By Mike Dougherty
MONSEY – There was a welcome silence on the bus as Pelham crossed the Hudson River to defend its Section 1 title.
Getting the Pelicans back on task in the wake of a once-in-a-lifetime semifinal comeback was no easy task. They did eventually dial the level of intensity back up and cruised to a 9-1 win over Rye Town/Harrison in the Division II championship game Sunday at Sport-O-Rama.
“It was really hard to reboot and come back prepared for this one,” said Pelham forward Nick Davidow, who got the game’s first goal six minutes in.
The Pelicans have won four of the last five Division 2 championships.
“It’s fun every time we get it,” Pelham defenseman Timmy Reilly said. “It’s so hard to win a Section 1 title with all the great teams we have now.”
A team dinner on Saturday included a healthy serving of advice from coach Ed Witz. He was concerned his team would struggle to focus after scoring with 22 seconds in regulation on Friday to catch Mamaroneck before winning in overtime.
He kept a close eye on the weather forecast.
“If we had been snowed out, I would’ve been OK with that,” Witz said. “We were so high from that game, like in a euphoric state. We stressed that anything could happen. Joey Livornese is a good goal-tender, and Rye Town/Harrison played some good hockey to get here, so you never know.”
A lethargic start did nothing to calm the nerves.
Davidow provided the early spark, then Hogan Peters tucked in a rebound from his knees a short time later, upping the lead to 2-0.
A short-handed goal from Ben Hurd in the open minutes of the second helped maintain the momentum, and the sixth-seeded Pelicans (14-9-1) were rolling before the period ended. The fourth-seeded Titans (15-7-1) were unable to sustain pressure. Nat Heintz, Gibson Smith and Hurd each scored a goal in the final minute to help Pelham take control.
The run continued with four third-period goals.
Rye Town/Harrison captain Mitchell Milbauer ended the shutout bid with 10 seconds remaining.
“We didn’t get a spark until late in the game and, by then it was too late,” RTH coach Jason Head said. “Sometimes you get a bounce, and we have been able to capitalize, but Pelham is a good team and they don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
Hogan finished with three goals and two assists. Smith had two goals and two assists. Hurd finished with two goals and four assists.
“It never gets old,” Peters said. “Henry Brown was talking in the locker room before the game, saying, ‘Remember when we were freshmen?’ We were the little guys on the ice when Colin Reilly and those guys brought it home. We looked at the picture from that year after we beat Mamaroneck and were like, ‘We want this to be us.’ It’s our senior year. It’s a good feeling, and to win it alongside my brother, Calvin, that’s special, too.”
Next for the Pelicans is Section 3 runner-up Skaneateles, which visits the Ice Hutch at 3 p.m. Saturday with a NYSPHSAA semifinal berth on the line. Pelham went upstate and lost to the Lakers 2-1 earlier this season.