By MIKE SMITH
The Eastchester/Tuckahoe/Bron-xville hockey team started off 2014 on the right skate last weekend as the Eagles earned their first win of the new year over a league foe.
On Jan. 10, ETB won a hard-fought, 5-3 game over New Rochelle at the Ice Hutch to extend what is now a three-game winning streak.
Senior Chris Hagen scored three times in the Eagles’ win, while Tripp Corcoran made 33 saves to keep New Ro’s scorers honest. Despite starting the season with five losses, ETB seems to be turning a corner and could be a formidable foe for other Section I squads in the coming weeks.
“We played a very tough schedule in those first five games,” ETB coach Dave O’Neil said. “We played Monoroe-Woodbury, Greeley, Clarkstown, Rye; not to take anything away from the teams we beat, but I feel that we’re more evenly matched with them.”
Despite the five losses, the Eagles acquitted themselves well early on, hanging with tough squads despite their relative lack of depth. With just 18 skaters, ETB has relied primarily on two lines and four defensemen to take the lion’s share of the shifts.
“Depth has been a problem, we’re a smaller team, numbers-wise,” O’Neil said. “Especially at the White Plains tournament, where we opened up playing three games back-to-back; that can be tough.”
Luckily for ETB, the skaters that do take the ice are a talented bunch.
O’Neil has lauded the play of his defensive unit, which includes Henry Lilly, Matt Dougherty, Trevor Pettit and John Yienger, who–along with Corcoran–have been exceptional at holding larger teams at bay.
“That’s really been our stre-ngth this year,” O’Neil said. “We have four solid defensemen who do a great job.”
Offensively, the squad has relied heavily on the scoring abilities of its first line. Hagen leads the way with 15 goals and nine assists on the year, and linemate Jack Dougherty has contributed four goals and three goals as well.
“Those two guys have great stick skills,” O’Neil said. “On a two-one-one, they can dish back and forth and either one of them can put the puck in the net.”
Although the Eagles might be hot now, they do face another tough stretch coming up, as they prepare to tangle with White Plains on Jan. 16, after press time, before taking on two elite squads in Aquinas and Pittsfield over the weekend.
“I’m not saying we’re going to go up there and beat both of those teams, they’re two of the best teams in the state” O’Neil said. “But I definitely expect that we will compete with them. We might not finish with the best record in the regular season but we have a tough schedule and I think we can compete with anyone.”