As John Jay ice hockey coach Alex Smith prepared his team for this past season, he had a good idea of the talent that littered his roster.
After winning a second successive Section I/Division 2 title the previous year with a team that included seven freshmen, five sophomores and six juniors, along with five seniors, the Indians accomplished what many prognosticators were saying was out of the question: repeating and advancing to the program’s third state Final Four in six years.
After a highly successful regular season that earned the Indians the top-seed in the D-2 playoffs, Jay found out first-hand the pitfalls of a one-and-done tournament.
John Jay’s bid for a third successive Section I/Division 2 championship came to a stifling halt when second-seeded Rye shut down the Indians’ high-powered offense and came away with a 5-1 win in the title game at the Brewster Ice Arena March 1.
Jay scored 1:09 into the game when Mattie Wierl snuck a shot inside the left post ad past Rye goalie Annabelle Thomas. However, the Garnets’ aggressive forecheck took over the rest of the opening period, holding the Indians to only two more shots on goal.
“After that (Wierl’s goal), most of our shots came from the outside and when we did get something inside, their goalie stopped the puck,” Smith said after the loss. “In a game like this, it is hard to come back and, once we fell behind in the second (period), things just didn’t go the way we wanted them to go.”
For the game, Jay had just 18 shots on Thomas.
The loss ended Jay’s season at 18-3-1.
“This is one of the hardest sections to come out of,” Smith said. “When you are the top-seed, everyone is coming after you.”
The loss in the championship game, however, should not tarnish what was a splendid season for the Indians.
Defensively, Jay posted eight shutouts and allowed a miserly 1.39 goals against per game. On offense, the Indians had four players reach double-digits in goals and eight skaters notch at least a dozen points as they scored 5.13 goals per match.
Before the season-ending loss to Rye, the only blemishes on Jay’s record were a scoreless tie Dec. 7 with familiar for West Seneca West, a team that the Indians had vanquished in the state playoffs each of the previous two seasons, and a 5-0 loss to Buffalo’s Canisius on Dec. 15 and a 5-2 defeat to eventual Section I/D-1 champion Suffern in the regular season finale Feb. 18.
The season opened Nov. 30 with the annual McLaughlin Memorial Game with rival Fox Lane. It was sign of things to come for the Jay defense as they stifled the Foxes in a 10-0 victory.
Jay dominated the action from the outset, keeping the Foxes pinned in their own end for long stretches.
The Indians’ defense and Petrella in goal saw their scoreless streak continued over the next two games, a 7-0 win over BYSNS (Brewster/Yorktown/Somers/North Salem) on Dec. 6 and then the scoreless draw with West Seneca West.
Jay — and Petrella — finally surrendered their first goal of the season in a 7-1 rout of Eastchester/Tuckahoe/Bronxville/Edgemont on Dec. 14.
Petrella saw his season-opening shutout streak end at 153:24 when ETBE’s Will Stupart beat him with 1:36 remaining in the first period.
After the loss to Canisius, the Indians made their annual trip upstate to play a pair of games at SUNY Plattsburgh. The excursion before the holiday break proved to be fruitful as the Indians swept their pair of upstate matches, on Dec. 21 cruising past Northeast Clinton, 7-2 and besting Beekmantown, 5-1.
In the victory over Northeast Clinton, Tyler Wishart scored three times and added an assist, while Browne had a goal to go along with a pair of assists. Doug Styles, Mattie Wierl and Kyle Petschek also scored, while Danny Marschke, Ethan Jackson and Charlie Oestreicher each had an assist.
Wishart continued his strong play the next day with a goal and two assists in the win over Beekmantown, as did Petschek, who tallied the first two goals of the game. Wierl and Browne both had a goal and an assist for the Indians, who also picked up assists from Walter Oestreicher, Doug Styles and Barrett Lunder.
In the wins upstate, Browne eclipsed the 100-point mark for his career.
As the calendar turned to 2020, Jay opened January with wins over Pearl River, Rye and Mahopac. Sitting at 8-1-1, all eyes set on the Jan. 12 showdown with Horace Greeley, a team looked at as one of the contenders to dethrone Jay.
