By Mike Dougherty
SUFFERN – There was plenty of pregame chatter in the locker room, but no real need for a pep talk.
The adrenaline has been pumping for weeks.
“Even before the game started, we know what this one meant to our team, our school, our community,” Justin Tiso said. “Scarsdale, taking the title from us last year hurt.”
This game was circled as soon as the schedules were release in the fall, and the crowd was elbow to elbow in the stands hoping to see the same level of skill and intensity these new rivals displayed when they met nearly a year ago for a Section 1 title.
It easily lived up to the lofty expectations.
Troy Daniels and Tiso elevated themselves from standouts to stars on Friday, leading Suffern to a 4-2 win over the Raiders, who came in undefeated and ranked No. 1 in the state.
“In a big game, your best players have to play big,” Mounties coach Rob Schelling said.
After surviving an early Suffern blitz, Michael Roberts got the visitors end of the rink more involved when he collected a James Nicholas pass just inside the blue line and unleashed a low shot that got through heavy traffic and found the net four-plus minutes in.
It only took 26 seconds for the answer to come.
The Mounties (11-4-2) immediately pressured Scarsdale goalie Gabe Harousseau, who sprawled out to make a stop. The rebound was pushed out by a defender who got knocked over in the crease, but the puck found Daniels in open space.
He reacted appropriately, making it 1-1.
The volume level went up exponentially. It got even louder when Tiso came flying up the boards with a defender on his left hip. A nifty crossover move took care of that inconvenience, and he finished in style to break the deadlock.
“He didn’t just go by our defenders,” Scarsdale coach Jim Mancuso said. “He blew past our defenders.”
The Raiders (14-1) came into this one having played just one game in two weeks because of weather induced cancellations.
“It’s not an excuse,” Mancuso said.
Nicholas used a burst of his own to draw a penalty five minutes into the second. He made it a 2-2 game after Devon Schell held the puck in the corner long enough for his line mate to find a seam.
Scarsdale was controlling the play in the period with one exception.
Daniels skated the puck clear of trouble, and let go of a nasty shot that gave Suffern a 3-2 edge with 4:17 to go in the second.
“We didn’t play our game,” Nicholas said. “The defense wasn’t good. The offense wasn’t good. The goal-tending wasn’t good. … I think we’ve gotten complacent, which is ridiculous. Guys aren’t pushing each other in practice, thinking the wins are going to keep coming.”
Sean Gordon played his best game in goal for the Mounties. The Raiders had a 23-6 advantage in shots on goal in the second and third, but could not cash in. He finished with 32 saves.
“This win means everything to us,” Tiso said. “Troy coming down and letting that shot go was huge for us. Getting that last goal was big since it gave us some breathing room. Sean was the reason we came out ahead.”