By Mike Dougherty
RYE — It wasn’t a pretty goal, but the persistence of Kyle Halloran quickly changed everything.
He dug out a loose puck and gave Rye Country Day a lead just eight seconds after teammate Serafim Rocco knotted the score, and the Wildcats used the jolt of adrenaline to pull away from Rye and post a 5-2 win Saturday in this high-intensity neighborhood rivalry.
“It was a huge momentum shift,” Halloran said.
There were bumps and bruises aplenty in the first period as both teams worked to make a strong first impression. Joseph Watanabe-Gastel scored off a power-play blast seven minutes into the second, giving the Garnets a 1-0 lead. It got the Wildcats’ attention.
“We talked about the atmosphere before the game,” RCDS coach Erik Kallio said. “I didn’t have to get their energy level up, but we had to control our emotions.”
Rye was making strides until it was called for holding and hooking, resulting in a 5-on-3 chance. Rocco was able to set up on the left side, and he made it a 1-1 game after Halloran slipped a pass across the ice.
“It was important for us to do something there,” Rocco said. “Everyone on the bench was like, ‘OK. Come on,’ after they scored. It helped us get focused. … Kyle was on the other side, gave me a great pass and I hit it as hard as I could.”
And once Rye Country Day controlled the faceoff, it went right back to work. Blake Beber took a quick shot, and the rebound did not travel far.
“It was underneath the goalie, and I kinda just dug it out and put it in,” Halloran said. “The goalie really didn’t know where it was. I saw it lying there and put it in.”
A scramble in front led to a Ryan Jaeger goal seven minutes into the third period, and Will Halloran increased the lead a short time later. Griffin Tutun made it a 4-2 game when he flipped in a rebound with 2:45 remaining, but Gabe Regan threw in an empty-netter from the corner in the last minute.
“I didn’t think the problem was going to be offense with this team this season, but it has been,” Garnets coach Jason Friesen said. “I thought we’d be around five goals a game, but we’re getting two or three if we’re lucky. That’s what is killing us. I like the other things we’re doing.”