The Indians escaped with a 4-3 win over the Quakers Jan. 12 at the Brewster Ice Arena thanks to a Browne goal with 4:53 remaining. Justin DeLucia had the assist.
Jay trailed 2-1 after one period.
The game with Greeley was the beginning of a testing stretch for Jay and was followed by wins at Pelham and in Brewster over Clarkstown and Rye Town.
In a 3-2 win over Pelham Jan. 14 at the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon, Browne scored a pair of first-period power-play goals and Jay fended off Pelham for the final minute to secure the victory. Ten penalties disrupted the flow, but the difference was the play of Jay’s special teams, who notched a perfect 4-for-4 penalty kill on the night.
Browne then scored three times and added a pair of helpers and Marschke notched a trio of assists as John Jay blanked Clarkstown, 7-0, Jan. 17.
After wins over Pawling and Mahopac, Jay dismantled a strong Scarsdale squad, 7-1, on Feb. 5 at the Murray’s Ice Rink in Yonkers. Browne and Wishart each scored twice and registered two assists, while the defense was outstanding. Petrella was right there, too, finishing the afternoon with 25 saves.
Successive shutouts of Carmel and North Rockland preceded the loss to Suffern at Sport-o-Rama in Monsey.
A 4-1 win over Greeley in the D-2 semifinals proved to be Jay’s 18th and final victory of the season.
Six seniors suited up for Jay for the final time in the loss to Rye — Petrella, Gunnar Carlson, Tyler Petschek, Charlie Oestreicher, Lars Carlson and Browne.
Petrella was as solid in goal as anyone in Section I this winter, posting a 1.37 GAA and a 16-3-1 record. He stopped 93% of the shots he faced. Replacing him will not be easy. That task will probably fall on the shoulders of Dylan Rogers, who, as a freshman, saw time in seven games and had a solid 1.51 GAA while stopping 91% of the shots thrown his way.
The coaching staff has expressed confidence in Rogers and will expect him to rise to the occasion as the number one netminder next winter.
Oestreicher (3 goals, 9 assists for 12 points) was the shutdown defenseman that all teams strive to obtain. Physical, mobile and confident with the puck, his abilities were more than just a product of the system that Jay plays.
Likewise, Petschek (1-6-7) will also be missed, but the overall depth on the Jay roster should help Smith fill the void.
Gunnar (3-1-4) and Lars Carlson (1-1-2) were testaments to the deep pool of forwards that Smith was able to utilize throughout this season.
Browne (34-21-55), the team leader in goals, assists and points, is another story. Not only was Browne the leader on the scoresheet, he was also invaluable as a leader in the dressing room.
Even minus Browne, Jay will have a plethora of talent up front back next season.
Wishart (24-17-41) is a slick center who was just a sophomore this past year. He possesses a knack of being in the right place at the right time. Wishart ranked second on the team in scoring this season.
Also back up front will be Kyle Petschek (13-6-19), Doug Styles (5-14-19), Mike McKeon (5-9-14) and Mattie Wierl (11-5-16) – Wierl and Styles were sophomores this season, Petschek a freshman and McKeon was a junior.
Styles played on a line with Wishart and Browne this past year. Petschek will enter camp next November as the favorite to replace Browne on that unit.
Wierl will more than likely stay with McKeon, with a battle for the remaining spot a battle between sophomore Anthony Protomastro (4-2-6), freshman Walter Oestreicher (1-2-3), sophomore Barrett Lunder (2-4-6), junior Danny Marschke (2-6-8) and junior Zach Dering (1-5-6).
Defensively, the Indians will also be on solid ground.
Sophomore Justin DeLucia (2-10-12) teamed with Charlie Oestreicher on the top pair this past season and will hold down one side again next year. Also expected back are junior Ethan Jackson (0-7-7),sophomore Sean Lenahan (0-1-1), junior Ryan Kaplan (0-1-1), sophomore Scott MacDonald (1-2-3) and junior Jacob Silva (0-1-1).