[All photos by www.PhotoAndGraphic.com]
SARATOGA SPRINGS — Coach David Torres has been coaching the Saratoga Springs ice hockey team for seven years now. With the league games starting this week, Torres and his guys are ready to take their solid defense to the ice.
“We’ll be very competitive in the league. We have excellent goalies and excellent defense, I think those will be our strong points this season,” Torres said.
“We’re still learning to play together. We’re still young but we have some proven leaders on the team,” he explained.
The team has 23 players total this season; three goalies, eight defensemen, and 12 forwards.
“We had a record number of kids try out for the team; it was very competitive. It’s a lot of talent coming up. I like our team, I think we’ll be very competitive in the league and hopefully we could return to sectional finals if we do all the right things during the season and if we stay healthy, we should be in the mix,” Torres said.
Ryan Jones, a senior and one of the captains, has played hockey since he was four years old and is playing on varsity for his third season and plays hockey year-round.
“Ryan’s a great leader in the locker room. He leads by example and leads by being a good influence on the younger guys on the squad,” Torres said of Jones.
Matt Shamburger, a senior and third-year varsity player, is also one of the teams’ captains.
“Being a captain is a big role on the team and I’m taking it very seriously. I’m trying to lead our team and I want to create a team where the youngest and oldest get along, no one gets excluded. I think it’s really important that everyone feels like we’re all one unit. It helps the team perform at a higher level and creates a more fun environment for everyone,” Shamburger said.
Xavier Clarke, a sophomore who has played on varsity for two years, is described by Torres as, “a great player, one of the best defensemen in the league.”
“It’s pretty fun being a captain,” Clarke said, “I’ve got a whole different role on the team now rather than just being a regular player.”
All of the captains agree, they have a young offensive line and that is looking like their biggest challenge for this season, but that’s why they have upped their intensity this year in practice.
“I love the practices. The kids come to learn every day. They’re so enthusiastic about learning, they hate to miss practice. There’s just something about our practices that’s inviting. I’m not sure what that is exactly but maybe it’s the comradery combined with the fun drills we have. They want to learn, they work hard, and at the same time they have fun,” Torres said.
“During our practices we’ve been working really hard, conditioning more than ever before. We have a young team this year so everyone is out there working as hard as they can to prove themselves and that helps the older guys too,” Shamburger explained.
Jones had nothing but praise for freshman Will Detora, who started on varsity this season.
“We had watched him at his youth hockey games, we knew he’d be good but we didn’t expect him to make this much of an impact. He’s playing on the second line for us and he has been really impressive so far,” Jones praised.
Shamburger has been impressed so far with goalie Brad Hipsley, a senior.
“Brad’s a baseball guy but he came back for one last season with us. He’s been working really hard and we’ve all been extremely surprised at how well he’s been doing. We think he’ll be a starter for us this season and we’re really happy to have him back. He’s definitely a big factor for our team,” Shamburger said.
“Playing the game you love,” Jones simplified, “nothing beats it.”