By Mike Dougherty
LARCHMONT – Griffin Tutun isn’t likely to fill up a box score or fill out a uniform, but in those games where taking care of the little things can make all the difference, the undersized forward has come up big for Rye time and time again.
He’s in every corner every shift.
Tutun led the charge and spent untold calories Tuesday at Hommocks Park Ice Rink annoying Pelham with the intensity of a tag-along little brother. It was a virtuoso performance that helped the Garnets hang a disheartening 3-2 loss on their biggest rival.
It’s been four years since Rye last celebrated a win in the heated series.
“Toots is like an Energizer Bunny out there,” Garnets defenseman Jason Chin said. “He’s not big. He’s got to make up for that in other ways, so he’s working hard every shift. It gives us so much energy, and if we’re down, he picks us right up.”
He set a proper tone, refusing to let the Pelicans grab the early momentum.
“The game was just unbelievable,” Tutun said. “I was just flying with all my teammates, doing whatever I could do to help the team win. We had a lot of heart. We had a lot of drive. Everyone chipped in. We were going to win this game from the start.”
So when the skates come off, how tall is he?
“I’m like 5-foot-5,” Tutun said. “And that may be generous.”
Truth be told, he isn’t clearing the height minimum that allows riders to climb on the Dragon Coaster by much.
Pelham (10-5-2) was poised to strike early, but could not get one past Aiden Talgo, who finished with 20 saves. The game drew a sizable crowd, which got loud when Cal Hynson skated in with a turnover and gave Rye (15-4-1) a 1-0 lead with 4:17 to go in the first period.
“We were coming out of the locker room saying, ‘First goal is the most important of the entire game. We gotta get it,’ ” Hynson said. “They had a bad turnover at the blue line. I picked up the puck and went in with Jack (O’Brien), but I knew I had it so I went five-hole and got it in.”
The defending Section 1 Division 2 champions looked a little surprised.
“We turned the puck over and they capitalized,” Pelicans coach Ed Witz said. “They played a very, very good game. They deserve all the credit. They were able to neutralize us. They took away the middle of the ice and we had way too many of our guys getting stripped. We were over-handling the puck. And they kept taking it and throwing it back in, taking it and throwing it back in.”
A nasty slap shot from the point by Jason Chin whistled in with 7:16 to play, giving Rye a 2-0 edge with 7:26 to go in the second period. Connor McGovern pushed in a rebound three minutes later to extend the lead.
Pelham suddenly got smart and closed the gap when Andrew Dzenis and Will Donovan scored, making it a one-goal deficit with four minutes to play.
“We learned that if we take off a couple of shifts we can get buried,” Pelicans forward Andrew Schauer said. “And sometimes it’s too far to come back even if we play a fantastic third period like we did. No matter what happens, we’re always going to be hearing about this night.”
The Garnets had to withstand a fierce push around the net in the final minutes to preserve a win that likely locked up a No. 2 seed in the upcoming playoffs.
“I kept saying, ‘Keep working. Keep working. Don’t let up,’ ” Hynson said. “We let up for just a little bit and they got that one goal, then one more. We were able to hold them off, though.”
And in the middle of the commotion, was Tutun.
“He’s one of the best grinders I’ve ever played with,” Hynson said. “He may be small, but he gets it done. He will do whatever he’s got to do to win.”
It wasn’t muscle that kept the puck out at the end, it was perseverance.
“We were really close,” Schauer said. “There were guys behind the net without any sticks, and somehow they ice the puck and that was it. “
There is a chance the two favorites could meet with a Section 1 title on the line in two weeks.
“It was a great game,” Chin said. “The atmosphere is unlike anything else. I didn’t think we’d get to experience it this year without Playland, but this was unreal, the best game I’ve ever played in.”