Suffern goalie Nick Modica makes a save on a shot in front of the goal by Pelham’s David Morgan in a Section 1 hockey match at The Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon Jan. 15, 2013. ( Matthew Brown/ The Journal News ) To view a gallery of photos from the game, click here.
By Mike Dougherty
MOUNT VERNON — It was so far beyond the normal grind.
Suffern had two players on the bench taking a quick inventory in the first minute of play, but the defending state champs did not yield to Pelham for even a second. The Mounties eventually responded in kind and skated off with a 3-1 win on Tuesday at the Ice Hutch.
Nobody was dancing around the contact.
“They were really banging,” Suffern defenseman Tom Mahoney said. “We had to slow it down and still find a way to move the puck quickly so they couldn’t knock us off the puck.”
It was a bounce-back game for the Mounties in more ways than one.
Suffern came into the game with just two losses. The only red flag is the fact that both of them came against Section 1 opponents — White Plains and Mamaroneck. It’s been four years since that happened last.
“Losing to Mamaroneck gave us a lot of motivation,” Mahoney said.
The Mounties (9-2) played without forward Justin Tiso and defenseman Anthony Carudo, who are recovering from recent injuries.
It’s pretty clear the game plan now calls for getting physical with Suffern, and fillings were getting rattled in the early going. Mahoney and Joe Verboys were both shaken up in the opening minute.
Robert Clark and Verboys needed a breather later in the period, as well, after blocking shots on a penalty kill and limping off.
Pelham (5-4-2) was missing forward Andrew Schauer, who’s been out a month with a concussion. Several role players were also home with the flu.
There was no room to breathe early on and both teams were careful not to allow the puck to linger deep in the zone for very long.
It was a long wait for the first mistake.
Pelham was late reacting to a wide-open Tom Brennan in the right circle, and he promptly wristed a shot over the shoulder of Matt DeYoung for a power play goal with 3:41 to go in the second period. Mahoney got the assist.
There was more emotion than usual during the celebration.
“We had to work to keep up with them,” Brennan said. “They’re so quick, but they just had one guy trailing so I was open and put it home.”
And then it was back to playing defense.
“That’s always going to be a big thing at Suffern,” Brennan said. “We play defense first and let the offense come from that. It’s a big priority to make sure the other team isn’t even getting shots against us.”
The Pelicans were getting flustered.
Nick Jaeger made Pelham even grumpier five minutes into the third when he scored after the defense survived a flurry of shots at the other end. Hugh McNulty got a blue-line slap shot by Nick Modica and made it a 2-1 game with 3:30 to go.
A deep turnover by the Pelicans allowed Kevin Hill to stick in the dagger with 56 seconds remaining.
“It was such a physically taxing game,” said Pelicans coach Ed Witz, who even moved top defenseman Will Cullen up front in search of more offensive pressure. “I was basically trying to get a spark. We only had one natural center left, and our center has to play a lot of defense so I thought we’d get away with it. We were losing 2-0 so I had to do something.”