Trailing 3-0 early in the third period against the defending state champions, it would have been easy for the Bethlehem hockey team to lose heart.
Instead, the Eagles battled back and forged a 3-3 tie against Saratoga Springs in Friday’s Capital District High School Hockey League game at the Bethlehem Area YMCA.
“It was everything for us,” said Bethlehem coach Andre Rodrigue. “Coming off a not-so-pleasant performance Wednesday against LaSalle (a 6-1 loss), to come back and tie Saratoga shows us how well we can play.”
Andrew Carroll got Bethlehem (3-2-1 league, 4-5-1 overall) started with his 10th goal of the season. Mike Lemieux then scored with less than six minutes left in regulation to pull the Eagles within a goal of Saratoga (3-0-3, 6-2-3).
With less than a minute left in regulation, Rodrigue pulled goaltender Carl Cusack for an extra skater. The tactic worked, as Lemieux tallied the equalizer with 22 seconds remaining on the clock.
“We never gave up, not once,” said Rodrigue. “What we did was we stuck to our game plan and forced overtime.”
Both teams had scoring chances during the five-minute overtime period. Saratoga had one shot go off the goal post, while Blue Streaks goaltender Zack Jones made a pair of saves to keep Bethlehem off the scoreboard.
Jones stopped 27 shots for Saratoga, while Cusack made 37 saves for Bethlehem. Jake Fauler paced the Blue Streaks’ offense with a pair of goals.
Bethlehem is off until Wednesday, Jan. 22, when it hosts Niskayuna/Schenectady in a CDHSHL game. The 12-day layoff marks the Eagles’ longest layoff between games.
“Obviously it’s not ideal, but we’ll have to find a way to keep the intensity over the next 12 days,” said Rodrigue.
In the meantime, Rodrigue said he hopes the lesson his team learned against Saratoga will serve the Eagles well through the rest of the season.
“It goes to show that if you keep working hard, the sky’s the limit,” said Rodrigue. “We’ve been up and down and not very consistent game in and game out. This gives us the confidence that we can play with the best in the state.”