It’s been a startling transformation for the Horace Greeley hockey team from the winless woes of just a couple of years ago to this season’s slew of lopsided victories.
But on Saturday night at the Brewster Ice Arena, in a marquee matchup of undefeated teams, the Quakers found out just how much further they have to go to join the elite of Section One.
The host John Jay Indians erupted for four first-period goals before the Quakers even knew what hit them and went on to a resounding 7-2 triumph. The one-sided loss brought a sudden and disappointing conclusion to the Quakers’ bid for an unbeaten regular season and left them skating off the ice with wounded pride.
“I didn’t think we were ready to play tonight,” said Quakers coach Zach Dargaty outside his team’s locker room, from which, one by one, sullen players were slowly making their sad exit. “It’s one thing to lose when you play at your best. When you don’t play at your best, that’s when it’s just frustrating. I think they’re frustrated that they didn’t put out their best effort tonight.”
The game was barely three minutes old when the Indians’ Shawn Smith blasted a slap shot from the right point past Greeley goalie Neil Hershman. Just two minutes and 15 seconds later, Smith sent another long shot, this time from straight on, into the back of the net to give John Jay a 2-0 lead. Then with some out-of-sorts Quakers falling to the ice, John Tobin took advantage in front and deposited the puck past Hershman, giving the Indians a whopping three-goal advantage just past the midway point of the opening period.
If the Quakers didn’t realize it was going to be a long night by then, they surely did when Frazier Bostwick capped a strong Indian rush up the left wing by putting home the fourth goal with 2:09 still remaining the first period. To their credit, though, the Quakers managed to make a dent in their huge deficit before the period ended.
Just 10 seconds into a power play, Greeley’s Michael Yablon, from right of the cage, sent a pass in front to Calder Fontaine, who easily slipped the puck into the wide-open net, getting the Quakers on the board 38 seconds before the first intermission.
“It was the second power-play unit and they did a great job right off the faceoff of making the play to the net,” said Dargaty. “Yeah, I was hoping we were gonna build on that.”
But 40 seconds into the second period, the Quakers’ Scott Jakubowicz, trying to deliver the type of hard check the Indians had been using to send one undersized Greeley player after another to the ice, staggered back to the bench after getting much the worst of his collision along the boards. With five minutes gone by, the Quakers did have a brief two-man advantage, but couldn’t capitalize.
Still, a Greeley comeback didn’t seem impossible once Dean Klein backhanded the puck past Indians goalie Matt Lanza with 8:41 remaining in the middle period. The Quakers, 12-0-1 coming in after a win over Connecticut’s Masuk High on Friday, suddenly seemed to have all the momentum.
“We were hoping we could build on it,” said Dargaty about the sudden resurgence by his team. “But they (the Indians) did a great job of coming back and taking that right away from us. All the credit to them. They played great tonight.”
Indeed, the Indians responded by adding two more goals late in the second period. When Bostwick’s blast from the right point got past Hershman with 1:29 to go, increasing Jay’s lead to 6-2, the decidedly pro-Jay crowd began chanting to start the buses.
The Quakers began the third period with a 90-second man advantage, but weren’t able to creep any closer. With 3:26 left on the clock, the Indians’ Smith delivered the final indignity of the evening for Greeley, completing his hat trick by scoring a shorthanded goal.
“During the season, there’s certain games you’re gonna circle because you know you’re playing tough competition,” said Dargaty. “It was a big game and we’ve just gotta make sure we learn from it, we learn from our mistakes, so the next time we come out we’re ready to go. ”
Dargaty spent extra time inside the locker room afterwards reminding his players that their world hadn’t come to an end because of one disappointing outing.
“When you play better teams, you can find out what you’re made of and I think adversity is always a little good,” he said. “It’s tough to go undefeated and carry that through. You wanna kind of have these kind of stings so that you realize, ‘hey, you know, we’ve still gotta work hard. We’ve still gotta do the right things to win.'”
Andy is a sports editor at Examiner Media, covering seven high schools in the mid-Westchester region with a notebook and camera. He began there in the fall of 2007 following 15 years as a candid photographer for the largest school picture company in the tri-state area.