It’s hard to boil down all the moments from a season that started on Thanksgiving weekend and didn’t end until March 1, but here’s my attempt. Love to know your thoughts and if I left anything out.
1. Mamaroneck wins Division I title
Alright, I was going to go from 10 to 1 but what’s the point, really? For so many reasons, the Mamaroneck-Suffern game was the top moment of the season. And notice how I didn’t title this “Suffern lost” because while Suffern’s status as the undefeated and top-ranked team certainly made this a bigger game, it wasn’t like the Mounties played poorly. The Tigers just played great. I pretty much wrote down everything already about the title game (click here), from the incredible pregame atmosphere
to the celebration afterwards
Unfortunately for the Tigers, the good feelings didn’t last long Ã¢â‚¬â€ It lost an overtime heartbreaker to Massena on Saturday. But when the season is over, Conner’s goal with 15 seconds left to win the championship is the strongest memory I’ll have.
2. Iona Prep wins championship in OT
The Iona Prep-Stepinac rivalry produced some classic games this year, starting in the regular season, when the Crusaders dealing Iona Prep its first league loss. But the playoffs was really when the matchups got intense. All three games were played in front of at least 650 people, and two went to overtime Ã¢â‚¬â€ Stepinac won 11 minutes into the extra session in Game 2
and, of course, Iona Prep won on Cody King’s breakaway in overtime of the third and final game.
My favorite stat: the teams split the season series 3-3, and total goals were 20-19 Iona.
3. Rye’s amazing turnaround
The Garnets were 2-5 on Dec. 18, with losses to Division II challengers Pelham and John Jay, no starting goalie, severe scoring problems, and the only two wins were against a Fox Lane team that wouldn’t qualify for the postseason. As late as Jan. 19, they didn’t have a winning record. And then came this:
Rye developed chemistry as the football players got back into the fold, Matt Benincasa (below) not only earned the starting job but became a real asset, the team built a lot of depth, stuck to a great defensive system and won 11 of its last 12 games, including an exciting 2-1 win at Pelham to clinch a second straight DII title.
4. Parity in Section 1
There seemed to be three tiers of teams: Suffern and Mamaroneck. Rye, Pelham, White Plains and Rye Town/Harrison. And then everyone else. The first round of the playoffs saw League 4 Sleepy Hollow/Irvington (below) beat League 1 Clarkstown North, and a pair of League 3 teams win (North Rockland, above beating Mount Pleasant, and E/T/B), while League 4 New Rochelle lost 7-6 to League 2 White Plains.
It made for a very exciting regular season as well, with very competitive games in League 2 (outside of White Plains), pretty much every game in League 3 and the top half of League 4.
5. Suffern’s undefeated regular season
For three months, the biggest question was whether anyone would be able to beat Suffern. Rye came the closest, skating to a 2-2 tie at Sport-O-Rama on Jan. 11. But teams like Monroe-Woodbury (4-1), Iona Prep (5-2) and White Plains (6-1) didn’t have as much luck, not to mention Mamaroneck, Pelham, and six upstate teams. In fact, only one team was able to score as many as three goals against Suffern goalie Tom Natoli (below) — Mamaroneck’s Brian Conner had a hat trick by himself in the Tigers 5-3 loss.
But it wasn’t just an all-state goalie. It was four great defenseman and three forwards that put up at least 62 points, led by first-team center Zach Salt.
6. White Plains breaks through
With a school-record 23 wins, an outright league title for the first time since 1977, the top two scorers in the section (Phil Sigona and Rui Encarnacao, above) and one of the best nicknames (“Stonewall Jackson” for goalie Mike Cambareri, below), not to mention the fact that all 20 skaters recorded a point, White Plains had the best season outside of the teams that made the sectional finals.
7. Rye Town/Harrison rises up
Eastchester/Tuckahoe/Bronxville deserves credit for going from League 5 to the runner-up in League 3, but no team made a bigger leap than Rye Town/Harrison, who finished in fourth place in its first year in the power league. One of the top forward lines in the section with Blind Brook students Brett Novick, Adam Urban and Cody McKinney — who can forget their seven-goal game against Rye, capped by Novick’s OT winner (below) — four-year starting goalie Sean McKinney and senior defenseman Kyle Kegan, the Titans showed the way for teams hoping to make it from the lower leagues to the top.
8. Pelham stays strong
After a 9-14 season that ended with a shocking quarterfinal loss, and only two seniors on the roster, the Pelicans could have been one of those teams in rebuilding mode this year, like Mahopac or North. But the Pelicans finished a strong third in League 1 and made it back to the sectional final for the 17th time in 22 years. If all (or even most) of their players return, Pelham will be back in the role of favorite next season.
9. Other amazing comebacks
Rye wasn’t the only team to turn its season around. Ossining (above), who graduated 14 players last season, was 3-8 but finished the regular season with 10 wins in their last 11 games to make the playoffs. And Fordham Prep, behind two freshman goalies, started 3-6-1 before winning eight straight, including the Scarsdale tournament, to solidify its spot in the CHSHL tournament. Below is the Rams’ Chuck MacKenzie, who wins the very unofficial “most ice time” award.
10. Playoff excitement
All three area championship games were decided by one goal, one in OT and one with 15 seconds left in regulation — in front of a combined 2,500 people, with two games having to turn people away in the first period. Mamaroneck lost its state quarterfinal game in OT. Yorktown and Brewster played a double-OT thriller in the quarterfinals. Four of the seven first-round games were won by the lower seed. There’s nothing better than playoff hockey, and this season showed us why.