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YONKERS, N.Y. — When it comes to the Eastchester/Tuckahoe/Bronxville hockey squad, the first two names that spring to mind are generally Ian Palfrey and Mark Luciano.
And for good reason.
The high-scoring duo combined for 48 goals and 49 assists in 2010, helping the Eagles generate a serious buzz heading into the 2011-12 season.
But it was an unheralded name from the opposite end of the ice that shined brightest in Monday's 3-2 win over Scarsdale (3-2) at the Murray Skating Center.
Senior goalie Lucas Berger came out of the shadows to turn in an MVP-caliber effort. The first-year starter was magnificent between the pipes, making 12 of his 25 saves in a pressure-packed third period that saw the Eagles (5-1) rack up seven minutes and 30 seconds of penalties.
“It was obviously a one-goal lead and our guys were tired, so I put it upon myself to pick up my play,” said Berger, who shared time in net last year. “The good defense in front of me made it a lot easier. I was just trying to do whatever I could.”
One of ETB's household names was certainly impressed.
“That was probably the best game I've seen Berger play,” Palfrey said. “We let him down a little bit on the defensive end by taking a lot of dumb penalties, but luckily he was there to bail us out tonight.”
Palfrey acted as the savior on offense, totaling a game-high three points (2G, 1A) to power the Eagles. His go-ahead goal with 5:06 left in the second period — which gave the Eagles a 2-1 lead — was pure magic.
After winning a faceoff near the blue line in ETB's zone, Palfrey went into overdrive. He zoomed directly toward the net — making it look like everyone else was in slo-mo — and beat Raiders goalie Connor Wolfe (21 saves) top shelf on the glove side with a perfectly calculated wrist shot.
“I saw the defense was pinching up,” Palfrey said, detailing the goal. “I saw the guy on the left coming in, so I saw if I just blocked him and cut to the left I would have a lane. Luckily, I executed it pretty well that one time. And then I just saw the top right open and put it there.”
While Palfrey's first goal was the definition of an individual effort, he got a little help from his friends on his second. Sophomore forward Chris Hagen (2A) got it started by winning a puck against the boards. He then backhanded a pass to Luciano, who sent a cross-crease offering on a sliver platter to a waiting Palfrey. Wolfe — caught off-guard and outnumbered — was helpless as Palfrey one-timed a blast into the back of the net to give ETB a 3-1 cushion with 11:06 left in the second period.
The chemistry between ETB's star forwards wasn't lost on Palfrey, who assisted Luciano's first-period goal that evened the game at 1-1.
“We have been playing together seven, eight, nine years maybe now,” Palfrey said.
At the time, Palfrey's second-period goal looked like it was going to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. Instead, Scarsdale stiffened on defense and battled back.
Wolfe (21 saves) was spectacular in net, denying Palfrey on a handful of breakaway attempts to keep the Eagles from extending their lead. Sophomore forward Hunter Jurman answered the call on offense with 4:16 left in the second period, scoring off an assist from junior defenseman Sam Blakley to cut the deficit to 3-2.
The Raiders, who grabbed an early 1-0 first-period lead behind a goal from freshman forward Devon Schell, nearly tied it as time expired in the third period. A loose puck in front of the net — which Berger was inches from corralling — created a scrum of flying bodies and flailing sticks. As a result, the goal became unhinged and moved backwards. Scarsdale then miraculously snuck the puck in, however, it was immediately waived off.
Berger wasn't surprised with the Raiders' resurgence.
“(Scarsdale) has beaten some good teams this year and they have talent, so we expected them not to go down without a fight,” he said. “But we were ready for when they kept pushing back.”
And Berger was the man out front leading the resistance.
GAME NOTES: Palfrey leads ETB in scoring with 12 goals and six assists … Scarsdale limited ETB to a season-low three goals. The Eagles had averaged 5.8 goals in their previous five games of the season … Freshman forward Devon Schell leads the Raiders in scoring with five goals and three assists … After scoring six goals in a statement-making win over White Plains on December 12, Scarsdale has managed just three goals combined in back-to-back losses to Rye and ETB … According to Palfrey, key seniors Michael Rodriguez (D) and Angus McLean (FW) are expected to return from injury by January. He said McLean is likely to come back earlier in the month than Rodriguez.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Berger comes up big in the clutch: ETB goalie Lucas Berger's numbers (25 saves) weren't out of this world, however, it's worth noting that 12 of those saves came in the third period. As a full-time starter this year after sharing time in 2010, Berger said he's gotten into much more of a rhythm on the ice. He has worked hard on maintaining his focus throughout all three periods.“I was really prone to dupey goals last year, so I have to make sure I'm always paying attention and always working,” Berger said.
2. Scarsdale fails to take advantage of ETB penalties: The Eagles were nailed with five penalties in the third period that led to four power-play opportunities for Scarsdale. But the Raiders came up empty each time, failing to settle the puck and work it around in ETB's defensive zone.
3. Palfrey a cut above: It goes without saying that Palfrey was the best player on the ice. His speed, instincts and deadly shot gave the Eagles a boost on a night where they stalled out offensively. After outshooting Scarsdale 10-9 in the opening period, the Raiders owned an 18-14 SOG advantage over the final two periods of play. Sometimes, it just comes down to having the most talented player.
Scarsdale (10:43) Devon Schell from Rob Burns | 1-0 Scarsdale *
ETB (7:58) Mark Luciano from Ian Palfrey and Chris Hagen | 1-1 *
ETB (5:06) Palfrey unassisted | 2-1 ETB
ETB (11:06) Palfrey from Luciano and Hagen | 3-1 ETB
Scarsdale (4:16) Hunter Jurman from Sam Blakley | 3-2 ETB
* Indicates power-play goal
ETB: Ian Palfrey (2G, 1A); Mark Luciano (1G, 1A); Chris Hagen (2A)
Scarsdale: Devon Schell (1G); Hunter Jurman (1G); Sam Blakley (1A); Rob Burns (1A)
ETB: Lucas Berger (25 saves)
Scarsdale: Connor Wolfe (21 saves)
ETB: 10 8 6 24
Scarsdale: 9 6 12 27
* Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass *