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MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. — For ETB's vaunted senior class, judgement day came right before the third period of Tuesday's Section 1 Division 1 quarterfinal game against Clarkstown.
Embroiled in a 1-1 stalemate, it the ultimate moment of reckoning for the Eagles, who came up short at this very point last season.
No. 2-seeded ETB (18-3) made sure history didn't repeat, outscoring Clarkstown (11-11) 3-1 in the third period to seal a 4-2 victory. The Eagles will square off against No. 3-seeded New Rochelle in the semifinals on Thursday at the Ice Hutch at 6 p.m.
“All the seniors realized it was our last chance, so we put it all on the line,” Eagles senior forward Ian Palfrey said.
Palfrey provided the heroics, pouncing on a loose puck in front to break a 2-2 stalemate with 2:46 left in regulation. He also added an empty-netter inside the final minute to put a bow on the victory.
“There was a scramble in front, but the defense got ahead of me, so it was me in alone in front,” Palfrey said, detailing his go-ahead goal. “I just moved (Clarkstown goalie Mike Levy) around a little bit and tucked it five-hole.”
While Palfrey finished the game off with a bang, it was teammate Frankie Sherding who provided the offense throughout. The senior defenseman scored a pair of goals on slap shots from distance. Sherding's first goal came at the 10:55 mark of the second period. He tallied his second with 12:38 left in the third to give ETB a 2-1 lead.
“I try to keep it low and on the ice so if you can get a rebound or something like that,” Sherding said, detailing his shooting process. “Luckily, we had two shots that just went right in.”
Sherding's second goal barely crossed the line. In fact, Clarkstown coach Andrew Trust was skeptical if it actually did.
“I obviously didn't see it, but the word from our players was that it didn't cross the goal line,” Trust said. “The word from the ref was that our guy toe-dragged it out, but our guy didn't even touch it, so there's no way he could have to-dragged it out. It's one of those things that you will never really know the answer to.”
Despite the painful ending, Clarkstown turned in a gutsy performance that saw it put a title contender on the ropes. Mike Taussi and Mike Gillespie provided the offense, using their speed to net a pair of goals. Taussi's tally evened the game at 1-1 with 3:59 left in the second, while Gillespie provided another equalizer at the 8:37 mark of the third.
“We had the speed advantage,” Trust said. “A couple times we crashed the net and there were a few huge chances where the puck was just laying there, but we either swiped at it or shot it wide.”
Clarkstown's inability to cash in on power play opportunities was its ultimate downfall. It came up empty on all seven extra-man chances, including a prime 5-on-3 after ETB's Chris Hagen was nailed with a double-minor inside the final minute of the first period.
“(ETB) was clogging it up and it was hard for us to get down and setup,” Trust said. “There were a couple times on the power play where we couldn't get in their zone because they were icing the puck on us. We just couldn’t get it setup today.”
ETB will now look to advance to beat New Rochelle and advance to the championship at West Point for the first time in program history. The Eagles secured a pair of 6-3 wins over the Huguenots during the regular season.
“I think we are favored to get to West Point, but we can't let that get to our heads,” Palfrey said. “We have to come out and take it one game at a time and hopefully that will get us where we want to be.”
GAME NOTES: Ian Palfrey leads ETB in scoring with 72 points (39G 32A), while Frankie Sherding is second with 45 points (19G, 26A) … ETB won a playoff game for the second straight season … ETB stretched its winning streak to 10 games. The Eagles' last loss was to Suffern, 8-0, back on Jan. 10.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Clarkstown's power play crumbles: The inability to convert power-play chances eventually caught up with Clarkstown, which spoiled the bulk of its opportunities in the first and second periods.
2.ETB's penalty-killing unit: The Eagles' penalty-killing unit — consisting of Ian Palfrey, Mark Luciano, Frankie Sherding and James McNamara — was quite impressive. In fact, they seemed to create more offensive opportunities shorthanded than Clarkstown did with an extra skater on the ice. Palfrey and Luciano really made the difference with their speed, instincts and strength.
Clarkstown 0 1 1 2
ETB 0 1 3 4
ETB (10:55) Frankie Sherding from Mark Luciano and Angus McLean | 1-0 ETB *
CLK (3:59) Mike Taussi from Mitch LeSueur and Mike Gillespie | 1-1
ETB (12:38) Sherding from Ian Palfrey | 2-1 ETB
CLK (8:37) Gillespie from LeSueur and Taussi| 2-2
ETB (2:46) Palfrey from Luciano and Chris Hagen | 3-2 ETB
ETB (0:51) Palfrey from Sherding and Luciano | 4-2 ETB
* Indicates power play goal
Clarkstown: Mike Taussi (1G, 1A); Mike Gillespie (1G, 1A); Mitch LeSueur (2A)
ETB: Frankie Sherding (2G, 1A); Ian Palfrey (2G, 1A); Mark Luciano (3A); Angus McLean (1A); Chris Hagen (1A)
Clarkstown: Mike Levy (32 saves)
ETB: Lucas Berger (23 saves)
Clarkstown 8 8 9 25
ETB 11 12 13 36
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