Even when the level of tension was high, North Rockland looked to be in a comfort zone.
The Red Raiders had nearly two weeks between games to work out a few issues, and the dividends came quickly. A third-period scoring outburst led to a 7-2 win over Somers/North Salem on Saturday at Sport-O-Rama.
“We put our lines back together and found some chemistry,” said North Rockland forward James Morina. “We made simple mistakes in the other games and we’ve fixed them.”
Much of the momentum gained in the first two months got away when the Red Raiders dropped three of four just before the in-season break. The losses did come against quality teams — Suffern, Scarsdale and Pearl River — but the quality of play was dropping.
“I don’t think anybody lost confidence,” North Rockland coach Gary Dworkowitz said. “I just think they were looking to recapture the continuity we had early in the season.”
There was one hiccup in the opening minutes.
After working on defensive zone coverage, the Red Raiders were a little slow getting to Mitch Lanyi, who gave the Sabers a 1-0 lead from just inside the blue line.
“There was kind of a scrum off a faceoff so nobody knew what was going on,” he said. “After the puck came out to me, I took a step in and ripped it.”
North Rockland (10-4) remained calm and the game was tied minutes later when T.J. Brennan found Danny Moore on the doorstep. Morina scored with 1:30 to go in the period after Jeff Cool set him up from behind the net.
Somers/North Salem had just killed off a penalty and was caught out of position.
A short bench did eventually slow the Sabers (10-4-1). Wilson McCloy came hustling in from a travel game during the intermission, giving them 13 skaters. Aidan Quaglino made 14 stops in the second period to keep it close.
“We did get a little tired,” Lanyi said. “It happens, and we kind of fell apart.”
In the last 11 minutes of play, the Red Raiders scored five times. Chris Vasquez started the outburst and Tyler Connolly made it 4-1 with seven minutes to go. Mark McElroy then came up with a pair of power-play goals to lock up a needed win.
“Our confidence went up after we got one past that goalie,” Morina said. “Momentum is big and we need to come into the playoffs winning every game we have left.”