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The Celtic bagpipes could be heard off in the distance as Yorktown emerged from its locker room prior to Saturday's clash against rival John Jay-Cross River. The pristine white jerseys — arranged in a two-row formation — marched in lockstep behind the bagpiper, who led the Huskers all the way down to Charlie Murphy Field.
The moment was classic Yorktown — steeped in tradition and even a little intimidating, too.
"They have a swagger that they deserve to have," John Jay-CR coach Tim Schurr said of what sets Yorktown apart.
And the Huskers (2-0) backed it up on the turf over the next four quarters, outscoring the Indians (1-1) in each of them en route to a convincing 11-4 victory.
Yorktown has now won seven straight games over John Jay-CR and 11 of the past 16. The Huskers have outscored the Indians by a combined total of 40-11 over the last three meetings.
"We pride ourselves on hard work and know it's a big game — one of the biggest we will have in the regular season," senior defenseman Austin Fusco said of facing John Jay-CR. "We prepare very hard for this game, which is a crosstown rivalry. We try not to give them anything."
Yorktown took control from the opening whistle, jumping out to a 4-1 first-quarter lead it would never relinquish. Senior attackman Connor Vercruysse paced the offense with three goals and one assist. Nick Del Bene (2A), Nick Bonitatibus, Ryan Baker and Mike Dedvukaj (1A) rounded out the scoring with two goals apiece.
Three of the Huskers' first five goals came via extra-man opportunities.
"We are moving the ball perfectly," said Dedvukaj, who is playing a big role in the midfield after missing last season due to injury. "We are always finding the open guy and are so unselfish."
The early penalty woes immediately put John Jay-CR behind the eight ball.
"We showed a lack of discipline and on large part I think that's on me," Schurr said. "We did a poor job staying out of the penalty box. Once we realized the game was going to be called tight, we were just out of control. And it hurt us. (Yorktown) is too good of a team to give them that extra-man opportunity."
Yorktown — which led 6-2 at the break — put the game away with an impressive third quarter. Del Bene, Bonitatibus, Dedvukaj and Vercruysse scored one goal apiece during the stretch, stinging the net with an array of mid-range shots. Vercruysse then notched the lone fourth-quarter goal to put a bow on the victory.
"Our offense is coming together well," said Vercruysse, a Rutgers-bound senior attackman who has a team-high seven goals through two games. "A lot of people scored today."
The Huskers were similarly impressive on the defensive end, limiting a team to just four goals for the second game in a row. The close defense unit — consisting of Fusco, Chris Cunnington and Dan Del Bene — was hard-hitting and sharp in the clearing game. Austin Graham (three saves) got the start in net and recorded three saves, while Liam Donnelly played the second half and stopped five shots.
"I'd say we've been pretty solid," Fusco said of the defense, which lost two starters to graduation. "We have been going through practice pretty hard, working on our communication and slides and making sure everyone feels comfortable out there with each other. We are getting better and better each day."
Johnny Cola, Shawn Smith, Brett Sweeney and Matt Lupinacci recorded one goal apiece for the Indians. Goalie Rob Looney was solid with 12 saves.
John Jay-CR — which competed hard during stretches — will look to learn from the setback as it moves forward. The Indians host Hen Hud in their next game on April 1.
"We have to stay together and be smarter," Schurr said. "We know we can play better than we played today. What we take out of it is how hard we can practice and get after it. We really have to point the finger at ourselves and hopefully not blame anybody but ourselves."
The Huskers are slated to face upstart Bronxville on Wednesday and then reignite their rivalry with defending NYS Class A champ Ward Melville (LI) on Saturday.
"Those are two of the top teams in the state," Dedvukaj said. "We just have to come out hard and play like we are playing."
John Jay-CR 1 1 2 0 4
Yorktown 4 2 4 1 11