Garnets Respond to Pelham Loss with Five-Game Unbeaten Streak

Rye’s hockey team did not start 2011 the way they would have liked. Leading Pelham 2-1 with nine minutes to go at home January 5, the Garnets relinquished the lead and then the contest when the Pelicans swooped in for the game-winner late in the final period. The tilt had all the intensity of the rivals’ Section championship clashes from 2008 and 2009, and even concluded with a rowdy on-ice celebration.

Instead of going into a slump after that disappointing loss, Rye has responded in a fashion typical of the Jason Friesen era. The Garnets have posted a 4-0-1 record in their last five games, and now seem to be playing their best hockey of the season.

Cal Hynson and Chris Lipari

“The Pelham loss was definitely tough for all of us,” said senior captain Tommy Sullivan. “Everyone played with a lot of heart, but unfortunately we couldn’t come out with the win. We definitely learned from it, and are now playing with a chip on our shoulders that will help to fuel us in the future.”

Although Sullivan noted it’s generally hard to bounce back from a loss to your rival, the Garnets had no choice in the matter, as their next four games were against strong upstate teams. Rye began the stretch with a 3-3 tie against Shaker/Colonie, January 7, but then defeated Glens Falls 3-1 the next day. At Cortland January 15, the Garnets overcame a 3-1 deficit to win the game 4-3. They dominated Whitesboro a day later, posting a 5-1 win.

Rye’s offensive attack is multipronged, as nine different players combined for 15 goals during the upstate jaunt. Senior Matt Moran led the way with four, while three others scored two apiece.

Aaron Rix

“We knew heading into this season that it was going to be scoring by committee and we have plenty of players who can put pucks in the net,” said Friesen, the head coach. “Having a more balanced scoring attack makes us harder to defend.”

The Garnets, now 9-2-1, are benefitting from some beyond-their-years play by a pair of underclassmen. In Rye’s most recent victory, a 12-3 pummeling of Horace Greeley at home January 19, sophomore Michael Benincasa poured in four goals while freshman Cal Hynson recorded a hat trick. Sullivan said Rye has a good balance of talent, thanks to Benincasa and Hynson as well as sophomores Jason Chin and Luke Urbanczyk, and freshman Jack O’Brien.

Michael Benincasa

“It’s nice to be getting contributions from the younger players, but we also expect it,” said Friesen. “That’s why they are on the team and seeing the ice time they do. Having productive youth helps to maintain a solid program.”

Benincasa leads the team in scoring with 12 goals and six assists. Senior captain Robert Holmes has eight goals and nine assists, and Moran has 10 goals and six assists. Nick Rosenfield, also a senior captain, and junior Ryan Rogers each have 13 points.

Goaltender Aaron Rix is another reason for Rye’s success. The senior is ranked third in all of Section 1 with a 1.66 goals against average. He’s fifth in save percentage, stopping 91.12% of the shots he has faced.

“Rix has been very solid for us,” said Friesen. “In the big battles he raises his game and helps support a strong team. I think that he can play even better.”

Max Bresolin

The Garnets, winners of three of the last four Division II Section championships, have seven games remaining before their title defense begins in earnest. Highlighting the schedule is a tilt at Mamaroneck January 29, as well as the cross-town battle at home against Rye Country Day February 16.


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