LARCHMONT - The goals were coming so easily in the opening weeks of the season, Pelham clearly lost a desire to stand out defensively. And when this identity crisis resulted in a blowout loss to Suffern three weeks ago, the Pelicans quickly realized they had to again become a general nuisance.
It’s no longer an issue.
Pelham did not allow Mamaroneck to entertain thoughts of an upset for long, clamping down from the start and waiting for the offense to catch up in a 6-0 victory Saturday at Hommocks Park Ice Rink. The miserly Pelicans (10-5, 5-0) clinched at least a share of the Conference II title with the win.
“We started to stress defense more,” senior defenseman Graham Lambdin said. “Once we get the defense going, the goals start coming.”
That’s exactly how this one played out.
Nathan Mullaney had a 1-on-1 breakaway chance stopped by Pelham goalie Matt DeYoung, who got his third shutout of the season. A slap shot from Trey Herlitz-Ferfuson was stopped cold, too. Chris LeBlanc had a sweet chance outside the crease, but lifted the shot up and over everything.
Pelham forces an opponent to be well beyond precise.
“I think we’re a lot closer to where we want to be,” sophomore defenseman Will Cullen said. “We’re a lot better defensively, and Graham coming back helps us out a lot.”
Pelicans coach Ed Witz recently juggled the lineup, moving Lambdin to the blue line in order to provide more depth. He was the leading scorer at one point early in the season. Will Mac Innis slid in up front.
And since the 8-2 loss at Suffern, a refocused Pelham team has only given up five goals in seven games.
“We held Mamaroneck to 11 shots on goal,” Witz said. “We are getting to where we want to be. I think our difficult schedule is helping now. … Our kids are more comfortable with the pace of these games and they are playing well.”
The Pelicans were content to set up on the perimeter early on and only had a handful of quality shots in the first period.
Lambdin powered in a blast from the right circle four minutes into the second that started low and caught the blade of a stick before rising top left for a 1-0 lead.
“We need the first goal,” he said. “I’m not even sure it was my goal, but they gave it to me anyway. Mamaroneck was playing very hard, but once we got the first goal everyone kind of piled right on.”
Pelham owned the last five minutes of the period, controlling the puck like it had a man advantage. Cullen went around two defenders to increase the lead. Andrew Dzenis threw in another off the faceoff. Colin Reilly tucked one inside the far post. Andrew Schauer got one short-handed, then Mac Innis complete the outburst.
It was a blowout in a blink.
“We kept working hard and we kept it to a one-goal game except for those five minutes,” Mamaroneck coach Mike Chiapparelli said with a laugh. “Their defense is real good, and they did a good job keeping the puck in our zone. We couldn’t get it out.”
Both teams have big rivalry games coming up. The Pelicans visit Rye on Wednesday, while the Tigers (9-8, 2-3) play ETB on Friday and Suffern on Saturday.