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MOUNT VERNON, N.Y. — Longtime New Rochelle coach Jim Tozzo missed Tuesday's Section 1 Division 1 quarterfinal game against Rye Town/Harrison due to a family emergency.
Still, Tozzo managed to deliver a pregame speech in the form of a handwritten letter.
“(The letter) just told us to play hard and that we know we could win,” New Rochelle star junior forward Chris Ramondelli said.
Inspired by their coach's words, the No. 3-seeded Huguenots (16-6) stormed out of the Ice Hutch locker room and earned a hard-fought 4-1 victory over No. 6-seeded Rye Town/Harrison (12-8-1). New Rochelle will face No. 2-seeded ETB in the semifinals on Thursday at the Ice Hutch at 6 p.m.
“That (letter) was motivation,” said New Rochelle sophomore forward Brett Barry, who notched a goal and an assist. “We took that to heart and that's what led us to the victory.”
New Rochelle broke the game open in the third period, outscoring the Titans 3-0 and outshooting them a commanding 22-6. Ramondelli sparked the game-sealing rally with 8:13 left in regulation, cashing in on a 5-on-3 power play to break a 1-1 tie.
“We had an odd-man rush and Kenny McLean made a really good pass to Brett (Barry) and he just found me backdoor and I slid it home,” said Ramondelli, who also notched an assist.
Ramondelli's goal turned out to be the straw that broke the camel's back. Junior forward John Valente lit the lamp exactly 56 seconds later to make it 3-1 Huguenots. Freshman forward Kenny McLean capped the scoring with an empty-netter at the 1:21 mark.
For New Rochelle, the victory followed this year's all-too-familiar script. The undersized Huguenots used their speed, smarts and skills to outlast a bigger, more physical team.
“We knew (Rye Town/Harrison) was going to play physical, but we didn't get frustrated,” Ramondelli said. “We just had to stick to our game and capitalize on our opportunities.”
Early on, things worked in Rye Town's favor. Senior forward Kevin Fusco tallied a power-play goal to give the Titans a 1-0 lead less than five minutes into the opening period.
Rye Town then turned to standout senior goalie Jaime Ketchabaw, a supreme talent who can make an early 1-0 lead stand up. Ketchabaw, who finished with an eye-popping 40 saves, did his best to stave off New Rochelle. Alas, he was letdown by a rash of penalties, which gave a dangerous and opportunistic Huguenots offense one too many power plays. Barry cashed in on one of them with 12:20 left in the second period to even the score at 1-1.
“Jaime was Jaime and stood on his head as much as he could to hold up the dam,” Titans coach Steve Forzaglia said. “At some point, you have too many penalties to kill and they start going in.”
Impressively, it was New Rochelle's third win of the season over Rye Town, which was outscored a combined 12-5 in the three losses. Against ETB, the shoe will be on the other foot. The Huguenots lost a pair of 6-3 games to the Eagles during the regular season.
Just don't expect New Rochelle to dwell on the past.
“We know we can play really well and can play with any team,” Ramondelli said. “We just have to go out there and play our game.”
GAME NOTES: New Rochelle returns to the Division 1 semifinals for the second straight year. In 2010-11, the Huguenots lost to White Plains … Chris Ramondelli leads New Rochelle in scoring with 59 points (30G, 29A), while Brett Barry is second with 53 points (19G, 34A) ... New Rochelle goalie Greg Feliu has relinquished just one goal in two playoff wins and has made a combined 47 saves in wins over Lakeland/Panas and Rye Town/Harrison … Rye Town goalie Jaime Ketchabaw had four 40-plus games this season and finished the year with 498 saves overall
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. New Ro' cashes in on the power play: The Huguenots tallied their two most important goals on the power play. Brett Barry's second-period goal evened the game at 1-1 and Chris Ramondelli provided the go-ahead goal in the third-period.
2. Rye Town's rash of penalties: The Titans really struggled with penalties as the game went on. It seemed they were down a man — or even two in some cases — for the majority of the third period. And it showed up on the stat sheet, as New Rochelle unleashed an unreal 22 shots in the third period.
3. Speed, smarts beat brawn and brute: New Rochelle's Chris Ramondelli and Kenny McLean are usually the smallest two players on the ice. But they make up for it with speed, smarts and skill. Both players have a knack of finding seams in a defense and redirecting pucks in front of the net. They also have the speed to burn the opposition on odd-man rushes. McLean was especially impressive against a Rye Town team looking to impose its will. The 5-foot-nothing freshman forward, who probably weighs 120 pounds soaking wet, took a slew of big hits early on. But he got up after each one and was a consistent thorn in the Titans' side.
Rye Town/Harrison 1 0 0 1
New Rochelle 0 1 3 4
RTH (11:44) Kevin Fusco from Dean Brancucci | 1-0 RTH *
NRO (12:20) Brett Barry unassisted | 1-1 *
NRO (8:13) Chris Ramondelli from Barry and Kenny McLean | 2-1 NRO *
NRO (7:09) John Valente from Kenny Belvin and Joey Ramondelli | 3-1 NRO
NRO (1:21) McLean from Chris Ramondelli and Nick Sioufas | 4-1 NRO
* Indicates power play goal
Rye Town/Harrison: Kevin Fusco (1G); Dean Brancucci (1A)
New Rochelle: Brett Barry (1G, 1A); Chris Ramondelli (1G, 1A); Kenny McLean (1G, 1A); John Valente (1G); Joey Ramondelli (1A); Kenny Belvin (1A); Nick Sioufas (1A)
Rye Town/Harrison: Jaime Ketchabaw (40 saves)
New Rochelle: Greg Feliu (21 saves)
Rye Town/Harrison 6 10 6 22
New Rochelle 9 13 22 44
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