Red-Hot Ice Garnets Still Celebrating New Year

Whether you call it “Two Thousand and Ten” or “Twenty Ten”, there is no way around the fact that the Rye boys’ hockey team has owned the ice in this new year.

The Garnets have treated opponents like egg whites in a soufflé, beating them relentlessly until the buzzer sounds. In seven games, Rye has outscored the opposition by 40 goals and is an unbeaten 5-0-2. They’re perched at the top of Section 1’s Division 2, ruling the roost with a 10-3-2 overall record and a 5-0 mark against League opposition.

Aaron Rix

In their most recent action, the Garnets blitzed Scarsdale 10-3 at home January 27, and then obliterated Byram Hills 9-1 on the road January 31. Against Scarsdale, senior captain Taka Katsuta eclipsed the 100-point mark for his career, joining fellow senior captain and best friend Paul Mundinger, who reached the milestone only 14 days prior.

“Joining the 100-point club with Paul is truly a great honor for me,” said Katsuta. “It was definitely a game that I will never forget and I am just so glad that I was able to accomplish that goal.”

Katsuta was a man possessed against the Raiders. He recorded two assists and amassed four goals, the third of which prompted Keishi Goto to fulfill a promise he made to his friend during class. Goto sprinted around the outside of the rink enthusiastically waving Katsuta’s native Japanese flag to celebrate the hat trick.

The offensive fireworks of Katsuta and Mundinger – they’re among the best in Section 1 with a respective 46 and 41 points – have powered the Garnets, but the first-liners are the first to admit the team would not be excelling without talented teammates. Brian Powers, the team’s only other senior, is a bruising, physical presence who joins the captains on the first line. The Rye defense, which includes sophomore Justin Uzcategui, junior Tommy Sullivan, and freshman Jason Chin, is rapidly improving. Forward Nick Rosenfield and goaltender Aaron Rix, both juniors, are also a pair Katsuta feels are wildly underrated.

“Nick doesn’t rack up points every game, but he is an extremely dedicated player who never quits on the ice,” said the center. “He steps up at the right moments and I am always relieved to see him on the ice. Rix, in my opinion, is the best goalie in the Section. He has stood on his head in so many games and always keeps his focus. If it weren’t for Rix’s tremendous plays, we would’ve lost a number of games.”

The Garnets’ second line – Robert Holmes, Rosenfield, and Matt Moran – and third line – Chris Lipari, Mike Benincasa, and Ryan Rogers – have meshed and bonded right through the month, with the results evident on ice.

“I think that at the beginning of the season, some players were getting adjusted to the new atmosphere and needed some experience playing at the high school level,” said Katsuta. “Now, they seem to be much more confident on the ice and I can see that every player has improved a lot. The confidence that the whole team is gaining is vital as we approach the Sectionals and I believe that if we keep playing like we have been the last few games, no one will be able to stop us.”

There are only a handful of games remaining on Rye’s schedule, including a tussle post press time with archrival Pelham, an opponent Mundinger feels could very well be waiting if the Garnets reach the Section final. Rye has been in three straight Section championships, losing only last year’s, but has even higher aspirations this season. As Katsuta put it, if the Garnets keep doing the right things and playing hard in every game, the New York State title isn’t out of their sights.

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