Wildcats Edge Garnets in Electric Cross-Town Clash

Ice hockey fans were treated to an exhilarating fight for Rye supremacy February 19 at frosty Rye Country Day School, pitting the Garnets versus the Wildcats in a contest where nothing less than a climactic finish would have done.

Wildcat senior Jeff Horowitz delivered the goods by nabbing the puck in the neutral zone and breaking down the left side with less than 20 seconds remaining in the 5-5 game. With one man to beat, Horowitz shifted his body for a good look on goal and punched in the game-winner with 16.9 ticks left.

Jeff Horowitz stretches for the puck

“He has done it all year for us,” said head coach Gary Bingham. “Jeff has scored numerous game-winners in the biggest of contests. He’s a nifty little player who has really stepped up for us this season.”

The atmosphere both on the rink and in the stands befitted a playoff battle, with crushing blows and painted, shirtless bodies —not to mention a “Green Man” sighting (”Always Sunny” fans will know) — abetting the madcap pace of the game. Horowitz utilized some fancy moves to put the Wildcats on the board 6:09 into the first, but Rye High captain Taka Katsuta capitalized on a power play three minutes later to tie the score. This Wildcat-call-and-Garnet-answer routine would become the theme of the night.

In taking a break from dropping thunderclap checks on the opposition, Country Day junior Shayne Bingham pushed the puck through goaltender Aaron Rix’s five-hole only a minute after Rye had tied the score. Then senior captain Cole Kleinberg gave his team a 3-1 advantage 3:27 into the second period, and it looked as if the Wildcats were taking control. The Garnets had an answer, and it came from one of their own senior captains. Paul Mundinger blazed down the ice for a breakaway goal a mere 31 seconds later. Those two goals were matched by two more in a matter of minutes. Michael Ince reestablished Rye Country Day’s two-goal lead at the 5:14 mark, and then – 63 seconds later – the Garnets’ Brian Powers let loose a shot that lazily sailed through the air and found its way behind freshman goalie Omeed Alidadi, bringing Rye within 4-3.

The Garnets tied it up with less than two minutes to go in the second period, when Katsuta received the puck on a breakaway and beat Alidadi for a goal. The senior dropped to one knee and pumped his fist as the Rye High contingent celebrated. With the score 4-4 at the end of two, the stage was set for a fantastic finish.

Chris Seter lays out a Garnet

Rye Country Day struck first on a beautiful wrap-around goal by Henry Beshar at the 5:17 mark of the third, but – as was the case all game – the Garnets didn’t wait long to answer. On a power play 50 seconds later, Mundinger dished the puck to Powers who, from way out on the blueline, ripped a slapshot that knotted things at five apiece.

“It was a great win especially since we had all of the guys chipping in and working hard,” said Kleinberg, whose Wildcats lost a one-goal heartbreaker to Rye in 2009. “Last year was very disappointing, but this time we were able to show what Rye Country Day hockey is all about.”

Aaron Rix makes a stop

RCDS improved to 10-9 in the win, while the Garnets fell to 12-5-3 in what was their regular season finale. Rye High has earned the top seeding in the Division II Section playoffs, and were pitted against Fox Lane at home in the quarterfinals, post press time. If victorious, the Garnets will advance to the Section semifinal February 26 at Playland Ice Casino. The Section final is scheduled for February 28 at West Point.

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