Shenendehowa captain Peter Russo was certain the Plainsmen could complete their comeback.
With 2:51 left to play, they had bounced back from a 4-0 deficit to climb within a goal of Section I Division 1 champion Scarsdale, but that’s as far as the comeback came and the Plainsmen fell in regional play, 4-3, Saturday night.
“We thought we were going to do it,” Russo said. “We had a similar situation against Williamsville North. We were down, 4-2, with like two minutes left, and we came back and tied it up, so there was no reason for us to think we weren’t going to do it.”
A pair of goals just 2:50 apart — a short-handed tally on a rebound by Peter Sacks at 9:11 of the third and a hustle play by Russo to set up Austin McDonough in front of the net at 12:09 — made it a one-goal game. The Plainsmen pulled goalie Jordan Moffre with a little over a minute left in favor of an extra attacker, but they couldn’t beat Scarsdale goalie Gabe Harousseau for the equalizer.
“It’s not for a lack of opportunities,” Shen coach Juan de la Rocha said. “We had our share, but their goaltender played very well. Very well. And he kept them in the game, especially in the second period, when we were all over him at times.”
Scarsdale booked three goals in the first 7:53, on the Raiders’ first seven shots, chasing Shen goalie Ben Farstad.
Moffre, a sophomore, was solid in relief, stopping 21 of the 22 shots he faced. The only goal he allowed came on a power-play rush with Scarsdale’s Stephen Nicholas cleaning up a loose rebound.
The Raiders (21-3-0) scored twice on the power play. The Plainsmen (16-7-1) were whistled for nine penalties.
Scarsdale’s James Nicholas and Matt Blakley both had a goal and an assist, and defenseman Rob Burns handed out three assists.
Even after Scarsdale took its 4-0 lead, though, at 5:04 of the second period, Russo said the Plainsmen were still confident.
“Going down, 4-0, is very tough. For most teams, it’s impossible,” he said. “For us, it’s not. We fought back, we played the best game of our season in the last two periods. It was just that the letdown in the beginning dug too deep of a hole. But for us, it was not impossible, and we fought to the end. I’m so proud of these guys for doing that.”
Russo scored Shen’s first goal of the comeback at 10:16 of the second period. That score seemed to breathe a little more life into the Plainsmen. That finally resulted in more goals late in the third, once they had stopped taking penalties.
After McDonough’s goal, Moffre kept the game in reach by stopping James Nicholas on a breakaway with less than two minutes to play.
“Him coming in only as a sophomore, he played the game of his life. I’m so proud of him,” Russo said. “It’s not easy coming in as a backup goalie and having to play like that, coming in cold. But he was up to the task, and he’s going to be a great goalie for this program in the coming years.”
Though they fell in regional play, the Plainsmen finished the season strong with five straight wins entering Saturday’s game, including a Section II Division 1 championship game victory over rival and defending state champion Saratoga Springs on Tuesday.
“I’m so proud of them. Unbelievable performance this week,” de la Rocha said. “They just really poured out their soul into all the games they played in this tournament. But tonight, there was a lot of adversity along the way, and we were trying to tell them, ‘Just don’t quit. You’ve got to believe, you’ve got to believe. I know you can get back in this.’ And they did. Just a little bit shy.”
Scarsdale 3 1 0 — 4
Shenendehowa 0 1 2 — 3
First Period — 1, Scarsdale, Felix (Bank), 3:14. 2, Scarsdale, J. Nicholas (Burns, Schell), 5:43 (pp). 3, Scarsdale, Blakley (Burns, J. Nicholas), 7:53.
Second Period — 4, Scarsdale, S. Nicholas (Burns, Blakley), 5:04 (pp). 5, Shenendehowa, Russo (Kuhl), 10:16.
Third Period — 6, Shenendehowa, Sacks (Marr, Mortka), 9:11 (sh). 7, Shenendehowa, McDonough (Russo), 12:09.
Goalies — Scarsdale, Harousseau, 30 saves. Shenendehowa, Farstad, 4 saves; Moffre, 21 saves.