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Saturday's showdown between Greeley and John Jay-Cross River featured Section 1's last remaining undefeated teams. Most expected a tightly-contested down-to-the-wire classic.
The Indians had other ideas.
John Jay-CR (13-0-1) remained unbeaten and delivered a beatdown in the process, skating to a convincing 7-2 victory over the Quakers (12-1-2) at Brewster Ice Arena.
"Greeley's a good team, but we just came to play tonight," said junior forward Shawn Smith, who tallied a game-high three goals. "We proved that we are the team to compete with in the section."
And the Indians wasted little time asserting their dominance, jumping out to a commanding 4-1 first-period lead. Smith sparked the hot start with back-to-back goals inside the first five minutes of regulation. Teammates John Tobin and Frazier Bostwick added a goal apiece to extend the lead to 4-0 with 2:09 left in the first.
"It all starts in the locker room," said John Jay-CR senior defenseman Anthony Scapperotti, who totaled a goal and two assists for a season-high three points. "We had a great talk in the locker room to pump everyone up. We just came out hard."
The Quakers did their best to dig out of the early hole, notching two straight goals to trim John Jay-CR's lead to 4-2 midway through the second period. Calder Fontaine triggered the mini rally, scoring a power-play goal with 28 seconds left in the opening period. Dean Klein followed it up with an unassisted second-period goal, however, the momentum was short-lived.
John Jay-CR refused to panic and closed out the game on a 3-0 run. Scapperotti, Bostwick and Smith accounted for the goals. Goalie Matt Lanza preserved the victory with 22 saves, keeping a potent Quakers offense well below their season average in goals.
While the gap on the scoreboard was telling enough, the way in which the Indians went about their business made it even more impressive. They physically dominated every square inch of the ice, taking a smaller and less experienced Greeley squad completely out of its rhythm.
"We knew (John Jay-CR) was a big, strong team," Quakers coach Zach Dargaty said. "But seeing it and playing against it are two different things. I think it kind of took some of our guys a little by surprise. They overwhelmed us from a physical standpoint."
It was all part of the plan, according to Indians coach Alex Smith.
"We were talking about finishing our checks tonight," coach Smith said. "It was very important for us. Horace Greeley's fast and well-skilled, so we just wanted to try and slow them down."
The next question is obvious: can anyone slow down the Indians? Based on Dargaty's assessment, it won't be an easy task.
"(Coach Smith) has got a good mix of size, skill and older players, which means they don't get rattled," Dargaty said. "I think our team got a little rattled because we aren't used to those kinds of games. Even when we pushed back and got a little momentum going, (John Jay-CR) was able to settle down and regain control of the game. That's where they are going to be really tough."
GAME NOTES: Shawn Smith leads John Jay-CR in scoring with 32 points (24G, 8A). It was the third time he totaled three-plus goals in a game this season … Greeley was without starting defenseman Nicholas Girardi and standout freshman forward Matt Zandi … John Jay-CR was without starting defenseman Mark Leprine and freshman forward Lucas Prestamo.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Indians flex their muscles: John Jay-CR physically controlled the game from the opening draw. Greeley was unable to match it and wore down as the game progressed. Shawn Smith, who delivered more than his fair share of board-shaking hits, had this to say about the approach: "Size is definitely our advantage this year. We have a lot of big guys. If we use that to our advantage, sky's the limit."
2. Hot start: The Indians came out of the locker room focused and on a mission. They scored the game's first goal a little over three minutes into regulation and never looked back, piling up four first-period goals en route to the statement-making victory. "I think our offense is where all our firepower comes from," Shawn Smith said. "We just like to get the puck to the net and get guys crashing — get those big bodies in front of the net."
3. Lanza-led defense clamps down: The two goals matched a season-low for Greeley, which entered Saturday averaging 6.7 goals a game. Goalie Matt Lanza (22 saves) played a big part in limiting the Quakers' offense. As a unit, the Indians did a stellar job of minimizing second-chance opportunities, using their size to control the area around the crease.
Greeley 1 1 0 2
John Jay-CR 4 2 1 7
JJ (11:43) Shawn Smith from Jack Grimm | 1-0 JJ
JJ (9:28) Smith from Grimm and Anthony Scapperotti | 2-0 JJ
JJ (7:03) John Tobin from Dylan McMichael and Anthony Manno | 3-0 JJ
JJ (2:09) Frazier Bostwick from Thomas Blaney | 4-0 JJ
HG (0:38) Calder Fontaine from Michael Yablon | 4-1 JJ *
HG (8:41) Dean Klein unassisted | 4-2 JJ
JJ (4:40) Scapperotti from Bostwick | 5-2 JJ
JJ (1:29) Bostwick from Blaney | 6-2 JJ
JJ (3:26) Smith from Scapperotti | 7-2 JJ **
* Indicates power-play goal
** Indicates shorthanded goal
Greeley: Dean Klein (1G); Calder Fontaine (1G); Michael Yablon (1A)
John Jay-CR: Shawn Smith (3G); Frazier Bostwick (2G, 1A); Anthony Scapperotti (1G, 2A); Jack Grimm (2A); Thomas Blaney (2A); John Tobin (1G); Dylan McMichael (1A); Anthony Manno (1A)
Greeley: Neil Hershman (23 saves)
John Jay-CR: Matt Lanza (22 saves)
Greeley 7 9 6 22
John Jay-CR 11 9 10 30
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass