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WEST NYACK, N.Y. — Sleepy Hollow/Irvington is in an interesting predicament. One of the premier hockey players in the state is on their team. Looking down your bench and seeing 6-3 senior defenseman Brett Pesce sitting there would be enough to make any coach smile. The University of New Hampshire-bound Pesce is commanding and immediately recognizable as the best player on the ice.
So, what’s the problem?
Well, unfortunately for the Legends, Pesce is such a great player, that his commitments to the Under-18 National team often call him away. For every game SHI coach Howie Weiner gets to utilize this ultimate Section 1 weapon, he must spend ten without it.
Wednesday night marked Pesce’s second and possibly last game with the Legends for this year, but he made it count. SHI (1-7) upended Mt. Pleasant (2-3-1) by a score of 3-1 en route to their first win of the season. Pesce had a goal and two assists was just a superlative force on the ice.
“It’s so nice. I almost forgot what it’s like to win,” Weiner said. “It’s a special situation with (Pesce). It was only going to work if he could help the team not just win games but learn how to play. Just having him there teaches our guys how to get rebounds and create shots and control the puck in the offensive zone.”
Pesce is a defenseman who dominates on both ends of the ice. His instincts in the passing lanes are keen and his skating is effortless. His raw speed and stick-handling ability are what truly sets him apart. When he scoops the puck up in the corner and slingshots out from behind his own net with a full head of steam, the most clueless hockey novice would realize they are watching something special.
“I love playing with my little brother (freshman goalie Adam Pesce) and the kids from my school,” Pesce said. “It’s just different from my travel team because I don’t know those guys but I’ve grown up with these kids.”
For all of Pesce’s talent, this was still a very close game. Mt. Pleasant has senior goalie Lucien Orza to thank for that. Orza was tremendous in goal throughout the game with 30 saves, often at point-blank range.
Mt. Pleasant went up 1-0 just a minute and a half into the game on a Vincent Cattucci goal but SHI answered six minutes later after Orza stuffed Pesce on a breakaway. Legends senior Jake Warren crashed the net and poked home the rebound.
SHI scored once in the second period when Pesce corkscrewed his way through three defenders and buried the puck for the 2-1 lead. They tallied a third with just under two minutes remaining when Warren notched his second opportunistic goal of the game off a scrum in front of the net.
Goalie Matt Inglas made some nice saves in the third period that gave his team the confidence to keep attacking in search of that important insurance goal.
“It’s pretty tough coming back game after game and losing,” Inglas said. “This is a big momentum shift, hopefully next game we come back even harder.”
The Legends play ETB Thursday and could certainly use Pesce in what would most likely be his final appearance of the year for SHI. He was still unsure if he will be able to play.
He appears on the bench suddenly and in the next moment he may be gone — but for the Legends — the games will go on and the season will progress with or without him. Pesce can help them hone their skills but they will have to become a team without him.
Game Notes: Sleepy Hollow/Irvington won its first game of the year, largely thanks to the contributions of Brett Pesce and goalie Matt Inglas. This may be Pesce’s last game with the team as he heads off to national team play any day now. Mt. Pleasant goalkeeper Lucien Orza took the loss but has every reason to be proud of his performance. He was a wall for most of the game, stoning the SHI team again and again and keeping it a one goal game until the final two minutes.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Speed Threat: Brett Pesce’s speed made him unstoppable on the rush but he wasn’t alone. Fellow senior defenseman Kevin Halpin showcased some wheels of his own as the tandem was the dominant force on the ice during their shifts. Mt. Pleasant simply could not match the skaters of SHI.
2. Mind the Netminders: Both goalies played extremely well stopping 46 of 50 total shots on net. SHI’s Matt Inglas had several big saves in the final period while Mt. Pleasant’s Lucien Orza made 30 stops and kept his team in the game throughout.
3. National Pride: This may be obvious but when you can put a player on the US Under-18 national team on the ice, you’ve got a solid chance of winning the game. Legends’ defenseman Brett Pesce proved it as he had a hand in all three SHI goals.
MP (01:30) Vincent Cattucci from Chris Hahn and Jacob Kramer – 1-0 MP
SHI (07:26) Jake Warren (PP) from Brett Pesce – 1-1
SHI (10:48) Pesce from Kevin Halpin – 2-1 SHI
SHI (10:48) Warren from Tommy Farrell and Pesce – 3-1 SHI
SLEEPY/IRV: Brett Pesce (1G, 2A); Warren (2G)
MT. PLEASANT: Vincent Cattucci (1G)
SLEEPY/IRV: Matt Inglas (16 saves)
MT. PLEASANT: Lucien Orza (30 saves)
SLEEPY/IRV: 1 9 13 33
MT. PLEASANT: 6 5 6 17