Ice Hockey

Sheehan Comes Up Big As Vikings Win Opening National Championship Game

CONTACT: Jeff Foley (518) 629-8085 or (518) 373-1262
FOR RELEASE: Immediate, Saturday, March 10, 2001

Albany Academy Grad Makes 48 Saves To Lead Hudson Valley To 5-2 Win

Bottineau, N.D. – It took the Vikings all of 20 minutes to familiarize themselves with the Lumberdome of Bottineau, N.D. Hudson Valley Community College's hockey team, in North Dakota to battle Minot State University-Bottineau for the junior college national title, came on strong after a shaky first period to silence a pro-Bottineau crowd and skate away with convincing a 5-2 victory.

The championship tournament, featuring just Hudson Valley and Bottineau, is a two-game series with a 20-minute mini game following the second game if the squads happen to be tied at one win apiece. Game two will be played at 7 p.m. Sunday.

In the opening period, Hudson Valley tried to slug it out with a Paul Bunyon-sized Bottineau squad and paid a price. At the end of the period, Bottineau led 1-0 and held a 15-9 shots-on-goal advantage. Only a phenomenal effort by freshman goaltender B.J. Sheehan (Albany Academy) kept it a one-goal game.

"Bottineau's too big for us to get into a pushing-and-shoving match with," said Ron Kuhl, Hudson Valley's head coach. "Fortunately, B.J. showed that he's a big-game player."

The Vikings played their style – a speedy run-and-gun game – from the outset of the second period, though. And it paid huge dividends.

Looking a step quicker than the bulky Lumberjacks, Hudson Valley notched three goals in the second 20 minutes. Adam Finkin (Saratoga), Jim Sturges (East Hampton, MA) and Chris Paine (Saratoga) all found the back of the net from close proximity.

Sturges scored the go-ahead goal at 11:52, gathering the puck at mid-ice and juking out three defenders before beating Bottineau's Charles Sterling from point-blank range with some nifty stick handling. Sturges fired once and then collected the rebound, poking it home.

"I just wanted to get to the net and at least get off a shot," Sturges said. "We knew we were down a goal at the end of the first period, and we knew we had to step it up. So we came out flying."

Paine's unassisted score came off the ensuing face-off, just 10 seconds later. Aaron Chandler (Ithaca) and Dean Vandervort (Jacobstown, NJ) added third-period scores.

Sheehan, meanwhile, made the Hudson Valley goals stand up. The Schenectady native endured seven minutes with a one- or two-man Hudson Valley disadvantage in the second period, blanking Bottineau with 12 saves during that stretch. Sprawling and diving, he batted aside 20 shots in the second period alone.

"The puck looked like a huge beach ball," said Sheehan after the game, grinning from ear to ear. "I focused real well. I saw everything. And the defensemen played incredible in front of me."

Playing in a rowdy packed house – there were about 1,000 Bottineau supporters; roughly 30 Hudson Valley fans made the trek to North Dakota – Hudson Valley's speed clearly frustrated Bottineau's players and patrons. After Finkin's goal at 13:32 in the second period – a wrister from six feet out – the crowd had to be warned to stop throwing things onto the ice.

"You know what?" Kuhl said. "They were bigger, and maybe stronger, but this group is truly a team. This is what happens when you put 18 guys together that play with passion. You win."