Try not to be deceived by the Horace Greeley hockey team’s lofty win-loss record so far this season.
Though the Quakers remain undefeated, they are still a work in progress.
That was quite apparent on Saturday evening at the Brewster Ice Arena, where the Quakers squandered a four-goal, second-period lead before Ryan Renzulli eventually notched his third goal of the game with just 68 seconds remaining to lift them to a 6-5 victory over the Mahopac Indians in a battle of unbeatens that was as chippy as it was confounding.
“We’re not even close to where our ceiling is,” said Quakers head coach Dan Perito, shortly after his Jekyll-Hyde team had somehow escaped with its seventh consecutive win. “We have a long way to go. Obviously, as you saw tonight, there’s a lot that we have to learn from and a lot to clean up. And once we clean those things up, I think we can be a solid team in the end.”
On a night when it seemed the Quakers would cruise to their latest triumph, they instead wound up playing shorthanded for much of the game’s final 30 minutes. They were whistled for five penalties in the second period and three more in the third, including a costly roughing penalty on Renzulli with 95 seconds left in the game that opened the door for Mahopac to finally tie the score after playing from behind all evening.
“I’ve been telling my team, especially after the second period, stay out of the box,” said Perito. “One of the first things I mentioned in the pregame, before the game started, was ‘stay out of the box. Don’t get caught up in the extracurricular stuff after the whistle.’ As you know in sports, they always catch the second guy. They don’t catch the first guy. Hopefully that’s a lesson we learned.”
The roughing call late in the third period with the Quakers clinging to a 5-4 lead enabled the Indians’ Nick Bricker to score his second power-play goal of the game and even the contest just nine seconds after Renzulli stepped into the penalty box for the third time. But once the Quakers’ senior forward returned to the ice, he quickly atoned for it, scoring the game-winner 18 seconds later by firing a rebound past Mahopac backup goalie Mike Horan.
“He’s one of our captains, he’s an experienced player, been playing varsity for four years,” said Perito about Renzulli. “Played a lot of travel. So he knows the situation, and at that point they’ve got a backup goalie in. We really hadn’t had a great scoring chance. So as long as we get the puck down near the net, we felt confident that we were gonna put one in. He knows that in that situation, let’s end this now. Let’s not go into overtime.”
Overtime seemed far-fetched the way the game began. Even though the Indians outshot Greeley by an 8-5 margin in the opening period, the Quakers jumped ahead when freshman Ben Cohen tipped in Tyler Kay’s shot from the left point with just over four minutes to go and the teams playing four-on-four.
Late in the period, Greeley seized complete control with a pair of goals 57 seconds apart, the first one coming from another freshman, Gabe Adams, who was on the receiving end of a nearly two-line pass and then skated in and beat goalie Logan MacDougall from the left doorstep. The Quakers’ third goal, with just 14 seconds left, came off the stick of Renzulli and gave them a three-goal advantage after one period.
Just moments after the puck dropped to start the second period, Renzulli raced in from the left wing and put the puck past MacDougall once again, stretching the Greeley lead to 4-0 just 12 seconds in. But the Indians began their comeback with a goal from T.J. McKee a minute and a half later. Then came all the Quaker penalties, starting with a roughing call on Liam Whitehouse.
By the time the second period was over, Mahopac had outshot the Quakers 16-4 and narrowed the deficit to just 4-3. A goal by Whitehouse almost eight minutes into the final period gave Greeley a little breathing room, but just two minutes later, after the Indians’ MacDougall had departed with a leg injury, Brian O’Shea scored to cut the Quaker lead to one goal again.
After trailing all evening, the Indians finally caught up on Bricker’s power-play goal with 1:26 left on the clock. Just 18 seconds later, though, Renzulli, no longer in the penalty box, blasted home the winning goal to complete his hat trick, silence the loud Mahopac student section and keep the Quakers undefeated this season.
“Learned the hard way tonight,” said Perito, “because five on five, we were playing pretty well, especially for a period and five minutes. You’ve got a team down, you’ve got to keep ‘em down. You let a team hang around like that and they think they can win. Hopefully we can regroup after the break here, come back in January, and clean up those mistakes.”