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MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. — With an eerie full moon beaming over the Ice Hutch on Tuesday evening, the stage was set for something out of the ordinary to happen.
And Pelham's hockey squad went right along with the script, pulling off a shocking 1-1 (OT) tie against powerhouse Suffern (14-2-2). This was the same Mounties squad that had easily disposed of the Pelicans almost a month to the date.
“That first Suffern game was really a wakeup call for us,” Pelham senior forward Colin Reilly said, pointing to the 8-2 loss back on January 6. “We knew we had to get down to business or we were going to get embarrassed again.”
Pelham (11-5-1) was anything but embarrassed this time around, however, a sour feeling still lingered in the postgame. Suffern's Willie Sanchez was responsible for it, burying the game-tying goal with seven seconds left in regulation to spoil the Pelicans' Disney ending.
“It's bittersweet,” said Reilly, who gave Pelham a 1-0 lead just four minutes and 59 seconds into the opening period. “Not many people expected us to come out and do what we did, but we also should have won. We are pretty disappointed. At the same time, once all the emotions wear off, we are going to look back on it and say, 'We played a heck of a game.'”
Goalie Josh Borofsky (29 saves) was the unquestioned MVP, making countless jaw-dropping saves that kept Pelham's narrow one-goal lead intact till the bitter end. Borofsky made 27 of his saves over the final two periods and overtime, staving off a Suffern squad that only got stronger as the game progressed.
“(Borofsky) played unbelievable,” Reilly said. “I really couldn't believe it. His performance was so outstanding. I've played with him since I was a Mite and that's the best I've ever seen him play. He was really focused tonight and made some saves that you wouldn't expect any goalies to make.
“It's great to see that out of him because we know that he has that potential. He finally showed it. He's a great goalie and we love when he's in net. I think he really proved himself tonight.”
Even Sanchez — Suffern's leading scorer with 22 goals — praised Borofsky's performance.
“I can't give (Borofsky) enough credit,” Sanchez said. “I know he was in my head and all the forwards, too. We couldn't seem to get by him. We thought we had a sure goal and he came out of nowhere. I give him a ton of credit.”
The Mounties' lone goal was the result of a desperation move. With the time ticking down and the puck in Pelham's defensive zone, goalie Tyler Stark (18 saves) was pulled in favor of an extra skater. Suffern's trio of senior stars made the most of the 6-on-5 opportunity and produced the clutch goal. John Redgate dug the puck out of the boards and fed it to Ian Adler, who found a wide-open Sanchez in the slot.
According to Pelham coach Ed Witz, the situation was difficult to decipher and defend.
“It was a scramble and anything can happen,” Witz said. “(Suffern) had six guys out there. The guys playing defense were at a disadvantage. They don't know if they should clear it or pin it. When there is less than 11 seconds left and the puck is in our zone, we usually try to pin it. We tried to pin it and it popped loose. It came to their guy and he buried it.”
In football terms, it was the equivalent of a Hail Mary touchdown pass. Still, Suffern refused to abandon its belief.
“We were definitely nervous and saw the clock ticking down and it was scary, but at the same time I had faith in everybody and we had faith in each other,” Sanchez said. “We have confidence till the end and know we can battle back from anything.”
Pelham has also proved quite resilient this season, morphing into an entirely different team after the lopsided loss to Suffern. The Pelicans are 6-2-1 in their last nine games, with the losses coming against state-ranked powerhouses Williamsville East and Rome Free Academy. Pelham's defense has been the driving force behind the turnaround, relinquishing just six goals while posting five shutouts.
Needless to say, Mounties coach Rob Schelling left the Ice Hutch impressed.
“(Pelham) is an excellent team,” Schelling said. “We've seen a lot of good teams and I think they are the best Division 2 team in the state. I hope they take it home.”
GAME NOTES: Dating back to the 2008-09 season, Pelham had lost its previous seven games to the Mounties and were outscored 35-3 during the stretch … Prior to Tuesday, Suffern was a perfect 7-0 against Section 1 teams. The Mounties had outscored the opposition 60-3 during the seven-game run of dominance. Pelham has accounted for three of the four goals against Suffern by Section 1 teams … Pelham's Colin Reilly (14G, 12A) and Andrew Schauer (11G, 16A) are neck-and-neck in terms of the overall team lead in points … Willie Sanchez leads Suffern with a team-high 44 points on an even 22 goals and 22 assists.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1) Pelham starts strong: Unlike its first meeting against Suffern — which saw the Pelicans fall into a 5-0 first-period hold — Pelham started hot. In fact, the first period was the only one Pelham outshot (8-5) Suffern. Pelicans coach Ed Witz admitted that playing with an early lead fit right into his squad's style of play: “I think us getting that first goal was important because we are always better with the lead,” he said. “It's much easier for us to clamp things down and play the way we want to play.”
2) Suffern slumps on power play: Suffern came up empty on all four of its power-play opportunities, including three golden ones in the second period. “We were moving the puck well and doing everything but scoring,” Mounties coach Rob Schelling said. “(Pelham's) goalie made some big saves and we didn't put it in.”
3) Borofsky big in net: Pelham netminder Josh Borofsky has now come up with back-to-back stellar performances, recording a shutout against Rye and coming seven seconds away from notching another against Suffern. When Borofsky is really tuned into the action on the ice, he's arguably Section 1's best big-game goalie. For Pelham, that has to be pretty comforting as the playoffs approach.
Suffern 0 0 1 0 1
Pelham 1 0 0 0 1
PEL (10:01) Colin Reilly from Andrew Schauer and Will Cullen | 1-0 PEL
SUF (0:07) Willie Sanchez from John Redgate and Ian Adler | 1-1
Suffern: Willie Sanchez (1G); John Redgate (1A); Ian Adler (1A)
Pelham: Colin Reilly (1G); Andrew Schauer (1A); Will Cullen (1A)
Suffern 5 11 12 2 30
Pelham 8 6 3 2 19
Suffern: Tyler Stark (18 saves)
Pelham: Josh Borofsky (29 saves)
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass