NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Rivertown goalie Sean Gonder saw part-time action a year ago, sitting behind former all-state standout Adam Pesce.
As a senior in 2015-16, the Ossining High School product finally got a chance to be the full-time starter.
Needless to say, he’s flourished in the role.
Gonder was at his best in Monday’s Section 1 Division I opening round playoff game at Playland Ice Casino. He recorded 30 saves as the No. 8-seeded Legends (9-11-1) beat No. 9-seeded New Rochelle, 4-1, to set up a quarterfinal showdown at top-seeded Mamaroneck on Wednesday. The game is slated for 4 p.m. at Hommocks Park Ice Rink.
“We had an all-state goalie in front of (Gonder),” said Rivertown coach Howard Weiner, who guided the Legends to their first playoff win since 2011. “He probably could’ve started for any other team in the league. He’s really been on his game the past four or five games. He’s gotten hot at the right time. He’s solid all the time — but he’s especially hot right now.”
Gonder has averaged roughly 31 saves per game over his last five outings, posting a stellar .924 save percentage in the process.
“It’s practicing since I was very young and hard work,” Gonder said. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Gonder’s lone blemish against New Rochelle came midway through the first period. Massimo Miceli buried a shot from in tight to give the Huguenots an early 1-0 lead. Gonder locked down from that point forward, blanking New Rochelle (6-15) over the final 37 minutes and 21 minutes of action. He was quick with his glove hand and limited rebounds with sound positioning around the crease.
Gonder served as Ossining’s starter the first two years of high school but never sniffed the postseason. It marked his first career playoff win and the program’s first since Ossining merged with Sleepy Hollow/Irvington a year ago.
“This was hard work and dedication and we won as a team,” Gonder said. “We’ve all grown and we’ve been through a lot of heartbreaks and stuff like that, but this time it went our way.”
Alex Inglis powered Rivertown’s offense with a hat-trick. He evened the game at 1-1 with 21 seconds left in the opening period, finishing a setup from Christian Enax. The junior forward notched the game-winning goal less than two minutes into the third period. He split a pair of defenders on the left wing along the boards, chased down the puck in the corner, juked past two more oncoming players and finished with a backhand shot out front.
“I rely on slipping between the boards and the person trying to hit me,” Inglis said of his approach. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”
It worked on Monday evening.
Inglis dominated the puck all game, using a combination of fearlessness, slick puck-handling and excellent balance to consistently evade the opposition.
“(Inglis) probably makes a move too many at times, but we got him shooting more today,” Weiner said. “The biggest part is that he has the puck a lot. When you have the puck, the other team can’t do anything. His biggest value to us is that he’s really good at carrying the puck.”
Rivertown’s final two goals were empty-netters. Inglis completed his hat-trick with 54 seconds remaining and Steve Kern capped the scoring 42 seconds later.
The Legends will now turn their attention toward powerhouse Mamaroneck, which boasts a deep roster stocked with talent.
“We just have to do what we do well,” Weiner said. “We can’t worry about them. We have to play good defense, have good goaltending and just keep doing what we are going. It’s a 45-minute game and it’s one game. We don’t have to win a seven-game series. It’s one game and anything can happen.”
New Rochelle 1 0 0 1
Rivertown 1 0 3 4
NR (7:39) Massimo Miceli from Jonas Passante and Nick Scollard | 1-0 NR
RT (0:21) Alex Inglis from Christian Enax | 1-1
RT (13:44) Inglis unassisted | 2-1 RT
RT (0:54) Inglis from Kern and Kyle Camilierre | 3-1 RT *
RT (0:12) Kern unassisted | 4-1 RT *
* Indicates empty-net goal
New Rochelle 12 9 10 31
Rivertown 8 10 4 22
New Rochelle: Arthur Liebowitz (18)
Rivertown: Sean Gonder (30)