flow of the game.
“It’s very hard to keep up the pressure when you’re playing a man down almost constantly,” said Wood.
Senior forward Owen Talmage scored two goals, and senior forward Nicholas Breiner added a goal and three assists to lead Bethlehem’s offense. Goaltender Carl Cusack made 46 saves.
Bethlehem began the tournament with a 3-0 loss to Section 1 power Mamaroneck Friday, Nov. 28, at the Albany County Hockey Facility. Cusack was solid between the posts for the Eagles as he stopped 29 shots, but Mamaroneck goalie Tom Spero was better as he earned the first of his two shutouts for the Tigers. Spero stymied Shaker/Colonie 5-0 in Saturday’s second game to earn the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award.
Rodrigue – who was on the bench for Friday’s season opener – said he was impressed with how Bethlehem played in the tournament.
“We were in both games in the third period before we let them slip away,” said Rodrigue.
The goal for Bethlehem now is to improve on its efforts. The Eagles have two more non-league games before their Capital District High School Hockey League opener Wednesday, Dec. 10, against Glens Falls/Hudson Falls/South Glens Falls – home dates against Section 7’s Beekmantown Friday, Dec. 5, and Saranac Saturday, Dec. 6, at the Bethlehem Area YMCA.
“Even though we have a lot of young kids – 10th and 11th graders – I think we’ve matured a lot,” said Rodrigue. “That’s why I scheduled non-league games against tough teams.”
Rodrigue said he believes Bethlehem should be a contender in the CDHSHL this season after falling to the lower half of the league standings in 2013-14.
“I think Saratoga is the team to beat, and Niskayuna/Schenectady is going to be very tough again. They returned 12 seniors,” said Rodrigue. “We had good games against Saratoga and (defending Section 2 champion) Shen at the (preseason) jamboree this year, so I think we’ll be up there.”
Bethlehem’s defense has already proven itself to be strong with Cusack tending goal and a veteran group of defensemen. So, it’s up to the offense to do its part. To that end, Rodrigue decided to move Brenier up from the blue line to help create more scoring opportunities.
“We needed some experience up front, so I decided to cut him loose,” said Rodrigue.
Besides Brenier and Talmage, the Eagles will be looking to younger forwards such as sophomores Brian Harder, Michael Lemieux and Zachary Nunez to contribute to the offense.
“We have a good core of forwards,” said Rodrigue.
Associate editor/sports editor