It looked like a lot had changed since the sectional final last year, when No. 2 Rye defeated No. 1 Pelham 2-1 at the Ice Hutch to win its second straight Division II title.
Pelham, which lost just three players on that team and gained a quality goaltender, won 9 of its first 12 games (including four in a row), while Rye had lost 6 of its first 9 games (including four in a row) as it worked on finding the right combinations.
But last night, the most important thing stayed the same — Rye came in as the underdog and won 2-1. Again.
The particulars were spelled out in my game story, which can be found here (Rye holds off Pelham). Though only one team was happy with the result, both teams have reasons to be encouraged.
Rye shook off a long layoff (2 1/2 weeks) and jumped on Pelham early, which allowed it to play a defensive-minded system the rest of the game (including a two-shot second period). The Garnets were disciplined, stayed in position, got the puck deep, forechecked properly, the forwards always got back and helped out — they really played their system perfectly. And Matt Benincasa was great.
Pelham lost, but it’s not like they were totally outplayed. It has to look at how many quality scoring chances it created — starting with a 2-on-0 breakaway 30 seconds into the game — and look at the goals it allowed — a deflection off a Pelham player and a wrist shot from the blue line — and know that the game could have easily swung in the other direction.
Plus, in the large scheme of things, the game doesn’t count too much in the playoff picture. Both teams will still have home-ice until the finals, and I’m not even sure whether the No. 1 seed is better than the No. 2 seed. Who would you rather play in the semifinals — the John Jay/Pawling winner or the Yorktown/Brewster winner? They all seem pretty comparable to me.
Really, this was Round 1 in what will be at least a two-round, and in all likelihood a three-round fight. Rye wins this round and it earned it, but there’s much more to follow, and I’m definitely looking forward to it.
We had one other score reported to us — Mamaroneck defeated Rye Town/Harrison 14-7. Ten different players scored for the Tigers, while Adam Urban had four for the Titans. And our loyal bloggers reported that Clarkstown North put up 13 on Mount Pleasant
One note from Monday night — a belated but well-deserved congratulations to Joe Marasco, who scored his 100th goal on his 18th birthday in Somers/North Salem’s 3-0 win over Carmel. And to think it’s not even his best sport.
There’s some really good games tomorrow. Mamaroneck-Suffern obviously, but also Rye-Scarsdale and Clarkstown North-E/T/B. North’s offense has really overshadowed the defense, which is yet to give up more than three goals in a game. Is E/T/B the team that can finally keep up with the Rams offense? If you like scoring, head over to the Ice Hutch. And I’m interested to see if Rye can keep the momentum going against Scarsdale. New Rochelle-Nyack/TZ and Ossining-Harvey round out the schedule.
Unfortunately the wireless wasn’t working at the Ice Hutch last night (at least not until after the game), but it was great to come home and see so many comments. Please keep them coming.