(We had an early deadline last night because of the storm. This version includes a quote from Ed Witz).
By Mike Dougherty
MOUNT VERNON — Nick Modica was ready for anything.
Pelham swarmed the fastidious Suffern netminder in the opening minutes, and he stood up to every shot, denying the anxious Pelicans each opportunity to grab the momentum. He stopped 31 shots over the course of a 5-1 win by the Mounties on Tuesday at the Ice Hutch.
“It’s definitely important to come out like that,” Modica said. “I feel like it’s really important to start just like that in every game. Every team we play seems to come out all charged up. I love those first couple of minutes.”
The Pelicans clearly had an underlying agenda. After being humbled at Suffern early in the season, they were looking to make a statement and were all over the puck from the start. Modica was tested from every angle but kept Pelham from getting in front.
Kevin Hill was able to set up in the right circle with 7:15 to go in the first and beat Pelicans netminder A.J. Gugliara with a low shot inside the far post.
There’s no doubt it stung the Pelicans, who easily had the edge.
“Looking back at the game, I thought we played it entirely in their end,” Pelham coach Ed Witz said. “The difference is (Modica) is not only good at stopping the first shot, he’s good on the second and third. My guys got a little impatient and frustrated. We started to gamble and got caught in too low a couple of times. They got odd-man rushes, and they finished.”
Suffern controlled Pelham defenseman Will Cullen, who’s been putting up hat tricks against the best teams in the state. He kept pushing, but wasn’t able to get into the offensive zone without company.
In the final minutes of the period, the Pelicans got caught with tired legs.
After killing off a penalty, they were slow getting to the puck. C.J. Greco set up Justin Tiso in open space, and the Mounties took a 2-0 lead.
“We’re fine with games like this,” Hill said. “I think early on we had some blowouts, so it’s not a bad thing to play a hard-fought game once in awhile.”
The Mounties killed a penalty to start the second, then Michael Redgate jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone. He was face-to-face with new goalie Matt DeYoung after the lone defender fell, and gave Suffern a 3-0 cushion with 10:01 to go in the period. Pelham, which had a 32-14 advantage in shots on goal, was seething.
A fortunate bounce set Hill loose on another breakaway with six minutes to play in the second, and he went upstairs, stretching the lead to 4-0. Tiso added one more goal late in the third, and Hogan Peters ended Modica’s shutout bid when he scored for the Pelicans with two minutes remaining.