In every close game, hockey coaches are seemingly obligated to emphasize the importance of getting the next goal. And when John Jay was coming back out following a scoreless first period Sunday night, Alex Smith invoked the age old cliché.
"The next goal is really big," he said on the way to the bench. "I hope we get it."
And the Indians did, sort of.
Hen Hud goalie Zach Shapiro cast aside shot-after-shot-after shot in the early going, but was caught by surprise when Hen Hud defenseman Robbie Albano inadvertently sent the puck off Shapiro's back and into the net in the opening minutes of the second period. It was exactly the lucky breakthrough John Jay needed, and the Indians took that momentum and posted a 4-1 win at Brewster Ice Arena.
"At that point in the game, it seemed like that was the only way we were going to get a goal, so we'll take it," Indians forward Frazier Bostwick said.
Jesse Gasperino, who was standing on the side of the net after pressuring Shapiro, got credit for his first goal of the season.
"I know what he was trying to do," Sailors defenseman Kenny Garrett said. "Sometimes you're just better off leaving the puck for the goalie."
Shapiro finished with 33 saves.
"The last time we played them it was a 3-2 game and (Shapiro) was pretty much lights out," Bostwick said. "He's probably the best goalie we've faced, along with Conor Bunyan (Fox Lane), but we've played against him a long time and we kind of know his ins and outs."
Hen Hud (11-7) was playing with a short bench, and had an eight-game winning streak broken.
Bostwick made it 2-0 when he scored in the final minutes of the second, and Thomas Blaney momentarily derailed any thoughts of an upset when he tapped in a rebound during a power play eight minutes into the third.
"Mark Leprine took a shot from the point and there was a big scrum in front of the net," Blaney said. "Frazier got the next shot and the goalie stopped it, but then it came to me and I batted the puck in, so I was in the right place at the right time, a little lucky."
A goal from Kevin Brennan gave the Sailors a reason to celebrate, and they drew a penalty in the closing minutes. Shapiro came off the ice, but Blaney won the faceoff, moved it to Jack Grimm, picked it back up when he ran into a crowd, and scored the empty-netter.
Next up for John Jay (16-1-1) is Senior Night against Kennedy/Putnam Valley/Haldane on Wednesday, and then it's the playoffs. A recent trip upstate gave the Indians, who have locked up the No. 1 seed in Division 2, the same kind of seasoning that perennial contenders such as Pelham and Rye go in search of each season.
"The players up there can skate and they play hard on the puck," Smith said. "They hustle and it's more physical. I understand why programs go up there. It's a different brand of hockey that forces you to make decisions quicker. ... Every game is a battle."