RICKY ST. CLAIR
UTICA — In the days leading up to this weekend’s final four, Beekmantown boys’ hockey coach Justin Frechette has stressed one word to his team — believe.
The third-ranked Eagles (18-3-1) challenge No. 5 Syracuse CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt in this morning’s NYSPHSAA Division II semifinal at the Utica Memorial Auditorium for 9:30 a.m.
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“We’re going down there to win two hockey games, and that’s our goal as a program,” Frechette said. “We’re not going down there for vacation, or to enjoy the experience. A big mistake people often times make is they go down there not quite sure if they can compete.
“I’m excited about the challenge. As Herb Brooks used to say, ‘Great moments are born from great opportunity.’ That’s what this weekend’s all about. It’s an opportunity, but we have to take advantage of it.”
Beekmantown received an automatic berth to the state semifinals with a 4-3 defeat of Plattsburgh High in the Section VII title game Feb. 27.
Nate Foster (28-20-48) tops the Eagles in points with 48. The junior forward has scored two or more goals in a game on eight occasions.
Brenden Carnright (12-28-40), Austin Bradish (19-21-31) and Kyle Bisonette (16-12-28) rank second through fourth in total points, respectively. The trio have accounted for over 42 percent of Beekmantown’s goal production this season.
“I think our players have done a great job of doing what we’ve asked them to do, and I think they complement each other well,” Frechette said. “We’ve got size and speed, and the kids have done a great job in the offseason program. I think we’re a well-balanced team.”
Frechette’s Eagles are backed by junior goaltender Dustin Plumadore, who recorded his Section VII record-setting seventh shutout in a 4-0 blanking of Saranac Lake Feb. 21.
“When you know you have someone like Plumadore behind you, you can play with a certain confidence,” senior captain Brett Giroux said. “You know he’s there to back you up 100 percent of the time. It allows us to do our job right without worrying that something bad is going to happen.”
The Brothers (15-8-1), who enter the weekend on an eight-game unbeaten streak, picked up their first sectional championship in 32 years with three, one-goal wins as a five seed in the Section III tournament.
Syracuse CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt kept things rolling by knocking off then-No. 1 West Seneca West one week ago at the regional championship in Amherst, 4-2.
Sophomore Ryan Durkin (23-16-39) and senior Scott Firman (14-15-29) are the team’s two most dangerous threats in the offensive zone.
Tim Decker is the Brothers primary netminder. Decker sports a .920 save percentage to go along with two shutouts. The sophomore has totaled 107 saves on 117 shots faced during four postseason games dating back to Feb. 15.
“I think when you’re in the final four — everyone has a good program,” Frechette said. “I do know that they obviously faced some adversity in their sectional championship game. I believe they were down three goals with only a couple of minutes left in the game to Oswego, and they came back and won the game.
“Again, I think that’s a team that is going to battle us for 45 minutes, and it’s going to come to the team that understands that in playoff hockey, every second matters.”
Frechette is confident his team is in a good mental state.
“We’ve had the best week of practice we’ve had all year,” Frechette said. “The kids are loose, and I think that’s important that they relax and treat it like any other week. At the end of the day, the game’s 45 minutes and it’s played on the same sheet of ice with the same number of officials, and we’re sitting here 18-3-1.”
Foster said he and his team would like to rid the underdog role and play with poise on a big stage.
“If we play our game, we feel we’re one of the best teams in the state,” Foster said. “We’re going down there to compete; we’re not going down there to just have the experience. There’s a certain buzz around and people are just as excited as we are.”
Josh Barriere, who logs a significant amount of playing time with Giroux on the blue line, said he and his teammates have received overwhelming support from the Beekmantown and Chazy Central School districts as well as the Section VII hockey community.
“From the janitors at my school to people I’ve never heard of or even talked to before have been saying, ‘Good luck,’” Barriere said. “I’ve always heard of Section VII being a weak section, but I feel we can make a statement this weekend …go down and show people that our teams aren’t anything to joke around with.”
Frechette and company will look to advance to Sunday’s championship game, which is set for 12:30 p.m.
“We have to do what got us here,” Frechette said. “We’ve just had the utmost support, and we’re looking to go down and represent our school and our community, not only with a good hockey team, but with the class that we want to represent ourselves with.”
In other semifinal action, No. 1 St. Lawrence (17-4-1) from Section X will battle Section I power and No. 2-ranked John Jay Cross River (22-1-1) at noon.
For live updates from this morning's NYSPHSAA Division II semifinal, follow @Ricky_PRSports on Twitter.