By Mike Dougherty
BREWSTER – Overtime was looming and toes were going numb when Matt Kowalchuk lobbed a puck in from the blue line.
It cartwheeled off a skate and into the net.
Nyack/Tappan Zee desperately needed a bounce after letting a sizable lead slip away. Kowalchuk delivered with 2:13 remaining and lifted the Ice Hawks to a 6-5 win over Kennedy Catholic on Tuesday at Brewster Ice Arena’s outdoor rink.
“I watched the puck hit off a skate and go five-hole,” said Kowalchuk, who finished with a hat trick. “It was a lucky bounce.”
Everyone on the ice was in disbelief until the referees confirmed the goal.
“We didn’t clear the puck,” Gaels coach Rob Santini said. “It was kind of a surprise shot, and I don’t think our goalie even saw the puck until it was in the net behind him.”
Nick Worms and Alex Graff scored in the opening minutes of the game, and Kowalchuk tacked on a pair of goals to give Nyack/Tappan Zee a 4-0 lead with 8:10 to play in the second period. The Ice Hawks (4-9) got a little too comfortable, though.
“I think we definitely relaxed,” Kowalchuk said.
Gerard Martirano reeled off three goals in a row to bring Kennedy (7-4) within 4-3 with 12:05 remaining. Graff answered. It was a one-possession game after Griffin Ferriera chased down a loose puck and scored, then Martirano knotted the score, 5-5, when he went backhand with 3:41 to play.
That got the Ice Hawks’ attention.
“After the second period, I got everyone together and let them know we are capable of getting back in the game,” Martirano said. “We started moving our feet. We starting winning puck battles, and the game began to go our way.”
The Gaels continued to apply pressure, but lost momentum when Kowalchuk’s lob bounced in.
“You hate losing that way,” Santini said.
Nyack/Tappan Zee has won two in a row for the first time all season. The rebuilding program took some lumps early against the likes of Clarkstown, Suffern and North Rockland. The non-league schedule has included some very competitive games.
“We just came out of the gate against some of the best teams in the section, which happen to be in our league,” co-head coach Michael Hughes said. “But that helped make us better. At the end of the day, we want to compete with the better teams, but it is more fun when you’re playing a game that is close in the third period.”
The outdoor rink will host another varsity game on Thursday at 5:15 p.m. between Greeley and Mahopac.
“I love it,” Martirano said. “Each time I hear we’re playing on The Pond, I say, ‘Yes!’ We don’t get as many fans, but you can feel the breeze and it’s so much fun.”