The Rye ice hockey team, seeded No. 1 in the Division II Section playoffs, entered the postseason exactly how they wanted to – on fire. The Garnets finished the regular season with six consecutive wins, 11 of 12 overall, including a “cherry-on-top” victory in the finale.
In the third annual battle for City of Rye supremacy, the Garnets (16-3-1) defeated Rye Country Day 5-4 at the Playland Ice Casino February 16. RHS held a 5-2 lead before the Wildcats cut the lead to two and then – after pulling their goalie – one with 20 seconds remaining.
“It was a great win and it meant a lot for us to beat them, especially on senior night,” said Rye High head coach Jason Friesen, whose Garnets boast a 79-36-10 record since the start of the 2006-07 season. “It was an exciting game, and a meaningful one as well as far as getting ready for the playoffs.”
Rye senior captain Nick Rosenfield put his team up 1-0 in the first period when he emerged from a scrum against the boards and made a beeline for the goal. Rosenfield connected top-shelf falling forward, with freshman Jack O’Brien credited on the assist.
“That was one of Nick’s best games of the season,” said Friesen. “He turned it on at just the right moment for us. Moving forward, I think he’s going to be a big factor.”
With just over five minutes left in the first, RHS senior goaltender Aaron Rix stopped Andrew Gillen on a breakaway, allowing the Garnets to capitalize on the other end. Matt Moran obliterated a Wildcat behind the RCDS goal and then dished it to junior forward Ryan Rogers, who cashed in for the 2-0 lead.
Rye Country Day sliced the lead in half in the second period on a James Kissel goal, but the Garnets extended it to 3-1 when sophomore Michael Benincasa fired a shot dead-on 7:34 into the stanza. Senior Alfredo Holguin made it 4-1 just a minute later, when he scored on a slap shot from out near the blue line during a Rye High power play.
Moran sealed the victory for his Garnets in the third period. Breaking for the goal, the senior stalled for a moment to shake his defender and then sped up again to free himself and score Rye’s fifth goal. It was Moran’s 19th of the year, and his team-leading 34th point.
“Matt’s had a great season, and I can’t say enough about what he’s done for us,” Friesen noted.
The Garnets, winners of three Section titles in four years, could add more hardware if they’re victorious February 25 at home in the Section semifinals. Rye would then advance to the Section championship game, scheduled February 27 at 6:30 p.m. in West Point’s Tate Rink.
Friesen is confident his team can defend their Section title. He cited Rix’s torrid run in goal as a reason why, as well as the balanced three-line system featuring Moran, Benincasa, and Rogers on the first line, Rosenfield, Chris Lipari, and O’Brien on the second, and the third wave of senior captain Robert Holmes, Cal Hynson, and Henry Buckley.