After struggling all season long to make an impression, Rye closed out the regular season with a statement win.
Connor McGovern and Connor Hatch propelled the Garnets to a 5-4 win over John Jay on Wednesday at Brewster Ice Arena in a rematch of last year’s Section 1 championship game. The win provided a jolt of timely optimism.
“We knew our regular season wasn’t going that well, but we decided it was time to turn it up for the playoffs and make a run,” said Hatch, who scored twice.
The Indians enter this year’s tournament as the defending champion in Division II, but they have now suffered a pair of troubling losses in the last week.
A string of health issues has contributed to the inconsistent play.
“The level of concern is high,” said head coach Alex Smith, who lost a valuable goal scorer when Lucas Prestamo was helped off with a leg injury.
“We didn’t play well in the first two periods, and were out of gas when we did show urgency in the third. It’s not a good time to start questioning things.”
Hatch got Rye (9-9-2) on the scoreboard first. Jack Tobin got loose and knotted the score with a breakaway goal, but McGovern answered not even a minute later.
It was 2-2 after Jack Wertz opened the second with a power-play goal.
A couple of ill-timed penalties left John Jay scrambling. And right when the Indians got back to even strength, McGovern got a deflection off a Cal Hynson shot. He rattled in a third goal with 10:07 to go in the second period, making it a 4-2 lead.
Shawn Smith narrowed the deficit with 36 seconds to go in the second, but Hatch netted a deflating goal with 3:45 to play.
“We definitely are a low-scoring team … five is a lot for us,” McGovern said.
“That’s certainly good going into the playoffs. We’re going to keep throwing pucks at the net. It’s working.”