BREWSTER, N.Y. – John Jay, the two-time defending champion, qualified again for the Section I Division II finals by defeating Horace Greeley, 4-1, on Thursday, Feb 27. But the Indians couldn’t complete the three-peat, losing 5-1 to Rye.

John Jay scored just 70 seconds into the section championship, held Sunday, March 1, at Brewster Ice Arena. However, the rest of the scoring went the other way. All Coach Alex Smith could do after the four-goal defeat was acknowledge Rye’s strong play and where he and his team came up short.

“Their forechecking won out, and we didn’t respond well,” he said. “That falls on me.”

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The scoring began on a flukey play as Rye seemed to have the puck cleared.  Bouncing off the defenseman’s skate, John Jay’s Mike McKeon came up with the puck and got it to teammate Mattie Wierl, who dribbled a bouncer past Rye goalie Annabelle Thomas.

A couple big saves later on the Rye power play by John Jay senior Nick Petrella seemed to give the goaltending edge to the Indians. But Thomas, who had 26 saves, snuffed a mad scramble around the net moments later and showed the mettle that foretold the rest of the afternoon.

The Rye offense then responded in kind. Reece Dorfman danced past the blue line and the John Jay defense and backhanded Rye’s first goal with 1:25 remaining in the first.

In the second period, the Rye goalie turned away Justin DeLucia as he broke past the blue line, and this time Rye’s Sasha Vasyuta took the cue.  Taking a long pass from Brian Curran, Vasyuta veered to the right of Petrella and sent a wrist shot past the John Jay goalie at 11:27.

Now trailing 2-1, John Jay didn’t wait to get the better of Thomas.  Another pile up in front of her net, neither Doug Styles or Barret Lunder could crack the sophomore’s case, and the one-goal advantage remained with just under nine minutes remaining in the period.

Kyle Petschek’s rush across the blue line with three minutes left in the period was no easy save either, and while Rye’s tough neutral zone play let John Jay slip through this time, Thomas stood tall to Smith’s frustration.

“We had trouble attacking, and when we got close, the goaltender stopped us,” he said as John Jay took 11 shots to Rye’s 10 in the period.

The third period had Jack Browne up next on Thomas’ hit list. The puck free to the left of the Rye goalie, Browne couldn’t stuff it in. Saves on Tyler Wishart and Wierl followed on subsequent possessions.

With 8:25 left in the game, Rye’s Declan Lavelle kept the puck alive as John Jay attempted to clear. The senior secured the puck and beat Petrella for a commanding 3-1 lead.

Less than 90 seconds later, Rye’s Brendan O’Byrne extended the lead to 4-1 and Lavelle added an empty netter to conclude the scoring. Still, Smith was proud to coach a team that came to play and learn every day. Once the sting of defeat alleviates, he said, his players will relish what they’ve accomplished.

John Jay finished the season 18-3-1 and outscored opponents 113 to 31.