Clarkstown’s Mike Gillespie (21) gets ready to score on Putnam Valley/Haldane/JFK goalie Joey Molfetta during a boys hockey playoff game at the Pallisades Mall Ice Rink Feb. 17, 2013. ( Frank Becerra Jr / The Journal News ) To view a gallery of photos from the game, click here.
By Dan DeFrancesco
WEST NYACK — Despite its up-and-down season, the Clarkstown hockey team has had one constant: Mike Gillespie’s ability to make plays every game.
The junior captain proved again Sunday why he is considered by many to be one of the top players in Section 1. He accounted for half of No. 8 Clarkstown’s goals in the 12-1 win against No. 9 Kennedy/Putnam Valley/Haldane at Palisades Center Ice Rink in the first round of the Division 1 sectional tournament.
Clarkstown (12-9) will face top-seeded Suffern (16-3) at Sport-O-Rama in the quarterfinals Tuesday at 7:30 p.m.
“The puck was just coming to me,” said Gillespie, who finished with four goals and two assists. “Everything was just working right, I guess. My line did a good job of getting me the puck, and I was just shooting the puck as hard as I could and hoping it would go in.”
This season, Gillespie leads Clarkstown in goals (33), assists (15) and points (48).
“(Gillespie) gets in the game and he just gets his guys riled up and gets them focused,” said Clarkstown coach Rich Willows. “Whether we are down by goals or it’s an even game, he just comes down the ice and makes a great move or play and hits one of his teammates on the side, or pops one in the net the way he does and the whole team thrives off of that.”
Gillespie came up big early and often, completing his hat trick just 7:40 into the game.
Willows, in his first season as coach of Clarkstown, said his players have begun to pick up the settled, team-oriented offensive philosophy he implemented at the beginning of the season.
“Following the system instead of being caught the wrong way,” Willows said. “They see it’s three full periods of hard-grind hockey, and playing the system to make it that way.”
The Clarkstown players will get a chance to see how much they’ve grown on Tuesday when they take on the reigning state champion Mounties. Clarkstown fell to Suffern 8-1 on Dec. 14.
“If we keep playing how our coach wants us to play, because he knows we are a good hockey team and want to play the way we should play with the talent we have, we’ll come out on top,” Gillespie said.
The future of KPVH (11-9-1) is up in the air, as low turnouts have forced Kennedy Catholic to consider joining the CHSAA or becoming an independent. Coach Steve Santini expects a decision to be made by the end of the school year.
Santini, who has coached KPVH for 15 of the combined program’s 16 seasons, said he will remain involved in some capacity.
“We like the program and the kids are good kids,” Santini said. “We want to make sure the kids have a place to play hockey.”