GLENS FALLS — Each time Queensbury was posed with a problem Thursday night, the Spartans came up with the answer.
More often than not, the answer was Owen Smith.
Smith racked up a whopping 37 saves as he earned the shutout in Queensbury’s 5-0 Division II championship victory over the Tri-Falls Rivermen in the Section II Ice Hockey Tournament at the Civic Center.
It was the Spartans’ 11th consecutive Section II title, and their first on the ice since 2013. Queensbury was the only Division II team in the section for the last three years, so it did not have a playoff before states in that span.
“It’s great, I can’t even describe the feeling,” said Smith, a sophomore. “This year, people were saying that we weren’t going to be as good as we thought we were going to be. But these last couple of months, we’ve gotten a shutout in our Pink game, we won our senior night, we won the Stick Game and now we won the Section II championship.”
“It’s nice, we did it seven times, and then we’ve been kind of gifted the last three years, so it was nice to make it a legitimate win in a playoff situation,” said Queensbury head coach Dean Williams, whose team improved to 7-11-3 overall.
It was also a completely different contest from the Feb. 1 Stick Game, which Queensbury won in a shootout over the Rivermen after rallying to tie 5-5 in regulation.
“To come out on top in both the Stick Game and the sectional final game is truly amazing — it’s a dream come true,” said junior forward Austin Gordon, who scored two goals and assisted on another.
“We moved our feet from the beginning, we had no bad periods this game,” senior forward Ryan Mosher said. “This time, we were on the gas the whole time, and we just didn’t give them a chance to get back in this game.”
Gabe Smith, Jack Merkosky and Mosher also scored for the Spartans, who play the Section I champion on the road next week, at a site and day to be determined.
The Spartans solved most of the problems posed by the Rivermen (6-14-1) by defusing the high-powered tandem of juniors Jared Thomas and Jordan Willis, who combined for 56 of Tri-Falls’ 83 goals this season.
“We had a new setup all-around — we had a new forecheck, we had a new power play. We had me and a kid who was on second line, Gabe Smith, on Jared Thomas and locked him down,” Gordon said. “We figured if Jared didn’t score any points, they couldn’t win.”
“We have to respect their top two guys,” Williams said. “We wanted to make sure they didn’t get as many looks as they’re used to, and take advantage when they’re off the ice. I think we did a good job of that.”
And then there was Owen Smith, the wall that Tri-Falls could not pierce. He halted Thomas one-on-one on a breakaway midway through the second period. He stuffed point-blank shots in front. He preserved his shutout late in the game by robbing the Rivermen on a power play.
“Honestly, I just tried to lock down on a few specific players, make sure my angles were good. ... it was all of the little things that when you add them all together, you’ll have a good game,” Owen Smith said.
“Owen came to play — when the game plan broke down a little bit, he backstopped it at the other and made some unbelievable saves,” Williams said.
“We didn’t bury our chances, and they seemed to score on all of their chances,” Rivermen coach Mike Di Fiore said. “Things just didn’t fall, and it happens sometimes. Both teams create their own luck, and we didn’t have much puck luck today.”
Division II Championship
Tri-Falls Rivermen 0 0 0 — 0
Queensbury 2 2 1 — 5
First period: 1, Queensbury, Austin Gordon, 10:58. 2, Queensbury, Gabe Smith (Liam Smith, Brendan Murphy), 12:54.
Second period: 3, Queensbury, Austin Gordon (Jack Merkosky, Patrick Williams), 5:08. 4, Queensbury, Jack Merkosky (Ryan Mosher, Tyler Vogel), 9:48.
Third period: 5, Queensbury, Ryan Mosher (Austin Gordon), 4:55.
Goalies-saves: Owen Smith (Qbury) 37. Brendan Meehan (TF) 27. Haylee Lefebvre (TF) 6.
Records: Tri-Falls Rivermen (6-14-1), Queensbury (7-11-3).