MONSEY, N.Y.— Somers/North Salem’s ice hockey team found itself in a two-goal hole against Pearl River in the Section 1 Division 2 quarterfinals.
The fifth-seeded Sabers were able to dig out of that hole and Brandon LaSpina capped off the comeback with the game winner in overtime to propel them to a 3-2 win over No. 4 Pearl River on Feb. 22 at Sport-O-Rama.
“Carley (Bauckham), Anthony (Morea) and I all knew we had to forecheck hard to force a turnover,” LaSpina said. “Both Anthony and Carley applied the pressure and forced the defender to toss the puck into the middle of the ice to his defenseman and I popped out, received the pass and shot as soon as I caught it to catch the goalie off guard.”
Pearl River took a 2-0 lead in the second period after a pair of unassisted goals. Somers/North Salem answered when freshmen twin sisters Hailey and Megan Dineen combined on a goal with Hailey finishing her first career goal to cut the deficit to 2-1.
“When we were down by two, we were comfortable and just had to keep playing our game,” senior captain Michael Garrity said. “We had come back before over larger deficits this season, and we knew that our offense was eventually going to tie the game.”
Somers was shorthanded after a penalty to start the third period when Cross Santaniello flicked the puck down the ice to allow his team to make a line change. The puck was right on target and took an awkward hop, skipping off Pearl River goalie Darragh Keetley’s stick and into the back of the net to tie the game.
“We have done it before and we knew exactly what we had to do,” LaSpina said of the comeback. “I took a huge penalty that put my team in a bad situation, but they adjusted well and kept the puck out. Once I got out of the box and it was tied, we had to keep the puck in their zone and generate offense. Getting these chances would win us the game.”
Goaltender Christopher Graham kept the Sabers within striking distance with 29 saves.
“Chris Graham stood on his head and made huge saves which kept it only 2-1,” LaSpina said. “He is an outstanding goalie that is only a freshman. It is amazing to know we will have him in goal for the next three years.”
The Sabers’ playoff run ended in the semifinals when they fell to eventual section champion Pelham 10-1 on Feb. 24 at the Ice Hutch.
“Pelham has always been a great team,” LaSpina said. “They start young and raise these players. Some of them like Ben Hurd and Stefan Miklakos are outstanding travel players. They run their offense and their back side is solid. They are very deep with many kids. They can roll three solid lines the whole game which keeps everyone fresh.”
Anthony Morea scored the lone goal on a feed from Michael Dutt. Graham stopped 25 shots and Ben Winter made two saves.
“Pelham has a lot of depth which makes them such a difficult team to play,” Garrity said. “We were able to stay with them for a part of the game, but their speed and physicality wore out our small roster.”
Somers/North Salem finished the season with an 11-10-1 record and matched the furthest the team has ever gone in sectionals by reaching the semifinals.
“I thought the season went great,” LaSpina said. “We started off slow and with a young team. We knew our competition was going to be hard. We got moved up a league which had us playing tougher teams. We built our schedule only to make us better and it paid off. The freshmen jumped right in and contributed a lot to the team. All of our upperclassmen came up huge. We made it to the section semifinals and put up a fight. I am very happy our team came this far with such a great group of kids. Hopefully next year we can go even further and as an upperclassman, I can lead the team by example and make these younger kids better.”
As for Garrity, he was also extremely pleased with the team’s accomplishments.
“This is the only the second time in team history that we have gone this far in postseason,” he said. “I will definitely miss all my teammates on the team and playing with all my friends. We really came together as a team in the playoffs, and I will miss playing with them.”