It was a little odd seeing John Jay-Cross River and Yorktown meet in Saturday's Section 1 Class B quarterfinal round. After all, the two perennial powers had squared off in the sectional championship each of the previous three seasons.
The outcome, however, was quite familiar.
The top-seeded Huskers outscored the No. 8-seeded Indians 6-0 in the fourth quarter en route to a 12-5 victory at Charlie Murphy Field. It marked the fourth straight year Yorktown ended John Jay-CR's season. The Huskers are slated to host No. 13-seeded Harrison in the semifinals on Tuesday.
"It's a little weird," Huskers midfielder Mike Dedvukaj said of not playing John Jay-CR in the final for a fourth straight year. "I felt like they messed up the seeds a little bit. (John Jay-CR) is a fantastic team and are always going to come out and play. And that's what happened, but you just have to play your game."
Dedvukaj was unstoppable in crunch time, ripping all three of his goals in the decisive final quarter to power Yorktown's game-sealing surge.
"There was a lot of adversity going into the fourth quarter, so we had to come together and pull through," Dedvukaj said.
The big-bodied junior has emerged as a key offensive weapon this season, racking up 26 goals and seven assists thus far. Dedvukaj possesses a deadly overhand shot, which he unleashed with regularity down the stretch. He ripped back-to-back goals inside the first three minutes of the fourth quarter to stretch Yorktown's lead to 8-5.
"My coaches were telling me to keep finding the alley," Dedvukaj said. "They know I can shoot pretty well. I shot and it was lucky enough to go in."
Huskers star attackman Connor Vercruysse also had another monster performance with a game-high five points on three goals and two assists. He canned a shot with 1:55 left in the first half to give Yorktown a 5-4 lead it would never relinquish. Nick Bonitatibus (2G, 1A), Luke Palmadesso (1G, 1A), Billy Strassman (1G), Nick Del Bene (1G) and Kris Alvarado (1G) rounded out the scoring. Goalie Austin Graham recorded 11 saves and limited the Indians to just one second-half goal.
Yorktown won the ground ball battle 31-17 overall and held a commanding 7-1 edge in the fourth quarter alone. The Huskers' hunger and desire proved to be the difference.
"You can attribute that to just everyone working hard all over, picking up the ground balls, moving their feet and finishing shots," Vercruysse said.
Shawn Smith, Danny Skluth, Jack Wertz, Josh Rubin and Nick Kells scored one goal apiece for John Jay-CR (11-7), which only trailed 6-5 after three quarters. Goalie Rob Looney (eight saves) held back Yorktown's offense for as long as humanly possible.
"We came out energized and played pretty well," Indians coach Tim Schurr said. "We played good team defense and our sticks were in the lanes. We got a break or two here or there. They had some good looks, but our goalie made some saves."
John Jay-CR was forced to play a zone defense due to the loss of starting defenseman Bob Giordano, who went down with a concussion on May 3 against Bronxville. It gave the Huskers fits for the first 36 minutes of action, however, they eventually honed in on their outside shooting.
"We tried to be aware of where Connor (Vercruysse) and No. 23 (Dedvukaj)," Schurr said. "As it turns out, they got their points. They are very good."
The Indians saw their run of 10 straight Section 1 championship game appearances come to an end. Still, Schurr refused to blame the seeding process.
"We got what we deserved," he said. "We lost a lot of games in the season. Are there teams seeded ahead of us that I think we are a little stronger than? Of course, but we did lose those games."
Losing isn't something Yorktown has done much of in Section 1's do-or-die playoff format. The Huskers are just two wins away from their fourth straight sectional title and 37th overall.
"We have to take it one game at a time," Dedvukaj said. "Every game in the playoffs is a big game — it's go big or go home. I hope we win the game on Tuesday and then we move on from there. Hopefully, we see Somers (in the final)."
John Jay-CR 2 2 1 0 5
Yorktown 2 4 0 6 12
YT (9:42) Nick Bonitatibus unassisted | 1-0 YT
JJ (6:53) Shawn Smith unassisted | 1-1 *
YT (2:38) Connor Vercruysse from Tomas Rodriguez | 2-1 YT
JJ (5:24) Danny Skluth from Ryan Lee | 2-2
JJ (7:50) Josh Rubin from Matt Lupinacci | 3-2 JJ
YT (7:43) Luke Palmadesso unassisted | 3-3
YT (3:44) Vercruysse unassisted | 4-3 YT
JJ (2:52) Nick Kells unassisted | 4-4
YT (1:55) Vercruysse unassisted | 5-4 YT
YT (1:21) Kris Alvarado from Vercruysse | 6-4 YT
JJ (9:36) Jack Wertz from Shawn Smith | 6-5 YT
YT (10:06) Mike Dedvukaj from Palmadesso | 7-5 YT
YT (9:28) Dedvukaj from Vercruysse | 8-5 YT
YT (8:09) Billy Strassman from Bonitatibus | 9-5 YT
YT (3:48) Dedvukaj unassisted | 10-5 YT
YT (2:33) Nick Del Bene unassisted |11-5 YT
YT (0:38) Bonitatibus unassisted | 12-5 YT
* Indicates man-up goal
- See more at: http://www.msgvarsity.com/hudson-valley/yorktown-blasts-past-john-jay-cr-in-quarters-1.1608313#sthash.bP4TMdfj.cPDXJdir.dpuf
John Jay-CR: Shawn Smith (1G, 1A); Danny Skluth (1G); Jack Wertz (1G); Josh Rubin (1G); Nick Kells (1G); Matt Lupinacci (1A); Ryan Lee (1A)