By Mike Dougherty
MONSEY – It was clearly Mike Ruthberg’s time.
The junior forward has developed a reputation for showing up in the right place at the right time, and he was perfectly positioned each time Suffern needed a goal, finishing with a hat trick in a 3-0 win over North Rockland on Friday at Sport-O-Rama.
“Mike is the kind of player coaches love,” Mounties coach Rob Schelling said. “He will do anything that’s asked of him. Mike has improved every single day from the start of the season and is playing great now.”
North Rockland was under control from the start, unlike a year ago when a physical approach backfired in a loss to the Mounties.
There was just one penalty whistled in the first period, against Suffern.
“I have to say, the atmosphere in here was probably the best I have ever played in,” said Mounties forward Justin Tiso, who left last year’s game with a concussion. “The fans from both schools showed a lot of respect. It was just a fast, hard game of hockey.”
Ruthberg was hanging around the crease in the final minutes of the first period when Troy Daniels set up and unleashed a blast.
“I kind of tipped it in between my legs,” said Ruthberg, who had never had a hat trick. “I was lucky to get that one in. We’ve been starting a little slow and we didn’t score the first goal in any of the previous three games, so needed that one.”
Ruthberg wasn’t the only player having a good time in the spotlight.
Nobody had more chances early on than Tiso, who came screaming into the zone with the puck on three separate occasions and was stopped each time by North Rockland goalie Kenny Hoppe.
“It gave them a sense of hope,” Tiso said. “He played such a good game for them.”
Ruthberg promptly deposited the rebound.
“Suffern’s experience playing in thise high-level games serves them well,” North Rockland coach Gary Dworkowitz said. “Their composure allows them to weather those storms. We’re still trying to get to that point.”
The goal definitely affected the Red Raiders, who began to gamble and gave up another goal after taking their first penalty of the game.
It was Ruthberg again.
“Getting a hat trick is awesome,” he said. “I was just in the right spot at the right time. North Rockland played great the whole game. They were tough, but we were able to get that second and third goal and carry the play from there.”
Photos by Seth Harrison/The Journal News