MONSEY – Will Arbo was on the doorstep and running out of options when he spotted an opening.
It wasn’t much to work with.
Arbo lifted the puck and changed the mood in an instant, finishing top corner with a picturesque backhand. Mamaroneck was struggling to get traction before the goal, but owned the puck afterward, posting a 5-1 win over Massena on Saturday in a NYSPHSAA quarterfinal at Sport-O-Rama.
Once the Tigers get a foot in the door, they are hard to send away.
“That was fun,” Arbo said of the goal he scored nearly 12 minutes into a tense game. “I got the pass from James Torre and just skated it down, saw the top corner open and hoped for the best. It was lucky.”
“The first five minutes of that game wasn’t so easy,” Mamaroneck coach Mike Chiapparelli said. “Massena was flying. I told the kids we had to settle down. We were a little hyped up, and then Arbo’s backhand turned the game. What a shot.”
For some reason, this group dials it up exponentially when it sees a 1-0 lead on the board.
It didn’t come easy.
The Tigers had to get physical with the Section 10 champs and win some tough battles on the boards before they began to apply the pressure.
“We get a lot of momentum from that first goal,” said Jason Bienstock, who swatted in a rebound with one second to play in the first period. “We feel invincible almost. It’s really important to us and we’re fortunate that we got the first goal.”
Mamaroneck was in control the rest of the way except for a penalty-induced lapse here and there.
Bienstock scored again in the opening minute of the second. Alex Ewald hit from the circle in the final minute of the period to make it a 4-0 lead. The lone Red Raiders goal came from Nicholas Kozsan, who scored on a power play two minutes into the third period. Tucker Leicht ended the comeback when he drove home a shot from the point with 7:26 to play.
And now the Tigers are off to Buffalo.
They face Pittsford in a semifinal game on Saturday at HarborCenter at 9:30 a.m.
“It’s a new place for the state championships and we’re looking to christen it,” Mamaroneck goalie Tommy Spero said.
Turning point: Holding off the early Massena surge and getting two goals in the final minutes of the first period only gave the Tigers more confidence, and the lead grew quickly when the second period got under way.
Player of the game: It would be a mistake to overlook what Tommy Spero did in the first 10 minutes. He was under heavy fire right from the start and came up with 33 saves.
“I was pretty busy,” he said. “We expected that because they came a long way to play the game and didn’t want to lose so they hit us with a lot of firepower. We just kind of weathered the storm and came back strong.”
Stat line: The Red Raiders outshot Mamaroneck 13-6 in the first period and 34-20 on the night. … Will Kirk had three assists for the Tigers. … Spero has not given up a 5-on-5 goal in the last two games.
Quotable: “It’s a way different team when we score first,” Spero said. “Our morale is up. Our confidence is up. We play a lot crisper hockey.”