The peanut gallery was snickering earlier this month when Rye coach Jason Friesen pointed out the positives following a tough loss, noting there was time enough to get things headed in the right direction.
Now those folks are scrambling for a seat on the proverbial bandwagon.
The Garnets simply overwhelmed John Jay on Friday at Brewster Ice Arena, posting a 6-3 win in a Section 1 Division 2 semifinal. Up next for the No. 10 seed is a return trip to the championship game. Rye lost to the Indians in the final a year ago.
It’s already been a heck of a run for the No. 10 seed.
“I knew how we were playing,” Friesen said. “I knew what we were capable of. … Sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly what it is, you’ve just got to give it some time and keep pushing and keep practicing.”
The light bulb came on at precisely the right moment. The Garnets had a hard time finishing all season, but have come out swarming in the playoffs. In three postseason games against quality opponents, they have poured in 20 goals.
“We don’t have the strongest guys, the biggest guys or the fastest guys, but we’re going to put a lot of pressure on you,” Rye forward Griffin Tutun said.
And they do exactly that at both ends.
“They played better,” Indians coach Alex Smith said. “They played hard. I’m not going to say anything negative about my team. That team deserved to win. “
Rye came out like adrenaline junkies, and Tutun got the Garnets on the board five minutes in.
“We just knew the first one was the most important goal,” he said. “We knew John Jay was definitely going to bring the house with all those fans. And if they get it going, the momentum could completely shift the game. We wanted to get the first one and completely dominate the rest of the game.”
Jack O’Brien stormed in alone 42 seconds later and made it a 2-0 lead.
It was hard for John Jay to clear the puck, much less set up and get a clean shot in the early going. The third-seeded Indians did eventually settle down. A slap shot by Mark Leprine got them within 2-1 with 9:21 to go in the second, but Andrew Urbanczyk answered a short time later. Ryan Cavanaugh scored on a deflection with 2:49 to go in the period to make it 3-2.
“We knew our energy needed to get up a little higher,” said O’Brien, who finished with a hat trick. “We knew we had it. We just had to get a couple more pucks to the net.”
The chemistry also increased over the last 15 minutes.
Connor McGovern upped the lead five minutes into the third, then O’Brien made it a 5-2 cushion with 8:24 to go. O’Brien and Leprine tacked on goals in the final minutes.
Rye will be facing longtime rival Pelham in the championship game on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. at Brewster Ice Arena.
“I couldn’t dream a better way to try to win a sectional championship,” Tutun said. “I wouldn’t want to beat anyone more than I want to beat Pelham to win.”