Follow the Section 1 hockey playoffs on Twitter @MSGV_Icass
BREWSTER, N.Y. — Scarsdale's hockey squad was mere minutes removed from pulling off the biggest upset of the Section 1 Division 2 playoffs.
But the Raiders' focus was already directly on their next target.
“Let's get Rye! Let's get Rye!” the players chanted inside the locker room at Brewster Ice Arena.
No. 8-seeded Scarsdale (14-8) — which made it look downright easy in Wednesday's 6-4 quarterfinal win over No. 1-seeded Brewster (18-3) — will undoubtedly get all they can handle from the No. 4-seeded Garnets in Friday's semifinal round at Playland Ice Casino at 7 p.m.
“We are dying for revenge on them,” freshman forward James Nicholas said.
Like Brewster, Rye dealt the Raiders a lopsided defeat in the regular season. Scarsdale fell 7-2 to the Bears on Jan. 8 and 5-1 to the Garnets way back on Dec. 14. The common denominator in both those games was the absence of Nicholas, a budding star who missed a large chunk of the season with a broken collarbone.
In the rematch against Brewster, Nicholas' presence on the ice seemed to make all the difference. The speedy winger, who notched two goals and an assist, triggered Scarsdale's transition game. The Raiders strung together tape-to-tape passes and quickly fled their zone to create countless odd-man rushes.
“Our speed is killing these big teams that throw the body around,” Nicholas said. “They like to hit, but we just go right by them on odd-man rushes and just find the net.”
Nicholas' combo of instincts and speed led to the go-ahead goal with 9:24 left in the second period. Deadlocked at 2-2, Nicholas slipped in behind Brewster's defense and drew a penalty shot. He calmly converted it — employing a tricky box move — to give the Raiders a 3-2 lead they would never relinquish.
“I have synthetic ice in my basement, so I have been working on that day in and day out to perfect it,” said Nicholas, who scored his other goal midway through the first period to give the Raiders a 2-1 lead. “That's my bread-and-butter right there. I've been taught by my coaches to do it. I had the box and brought it down, but I saw he had it covered so I went to my forehand and stuck it in.”
Raiders netminder Connor Wolfe had no doubt that Nicholas would stick it.
“I have full confidence in (Nicholas),” said Wolfe, who made 16 big saves to keep Brewster's potent offense off the board. “He's a key player on our team. I had no doubt he was going to put that puck in the net.”
But Scarsdale wasn't done there, as the penalty shot triggered a game-sealing 4-0 run. Talented senior forward Jordan Bank (2G, 1A) netted both his goals during the surge, including a highlight-worthy breakaway with 9:48 left in the third. Bank split between a pair of Brewster defenders around mid-ice, resulting n a gruesome collision between the players. Superstar sophomore Joe Wegwerth — a forward on U-16 Team USA — got the worst of it and had to be helped off the ice.
Prior to the unfortunate accident, Scarsdale had done a solid job containing Wegwerth, who burned the Raiders for three goals and an assist in the regular season loss. Heading into the quarterfinal matchup, Wolfe said Wegwerth was their biggest concern.
“Everyone was fully rested, so we were able to play (Wegwerth) man-to-man and body-to-body to hold him off,” Wolfe said. “Last game, we were tired and he was able to beat us.”
Scarsdale defensemen Sam Blakley (1G), Rob Burns (2A) and Ian Klein combined to shut out Wegwerth.
“Like I said last time, we didn't have a full team last time we played (Brewster),” Wolfe said. “Tonight, we had our full team and nobody was injured. We were firing on all cylinders and it showed. That was the difference-maker. We played strong defense, strong offense and put the puck in the net. We didn't waste any opportunities — and that was the key.”
GAME NOTES: Scarsdale senior forward Jake Bank has a team-high four goals in two playoff games, while teammate James Nicholas has three goals and three assists … Scarsdale is 11-3 over its last 14 games, with its three losses coming against top-notch competition in Monroe-Woodbury, Pelham and ETB … This marks the first time Scarsdale has made it past the quarterfinal round since the 2004-05 season. The Raiders fell to Pelham, 5-1, in the Division 2 title game that year. Ironically, they bested Brewster in the quarterfinals en route to the title game.
Scarsdale 2 2 2 6
Brewster 2 0 2 4
SC (12:51) Devon Schell from Jake Bank | 1-0 SC
BR (11:47) Sean Henderson from Mark Bentson and Eric Dolce | 1-1 *
SC (7:27) James Nicholas unassisted | 2-1 SC
BR (0:17) Henderson from Bentson | 2-2
SC (9:24) Nicholas unassisted | 3-2 SC #
SC (2:01) Bank from Schell and Rob Burns | 4-2 SC
SC (9:48) Bank from Misarti | 5-2 SC
SC (4:10) Matt Blakley from Nicholas and Burns | 6-2 SC
BR (2:09) Henderson unassisted | 6-3 SC
BR (0:48) Sean Hamilton from Dolce | 6-4 SC
* Indicates power play goal
# Indicates penalty shot
Scarsdale: James Nicholas (2G, 1A); Jake Bank (2G, 1A); Devon Schell (1G, 1A); Rob Burns (2A); Matt Blakley (1G); Travis Misarti (1A)
Brewster: Sean Henderson (3G); Mark Bentson (2A); Eric Dolce (2A); Sean Hamilton (1G)
Scarsdale: Connor Wolfe (16 saves)
Brewster: Shayne Lisa (33 saves)
Scarsdale 13 11 15 39
Brewster 10 4 6 20
Follow Isaac Cass on Twitter: MSGV_Icass | Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org