BUFFALO — They had talked throughout the year how their hockey season was like a novel.
Every adventure, every goal, every save, every clear of the defensive zone by the Pittsford high school hockey team was being chronicled, at least figuratively.
“Each game is a chapter in the book,” coach Steve Thering said. “They’re all part of the story.”
The clock hadn’t struck noon Saturday and the Panthers were asking, begging almost, for a rewrite of their final chapter.
Who let Stephen King pen the conclusion to their on-ice best-seller?
Instead of playing for the state Division 1 championship on Sunday afternoon, Pittsford’s season came to a crushing end. Mamaroneck used three power-play goals and a short-handed goal to defeat the Panthers 5-2 at the HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo.
The finality hit hard.
“I’ve been playing hockey for like 15 years and next year I won’t be playing competitive hockey; this was the end,” senior defenseman Griff Avery said.
Despite the bitter loss, players knew there was plenty to be proud of in their 17-6-1 campaign.
“You cant really believe it’s over at first,” junior winger Ryan Walpole said. “But you know if you think back to the season, it was special.”
The Panthers, state runners-up in 2012, never led against Mamaroneck. Twice they erased one-goal deficits; in the first period when John Mozrall scored on a power-play at 13:56 and in the second period when Walpole scored at 7:09.
Mamaroneck (23-2) again went ahead, taking a 3-2 lead with 4:13 left in the second period when Kesin Ryan-Dehija’s shot from the point sailed past a screen and into the top corner of the net.
When Alex Ewald scored his second power-play goal of the game just 30 seconds into the third period, the Tigers were up 4-2, and another power-play goal just 80 seconds later provided a 5-2 cushion.
“After the fifth goal we started to play our best hockey,” Avery said. “The first two periods we couldn’t get anything going. It seems like it took five goals to wake up.”
But despite a 19-shot barrage in the third period — better than a shot a minute — the Panthers couldn’t get the puck past goalie Tommy Spero. The junior goaltender made 38 saves as Pittsford outshot the Tigers 40-38.
There was a sense of accomplishment to still be playing hockey in mid-March, to have reached the final four in the state’s top division.
“But you’re so close …” Thering said.
For seven seniors, it was the end. For the rest of the squad, including five of the top six forwards, the sequel in 2016-17 could have a happier ending.
“You look to next year and hope to be in the same spot,” Walpole said, “and go further.”