By MIKE SMITH
Over the last several years, Section I hockey’s Division 2 postseason picture has usually been a two-team race, with perennial powers Pelham and Rye dominating the landscape.
As this year’s postseason looms, though, a number of worthy challengers have risen to the forefront. As Rye looks to close out its season on a strong note, the team is also looking to show why they’ve been the team to beat in years past.
Following an overtime loss to White Plains on Jan. 30 and a 5-2 loss to crosstown Rye County Day just two days later, the Garnets have dropped four of their last five games. Despite the tough stretch, head coach Jason Friesen has still been pleased with the way the team has been playing and optimistic about its chances in the
“I think we’re definitely where we want to be,” Friesen said. “We’re having a little trouble finishing shots but, in terms of effort, energy and defense, we’re playing great right now.”
The Garnets offensive struggles are a fairly new phenomenon, Friesen said, as the team–led by Cal Hynson and Connor McGovern–has shown the ability to find the net, as evidenced by double-digit wins against Fox Lane and Ossining earlier in the season.
“We have four guys who can score the puck and I think we’ve just been a little bit off the last two or three weeks,” Friesen said. “We just haven’t been getting in positions, scoring on the rebounds and deflections and of course, we could use a bit of puck luck.”
The Garnets will need to find their scoring touch if they hope to contend in the Division 2 playoffs this year, given the relative depth of the field. With squads like John Jay, RyeTown/Harrison and Horace Greeley in the mix, another Rye versus Pelham final is far from a certainty, according to Friesen. Given their losing record, the Garnets will be behind the eight ball when the postseason rolls around as they will be forced to skate on enemy ice.
“You’ve got six, seven, eight very strong teams there,” Friesen said. “This is going to be great because I think it’s going to make for really interesting matchups in the semifinals and the quarterfinals, which hasn’t really been the case in the past.”
Prior to the playoffs, the Garnets will play out the string of their tough regular season campaign, which includes upcoming games against Scarsdale and John Jay. On Feb. 4, after press time, they will take on rival Mamaroneck at Hommocks.
“You know it’s going to be a real good game, we’re very similar teams,” Friesen said. “It’s going to be end-to-end hockey, a very physical game and we’re looking forward to it.”