A little time away from the spotlight did Suffern a world of good.
There was a measure of complacency after the Mounties opened the season with a string of impressive wins. It wasn’t long before a perfect record was blemished. Most of the last two weeks have been spent on the ice making corrections.
And the end result was on display against Pelham on Friday night.
Suffern was back to doing what the program has done for years, smothering teams on defense and forcing mistakes at the offensive end. The Mounties poured in five goals in the second period at Sport-O-Rama to claim a decisive 6-1 win.
“In the four years I’ve been playing at Pelham, that’s how it’s always been here,” senior defenseman Tristain Weeks said. “If they get one goal, they get 10. They are just all over you.”
There’s no shortage of emotion when the defending Section 1 champions get together, and the adrenaline was flowing in the early moments. Suffern was able to settle in right away. Justin Tiso got the Mounties on the board off a Nick Jaeger assist 72 seconds into the game.
Pelham (2-1-2) was momentarily startled.
It wasn’t long before the Pelicans began to give back everything they were getting, and Will Cullen knotted the score, 1-1, when he lifted a rebound in while on the power play with 1:57 to play in the first.
The legs were starting to wobble as both teams headed into the intermission.
Suffern (6-1) is known for its flying starts, and it’s very important to keep the Mounties quiet in the opening minutes of each period. Pelham had too many breakdowns deep in the zone and left too much space around the crease.
“The puck was moving well tonight,” said junior forward Kevin Hill, who finished with another hat trick. “It seems like everybody was seeing it so clearly. And we were loose, not uptight like in some of the earlier games, and when we are loose, the puck finds the net.”
It wasn’t a tie game for long. Tom Brennan gave Suffern a 2-1 lead in the opening minutes of the second with a blast from the just inside the blue line, then Hill found a puck on the doorstep seconds later.
“It was loose in front and hopped on my stick,” Hill said. “I saw the goalie’s legs were open, so I slid it through. We had some rough practices in the last couple of weeks and worked on all of the mistakes, and it’s paying off.”
Hill got the next two goals as well.
“We needed the practice,” Mounties coach Rob Schelling said. “After we won the tournament upstate, we got a little complacent. … We had a couple of weeks to work on some things and tonight we buckled down on defense, which led to some offensive chances.”
Pelham had a long talk in the locker room afterward, knowing it has to clean up a few issues to be competitive in big games.
“If you give (Suffern) 15 minutes of lousy hockey, they are going eat you up,” Pelicans coach Ed Witz said. “We were a little reckless in front of our net in the second period. … We paid the price.”