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Having dominated Section 1 hockey since the beginning of time, Suffern's rarely played the role of an underdog. Basically, the Mounties have grown accustomed to being the hunted.
And that's exactly why Friday's matchup against New Jersey powerhouse Don Bosco was so enticing. The Ironmen entered the second annual TK Cup a solid favorite, affording Suffern the rare chance to be hunters.
The Mounties (12-2) looked plenty comfortable in their new role, hanging tough against an uber-talented Don Bosco (9-2-2) squad before falling just short in a hard-fought 2-1 loss.
"It's pretty amazing because you see that Don Bosco is up there with teams like CBA and Delbarton and to be in a one-goal game with them is unbelievable," Suffern goalie Nick Modica said. "We worked as hard as we possibly could tonight and (Don Bosco) is a great team and I give it to them."
Mounties coach Rob Schelling was equally pleased despite the outcome.
"I'm really proud (of my guys)," Schelling said. "Don Bosco is a private school and they have guys from every single town around and we have everybody from one town."
Suffern's quest to pull off the upset started off well. The Mounties drew first blood via a power-play opportunity, taking a 1-0 lead with 2:01 remaining in the first period. Justin Tiso, who was in his first game back after missing the previous five with a head injury, popped the bottle on a wicked shot. Tiso's blazing speed gave the Mounties an undeniable lift.
"Although we have been winning the last few games, you don't replace a kid like Justin Tiso," Schelling said. "He's one of the best players in the whole state. Having him back was a great plus."
Don Bosco — which outshot the Mounties 11-6 in the opening period — came alive after the first intermission. Hunter Garlasco (1G, 1A) evened the score at 1-1 with 13:09 left in the second period, whipping in a wrist shot on an odd-man rush. Chris Mazzella tallied the game-winning goal a little less than three minutes later, finishing a pretty feed from Garlasco right on the doorstep.
The Ironmen leaned on standout goalie Jarred Liscio to close out the game. He made 13 of his 18 saves over the final two periods to secure his 62nd career win, which broke the school's previous all-time record of 61.
"It's an honor and really humbling," said Liscio, who has a minuscule 1.0 goals against average this season. "A lot of great hockey players and athletes have come through Bosco in different sports, so it's just a tremendous accomplishment."
Suffern star forward Kevin Hill (1A) nearly denied Liscio the record, coming inches away from tying the game inside the final 30 seconds of regulation. Wearing only a single glove at the time, Hill carried the puck coast-to-coast and unleashed a bouncing shot that dinged off the near post and nearly ricocheted off Liscio and in.
"I knew the neutral zone was going to be crowded, so I just tried to take it myself," Hill said. "I shot it and it went under (Liscio's) arm and hit the post. It was unfortunate, but it was a great game."
Liscio let out a deep sigh of relief after he scraped the puck away to safety.
"There was a lot of tension, a lot of scrambling and a lot of mayhem," he said.
Modica was every bit as impressive as his counterpart, recording 24 huge saves to keep the Mounties in contention till the bitter end. Considering most local teams don't usually outshoot Suffern, it was a chance for Modica to prove that he's one of the state's premier netminders.
"You always look forward to this game," Modica said. "Last year, I got peppered and then this year. It's just fun to play against those guys. They are all skilled and put pucks on net."
While the Mounties saw their 11-game winning streak come to an end, there was a silver lining: Don Bosco's far and away the best team they will face this season.
"This is why we play (Bosco) every year," Schelling said. "We know it's going to be a good game and going into the playoffs we will build off this and learn from our mistakes. But I'm really proud of the effort that we gave tonight."
GAME NOTES: The TK Cup was created in honor of U.S. Army Major Thomas Kennedy, a New City native who attended Don Bosco from 1991-94. Kennedy, who played in college at West Point, died while serving in Afghanistan in August of 2012… Don Bosco was No. 2 in MSG Varsity's latest 6-1-4 Tri-State rankings, while Suffern came in at No. 5 … Don Bosco is 3-0-1 in its last four meetings against Suffern. The interstate rivals have met every year since 2011.
Don Bosco 0 2 0 2
Suffern 1 0 0 1
SF (2:01) Justin Tiso from Tom Brennan and Kevin Hill | 1-0 SF *
DB (13:09) Hunter Garlasco from Anthony Firriolo | 1-1
DB (10:36) Chris Mazzella from Garlasco | 2-1 DB
* Indicates power play goal
Suffern: Justin Tiso (1G); Tom Brennan (1A); Kevin Hill (1A)
Don Bosco: Hunter Garlasco (1G, 1A); Chris Mazzella (1G); Anthony Firriolo (1A)
Don Bosco: Jarred Liscio (18 saves)
Suffern: Nick Modica (24 saves)
Don Bosco 11 9 6 26
Suffern 6 6 7 19
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass