Fresh off its biggest win of the season just 48 hours earlier, the Fox Lane hockey team was still floating on cloud nine when it skated onto the ice late Sunday afternoon at Brewster Arena for the Foxes’ annual Senior Night.
“I’ve been on a high since then and so have the guys,” admitted coach Charles Berger not long after his team had concluded a weekend to remember by crushing Ossining 7-2. “We’re just hoping that this is gonna propel us forward.”
The Foxes, hovering around .500 most of the season, emerged with a shocking 4-3 victory in overtime on Friday over a highly regarded Horace Greeley team that had lost just once all year. Matt Stewart scored two goals, including the game-winner with just 12 seconds left in overtime, and standout goalie Conor Bunyan turned aside 47 Quaker shots as the Foxes stunned Greeley and perhaps turned around their own fortunes for the rest of the season.
“Just an unbelievable effort,” said Berger about the Foxes’ improbable overtime win despite having just three skaters on the ice when it ended. “We iced the puck. We win the draw in our own zone with 25 seconds to go, down two men. Stewart intercepts the pass. He leaps and catches it with his glove, puts it down and all in one motion buries it into the corner of the net. I mean it was just a tremendous play and it was bedlam after that.”
The bedlam had subsided by the time the Foxes arrived on Sunday to face winless Ossining, a team they already defeated by three goals earlier in the season. But with Senior Night festivities preceding the opening faceoff, the Foxes still had plenty to be pumped up about. A brief ceremony honoring Bunyan, Blaze Vogliano, Colleen Roemer, Jack Richter, Tristan Vernon, Harrison Morell and Jay Fetter set the table for the Foxes’ 10th win of the season.
“We were able to overcome a lot of penalties early and I think the guys were just very excited,” said Berger. “It was Senior Night and they let their emotions get the best of them a little, which happens sometimes.”
The Foxes spent most of the first period playing shorthanded, but still skated off for the first intermission with a 2-0 lead. Stewart got them on the scoreboard less than two minutes into the period while the Foxes were trying to kill off an extended Ossining power play. Jack Alexander gave Fox Lane a two-goal lead with 47 seconds remaining when he slipped the puck past Pride goalie Kelly Rothschild.
Just 15 seconds later, Rothschild came up big for Ossining, denying Vogliano on a point-blank shot right in front of the net. Nearly midway through the second period, Vogliano was stopped again on a breakaway down the right wing. With 5:21 left in the period, Ossining’s Nicholas Lema scored to suddenly slice the Fox Lane lead in half.
“The first thing that went through my mind is I was impressed with Ossining and seeing how hard they battled,” said Berger about the goal from Lema that got the Pride back in the game. “They’ve had a tough season and they just came to play tonight, which is awesome. So I thought that was a great job by them and we just needed to regroup and pull it together.”
Fox Lane did regroup quickly, answering with three goals within two and a half minutes to finish the period with a commanding 5-1 advantage. Vogliano started the onslaught, breaking in along the left wing and sending a shot from the slot past Rothschild. Jacob Rauch, assisted by Fetter and Brian Cohn, blasted in a shot from along the left boards with 2:34 left in the period. A little more than a minute later, Ryan Kelly gathered the puck along the right boards, skated to his left and put a left-handed wrist shot into the back of the net.
In the third period, Bunyan, who made 13 saves, gave way to freshman Kineo Gorman. The Foxes added goals from Richter and Jake Fosse, opening up a 7-1 cushion with exactly 10 minutes left, before Lema tallied again on a rebound to close the game’s scoring.
“What was really exciting to me is that Jack Richter and Jake Fosse got their first goals tonight,” Berger said. “First year Richter’s on the team and for Fosse it’s the first time he’s ever played ice hockey before. So he doesn’t get a lot of ice time. He got out there and he got a goal, which is awesome.”
Even more awesome of course was what happened on Friday evening at Brewster when the Foxes turned in one of the most unexpected performances of the season in Section One.
“A big win for our program,” said Berger. “It was a huge lift. I know I haven’t come down yet. It’s a top-two moment all-time in my coaching career to beat a team that was that good and just come together as a team. We’d love to make a run here. We’ve had our eyes on a section title since I got here and that’s the ultimate goal.”
Berger knows that having a goalie like Bunyan makes such thoughts more than just a pipe dream. “He’s a guy that’s ready to play on the next level,” he said. “47 saves (vs. Greeley) and I watched the game three times already, they were quality 47. The kid’s unbelievable. I mean, he’s just on another level and I’m just blessed to have him.”