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RYE, N.Y. — Spectators from Pelham and Rye jammed into every square inch of the Playland Ice Casino on Wednesday night. The rabid fans expected to witness another thrilling chapter in what has become one of Section 1's premier rivalries.
Instead, they were treated to laugher.
The Pelicans (11-5) cruised to a 5-0 win over the Garnets (11-3-1) and assumed the unquestioned top spot in Section 1 Division 2's hierarchy.
And it wasn't just the fact Pelham won — it was the fashion in which they did so. After all, the previous nine meetings between the Division 2 powerhouses had been decided by an average margin of a single goal.
“Every year it goes back and forth, but this year we are strong,” Pelham senior captain Colin Reilly said. “We expect to see Rye again in the playoffs. This is a big win for us, but it definitely isn't over for Rye. They will live to fight another day.”
As of late, however, the Pelicans have turned defeating Rye into an art form. Pelham — which edged the Garnets in the 2010-11 D2 sectional final — has now won three straight in the rivalry and is 5-4-1 in its last 10 games against the Garnets. Rye's last win came during the 2008-09 regular season.
In the latest showdown, the Pelicans wasted little time asserting their dominance. Reilly and sophomore defenseman Will Cullen buried a goal apiece to give Pelham an early 2-0 first-period lead. Reilly struck first at the 8:56 mark, deflecting in a long-range shot from sophomore forward Andrew Schauer. Cullen followed it up two minutes and 41 seconds later, ripping a top-shelf beauty past Rye goalie Aidan Talgo (30 saves).
“It's all about momentum here and we just built off of it every shift after that,” Reilly said of the torrid start. “Everybody was fired up and wanted (a goal) of their own.”
Rye's best scoring chance came with roughly four minutes left in the second period, when the outcome was still in doubt. Looking to cut Pelham's 2-0 lead in half, speedy forward Ryan Rogers stormed toward the net on a 2-on-1 rush. Rogers' ensuing shot missed by mere inches, dinging off the right post.
“If it goes in the net, that's 2-1 and the momentum swings and the ice tilts our way,” Rye coach Jason Friesen said. “Who knows what it's looking like going into the third period?”
Instead, Uncle Mo stayed on Pelham's side. David Morgan extended the lead to 3-0 with 12:34 left in the third period, pouncing on a loose puck in front of the net. Talgo immediately ripped his mask off in protest after the ref signaled for a goal. He pleaded that the puck never crossed the line. Friesen sided with his netminder.
“I think that third goal was questionable and I think that deflated us a lot,” the coach said. “I think there was still a lot of fight there. At 3-0, it's tougher to go with the same energy you had in the first period and all the way through the second.”
Pelham put the game away inside the final two minutes of the third period, getting a goal apiece from sophomore forward Will Donovan and senior forward Danny Shea.
As the regular season comes to an end, the odds point to a rematch between the two rivals at West Point come late February. Pelham and Rye have met in three of the past four Section 1 D2 title games.
Still, Reilly wasn't about to guarantee a repeat performance on the big stage.
“It's playoff hockey and anything can happen, so it could be 5-0 for them or for us,” he said. “It could be 1-1 or overtime. Anything can happen.”
GAME NOTES: Colin Reilly leads Pelham with in scoring with 13 goals … Andrew Schauer leads Pelham in overall points with 26 (11G, 15A) … The shutout was Pelham's third of the year and second against a Section 1 opponent … Pelham's defense has been in lockdown mode since relinquishing a season-high eight goals to Suffern back on Jan. 6. The Pelicans have posted five shutouts in their past eight games for a measly goals against average of .625 … This was the second time Rye has been shutout this year, with the other coming in a 3-0 loss to Mamaroneck back on Jan. 18.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Physical style favors Pelham: With physically superior players like defenseman Matt Landis and forward Andrew Schauer, the hard-hitting style of Wednesday's game played right into Pelham's hands. The Pelicans wore Rye down as the game progressed and sealed it with three third-period goals.
Here's what Colin Reilly had to say about their physical edge: “We are an older team and we have a heavy senior class. We have a lot of size, especially in our defense. In some games — and especially this one — you can outmuscle guys in front of the net and keep them to as few chances as possible. And that's what we did.”
While the Garnets showed a ton of guts by mixing it up, it just wasn't their brand of hockey. In order to be successful against a bigger team like Pelham, Rye needs to better utilize its speed, quickness and stickhandling ability — especially in transition and on the forecheck.
2. Pelicans soar from the start: Pelham went into the hostile Playland Ice Casino and immediately hushed Rye's crowd with a pair of first-period goals. Garnets coach Jason Friesen lamented the slow start: “When you play a great team like that and you make mistakes, they put the puck in the net. We kind of got behind the eight ball and it was a battle rest of the way.”
3. Borofsky blanks Rye, rises to challenge: Unlike last year, Pelham goalie Josh Borofsky is not the unquestioned starter. He has shared time in net this year with sophomore Matt DeYoung.
“It has been really unpredictable for me and hard sitting through the games I'm not playing in and not knowing when I'm going to play,” Borofsky said. “But I sit through it and wait my turn.”
Friday's game was just Borofsky's second start in the past four games. Needless to say, the junior netminder was up to the challenge, making 25 saves to record his second shutout of the season.
“I went in there and I was really focused,” Borofsky said. “There was a lot of pressure, but I just stayed in it and stayed focus.”
Pelham: 2 0 3 5
Rye: 0 0 0 0
PEL (8:56) Colin Reilly from Andrew Schauer | 1-0 PEL
PEL (6:15) Will Cullen from Danny Shea | 2-0 PEL
PEL (12:34) David Morgan from Ian Mac Innis | 3-0 PEL
PEL (2:01) Will Donovan unassisted | 4-0 PEL
PEL (1:28) Shea from Reilly and Schauer | 5-0 PEL
Pelham: Colin Reilly (1G, 1A); Andrew Schauer (2A); Danny Shea (1G, 1A); Will Donovan (1G); Will Cullen (1G); David Morgan (1G); Ian Mac Innis (1A)
Pelham: Josh Borofsky (25 saves)
Rye: Aidan Talgo (30 saves)
Pelham: 15 7 13 35
Rye: 8 9 8 25
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass