By Nancy Haggerty
BREWSTER — Sometimes scoreboards convey the pulse of a game, sometimes not.
The latter was true in the Division 2 title game at Brewster Ice Arena Sunday.
No. 1-seeded John Jay claimed its first Section 1 ice hockey crown, but the Indians had to fight from the beginning to nearly the end against No. 2 Rye — despite a final 5-1 score.
John Jay, now 21-1-1 — its only loss in the regular season was to Rye, which finished 17-5-1 — will play Section 2 winner Queensbury in a state playoff Saturday.
The Indians held a 2-1 lead after two periods, with John Jay’s Matt Lanza (18 saves) and the Garnets’ Aidan Talgo (25 saves) trading good stops early in the third. But with 6:46 left, junior defenseman Mark Leprine beat a screened Talgo from between the circles, a goal that seemed to suck the air out of Rye.
Leprine called the shot a “knuckle puck.”
“We knew we were going to win this game no matter what,” he said. “ … Everything was on the line. We wanted to go all-out.”
And Leprine, who also scored John Jay’s fifth goal, did that, including on the defensive end, where a couple of his well-timed poke checks broke up Rye’s odd-man rushes.
Rye dominated most of the early going, its defense doing an effective job pinching to pick off breakout passes. But the Garnets found themselves down 1-0 at the end of one period, courtesy of some bad luck.
A puck caromed off an official’s skate into the slot, where John Tobin picked it up and beat Talgo high with 1:20 left in the period.
That goal followed a couple of good stops by Lanza, the last a point-blank, on-the-doorstep wrister from Rye sniper Cal Hynson.
“A lot of it comes down to bounces and breaks. We didn’t capitalize on the bounces and breaks we got,” Rye coach Jason Friesen said.
John Jay took a 2-0 lead with 13:09 left in the second period when, with Rye’s scrappy Griffin Tuten sitting in the box for roughing, a wide-open Shawn Smith buried Lucas Prestamo’s perfect backdoor pass.
But after John Jay was called for too many men on the ice, the Garnets’ Danny Sullivan scored with 10:54 left. Lanza preserved the lead late in the second period, stopping Jack O’Brien’s close backhand.
Rye was hampered by the absence of senior forward Michael Benincasa, who had scored in its semifinal win over Greeley. Benincasa sat out with a recurrence of back problems. But Friesen wouldn’t use that as an excuse, noting Benincasa also was out when Rye beat John Jay.
Prestamo had a huge day with a goal (John Jay’s fourth) and three assists.
“The first game, we were a little flat-footed,” Prestamo said. “This time we really brought it, and it showed. … We hustled our hearts out. Everyone contributed, whether they were on the scoreboard or not.”