YONKERS – It’s not easy to change the course of a season quickly going south, but Stephen Nicholas did what marquee players are supposed to and helped Scarsdale end three weeks of frustration on Friday.
A timely hat trick led the Raiders to a 7-4 win over John Jay at E.J. Murray Skating Center. It was the first win in six games for the reigning sectional champions.
“Stephen is the right guy for that job,” Scarsdale coach Jim Mancuso said. “He’s vocal. He’s physical. He takes control on the ice. He takes control in the locker room, on the bus. It’s good to have somebody like that around.”
Nicholas went right to work. He was immediately nose to nose with Indians goalie George McMichael and gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead just 28 seconds in.
It was all tied up after Ellis Maloof showed a burst of speed.
Nicholas made a nifty move to get the hands free in front and somehow managed to push the puck in after getting knocked to the ice. He also set up a Jonathan Schwartz goal to make it 3-1 at the end of the first.
A proper tone was definitely established.
“We just got completely out-worked against in our last game against Rye,” Nicholas said. “The whole week in practice, we just tried to keep a fast tempo. We skated a lot to get our stamina up. We know what it takes to win. We beat a couple of good teams, but we have to be more consistent, so that’s what we’re working on coming into the playoffs.”
Scarsdale has one more regular-season game left, against Suffern on Monday.
David Browne kept John Jay close with a goal one minute into the second, but Schwartz netted his second of the game to make it a 4-2 lead. Ryan Cavanagh got loose with 9:27 to go in the period to again make it a one-goal margin.
The Raiders (9-8-2) surged ahead on goals by Sam Stemerman and Ben Schwartz in the opening minutes of the third.
A long-distance snipe from Charlie Hastings gave the Indians a glimmer of hope with 6:09 to play, but Nicholas threw in a short-handed, empty-net goal to punctuate the win.
“This was very important,” Stemerman said. “We had to fix some things. It’s very important to build some momentum going into playoffs and this was a start, now we have to beat Suffern again to keep it going into the playoffs.”
Player of the game: Nicholas finished with three goals and two assists. He was the one player John Jay could not match up with.
Turning point: The Indians were controlling the puck early in the third period, looking to knot the score. A little impatience proved costly. A rush by Nicholas led to the Stemerman goal gave the Raiders a two-goal cushion with 11:35 to play.
Stat line: Nicholas actually had a fourth goal. The officials did not see McMichael reach back and pull the puck into the crease where Stemerman was positioned to knock into the net. … Shots on goal were even, 25-25. … Sam Seltzer made 21 saves for Scarsdale.
Quotable: “We talked about Nicholas before the game,” John Jay coach Alex Smith said. “He’s a strong north-and-south center who’s a bull around the crease. He really took it to us tonight. Senior Night and he gets a hat trick.”