Dylan Johns didn’t start playing ice hockey until he was a freshman in high school. He joined the modified team that year, but took last year to play travel hockey, returning to the high school level with the Eastchester/Tuckahoe/Bronxville/Edgemont varsity team this winter. The Edgemont junior scored his first varsity goal in the team’s final game of the regular season Wednesday.
“I felt last year I wasn’t as ready, but this year I was,” Johns said. “The last couple of years I wasn’t used to checking yet. I just started playing hockey in ninth grade. Last year I wanted to develop more and this year I learned more about checking and positioning.”
Johns always wanted to play ice hockey, but had been dedicated to baseball. Eventually he made the switch and the goal was a big reward for efforts.
“It felt pretty nice,” he said. “It was exciting. I felt pretty good.”
ETBE topped Mount Pleasant 9-2 with six goals in the third period, an offensive display the team needed to take into the postseason after having scored just six over the previous three games.
“I thought today was amazing,” Edgemont junior Anderson Ng said. “This whole season was pretty good. We’ve had some ups and downs. I think there’s a lot to be left on the table and this weekend we need to come up big. We’ll probably play Lakeland/Panas, so we’ve got to show them what we’ve got.”
ETBE lost to Cortlandt 4-3 earlier in the season, a game the team wishes it could have back, like a handful of others this winter.
“It was a very intense game, physical, so I expect it to be like that way if not more Saturday,” Ng said. “We’re going to bring that fire and energy for sure.”
The 6-0 third period was because the players relaxed and “just let the puck go,” according to coach Steve Forzaglia.
“It’s finishing,” Forzaglia said. “We outplayed them the first two periods, but we got pucks tipped and deflected before we got shots. It’s a matter of getting shots on the goalie. If you put it on net you never know what’s going to happen. The first period we had like 10 shots, but we probably took 30. Twenty missed the net or got blocked or never got off the stick. You just have to get the shot off and go to the net.”
ETBE has a wide variety of offensive weapons.
“Putting in goals helps for their own psyche,” Forzaglia said. “We’ve been playing decent the last bunch of games. We just couldn’t put the puck in the net. Putting a bunch in will ease some of their nerves and hopefully sets us up for Saturday.”
Over the last stretch of games ETBE also avenged an earlier season loss to Brewster/Yorktown/Somers/North Salem, winning 4-2, but the next day New Rochelle did the same to ETBE by a 3-1 score.
“The Brewster game I thought we actually played fairly well the first time,” Forzaglia said. “We played a decent game and J.P. [Rosabella] was fighting the puck that night. We had a talk after that game and the next game about seeing the puck and just stopping it. It’s night and day now to tonight. We had them, we outplayed them and then we didn’t score the first time.
“Then the New Rochelle game we outplayed them the first period. We should have had five goals and we couldn’t score. Then they got one in the second period, put a nice one over J.P.’s shoulder and then they got a couple of extra and we came back with one at the end, but I thought most of the New Rochelle game we outplayed them and couldn’t put the puck in the net again.”
ETBE was 7-12-1 last year including postseason, so they have guaranteed a better record by going 8-11 heading into sectionals. This year especially the Eagles believe they could have been over .500 if not for inconsistent attendance.
“I can’t even remember the last time we had a full team at a game… When we have a full team I think we’re one of the best teams in the section and we’re unstoppable,” Ng said. “It’s just lack of commitment to our team has plagued our season. Generally we have pretty good team chemistry so everyone just gels when they come back.”
Johns believes the better the opponent, the better ETBE rises to the challenge.
“I feel like against the better teams we’ve really performed better,” Johns said. “I feel like we’ve been playing better toward the end as we’re into playoffs. It’s fun and it’s going to be my first playoff game. I think if we have everyone we can make it all the way. I think we’re one of the best teams in Westchester.”
Forzaglia and assistant Rob Striar know ETBE has a chance to be a real contender, though more wins would have put them in a better position to advance deeper into the Division 1 tournament.
“We were telling the kids the other night if I had this team every night for practices and games all year long, I don’t know how good we could be,” Forzaglia said. “But when we get practices with nine, 10 kids, games with 13, 14, 15 it’s hard to get any kind of gel going. We’d have a chance to work on the power play, the penalty kill, more defensive work so the kids can be more familiar with each other. It’s all that stuff. This team has a huge ceiling. We just have to have them to get there.”
The team expects to have a full roster for postseason, the perfect time to put it all together.
No. 11 ETBE will play No. 6 Cortlandt, Saturday, Feb. 22, at Brewster at 8:30 p.m.