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MONSEY N.Y. — Former Suffern hockey greats from the famed 1992 state championship squad were honored prior to Saturday's NYS Division 1 quarterfinal matchup against Section 9 champ Monroe-Woodbury.
After the legends left the ice, Mounties senior captain John Redgate skated on and cemented his status as one of them.
Redgate scored a once-in-a-lifetime goal to break a 1-1 tie and lift Suffern (20-2-2) to a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Section 9's Monroe-Woodbury (16-3-2) at Sport-O-Rama. The Mounties will make their third straight trip to the NYS final four, where they will square off against Section 3 powerhouse West Genesee on Saturday at 10 a.m. at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
“It was great to win it for my team,” said Redgate, who deposited the game-winning goal on a breakaway with 13:42 left in regulation. “I have to give my teammates a lot of credit, but it's a great feeling. I was trying to step up in a big-time situation. I love the pressure and I really showed it there.”
The fact Suffern felt any pressure at all was a huge shock. After all, the Mounties cruised to a 6-0 win over the Crusaders on Dec. 9, so the rematch was viewed as more of a formality than anything else.
Monroe-Woodbury had other ideas, stepping up to the challenge with an inspiring performance. Bolstered by the strong play of senior goalie Zack Zielinski (30 saves), the Crusaders hung with Suffern throughout the entire 45 minutes of action. In fact, they even drew first blood to grab an early 1-0 lead. Sophomore forward Dylan Stephanik lit the lamp with 5:49 left in the opening period, whipping a wicked wrist shot past Suffern goalie Tyler Stark (15 saves).
“Let's face it, we played our best game ever this season,” Monroe-Woodbury coach Paul Bascardi said. “I thought we gave (Suffern) all they could handle. We skated hard all game. You can't be embarrassed with 2-1.”
The Mounties, who held a 32-16 shots on goal advantage, got on the board thanks to a flukey goal with 3:02 left in the second period. Junior forward Nick Jaeger scored it on a deflection off a knuckling wrist shot from senior defenseman Connor Delaney, who lobbed the puck toward the net from the blue line. It was a huge goal out of Suffern's third line.
“Literally everyone is stepping up in the right moment and that's why we are winning these games,” Redgate said.
Monroe-Woodbury's penalty woes made it difficult to surmount much of an offense over the final 15 minutes. The Crusaders, who were outshot 8-2 in the final period, committed four of their six penalties in the third. Suffern, meanwhile, was only whistled for one all game.
The final dagger came with 1:25 left in the game, as Monroe-Woodbury's Sam Enright was sent to the box for roughing. Playing 5-on-4, the Crusaders had zero shot to score the game-tying goal.
“At the end what killed us were a couple of those calls,” Bascardi said. “That took us out. We were tired at the end there.”
While the Mounties have a history of beating up on the Crusaders, Redgate knew they were in for a battle in a do-or-die state playoff game.
“Any team in the playoffs is going to work their butts off,” Redgate said. “We knew it was going to be tough either way. We showed a lot coming back from 1-0 and working all game long.”
According to Suffern coach Rob Schelling, the closer-than-expected score was due to Zielinski's stellar play and an inability to finish.
“Last time, we were able to get a few of those shots in and kept going,” he said. “This time (Monroe-Woodbury) kept it close and had the confidence to stay with us and played great.”
Schelling also had no doubt that his greatest player would come through to save the day.
“I'm not surprised at all that it was (Redgate),” the coach said. “He's been doing that his whole career. The kid's absolutely incredible. His work ethic and leadership is like no other. Him doing that is great for his career ending at Sport-O-Rama because he's done it so often for our team. Doing it tonight on this big stage was great to see.”
Now, Redgate and his fellow Mounties will look to do it on an even bigger stage in Utica. Suffern has seen its season end in the NYS semis the past two years, suffering a pair of one-goal losses to Williamsville North (2010-11) and West Genesee (2011-12).
“I know it sounds easy — two games and two wins,” Redgate said of taking home a state title. “But it is really one of the hardest things to do. But we have a lot of experienced seniors and we are ready.”
If Suffern can somehow pull it out, it would only add to the legend of John Redgate.
GAME NOTES: Dating back to the 2008-09 season, Suffern has defeated Monroe-Woodbury five straight times by a combined score of 20-3 … This was the second straight year Suffern ended Monroe-Woodbury's season in the NYS D1 quarterfinals … Monroe-Woodbury was without top offensive weapon Mark Tooma, who broke his wrist against Scarsdale back on Feb. 3 … Suffern's John Redgate moved into second on the team with 48 points (20G, 28A) … Suffern's Nick Jaeger snapped a six-game pointless streak with a goal. Prior to Saturday evening, his offensive production — a goal and an assist — came in a 9-1 win over Mamaroneck on Feb. 4 … Suffern goalie Tyler Stark has relinquished just two goals in four playoff wins … Suffern senior defenseman Connor Delaney, who has two goals and seven assists on the year, has produced in the clutch, notching an assist against ETB in the Section 1 finals and another against Monroe-Woodbury … It will be Suffern's third straight trip to Utica for the NYS D1 final four. The Mounties captured Section 1's lone state title back in 1992.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Crusaders gets trapped in the penalty box: Monroe-Woodbury's offense took a big hit due to the amount of penalties it committed — especially in the third period. The Crusaders, who were whistled for six penalties on the game, had four in the decisive final period.
2. Zielinski plays big: Crusaders goalie Zack Zielinski was spectacular in net and kept the game competitive. He came up with 30 saves overall, but none were bigger than the 13 he made in the opening period. Against Suffern, it's all about surviving the first wave of intensity. Zielinski guided Monroe-Woodbury through it with confidence, gloving pucks and covering up to limit any chance of cheap goals off rebounds. “I feel sorry for Zielinski because he's upset, but he played his heart out,” Crusaders coach Paul Bascardi said.
3. Adding a little fuel to the fire: Not that the Mounties needed any added motivation, but they were able to conjure some up due to a scheduling quirk. Due to the setup of the state tournament, Monroe-Woodbury was actually the home team at Suffern's rink. It was odd seeing the Mounties in their road blue jerseys and sitting on the visitors bench. Needless to say, senior captain John Redgate said they used it as fuel. “We kept saying that this was out rink in the locker room — even though we were wearing the away jerseys,” Redgate said. “That was definitely one of the keys of motivation for us. We wanted to make sure that we were the winners on our own ice.”
Monroe-Woodbury 1 0 0 1
Suffern 0 1 1 2
MW (5:49) Dylan Stephanik from Ian Bernes 1-0 MW
SF (3:02) Nick Jaeger from Connor Delaney | 1-1
SF (13:42) John Redgate unassisted | 2-1 SF
Suffern: John Redgate (1G); Nick Jaeger (1G); Connor Delaney (1A)
Monroe-Woodbury: Dylan Stephanik (1G); Ian Bernes (1A)
Suffern: Tyler Stark (15 saves)
Monroe-Woodbury: Zack Zielinski (30 saves)
Suffern 13 11 8 32
Monroe-Woodbuy 7 7 2 16
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass