Chris Gray knew he was going to be hurting, but the Shoreham-Wading River junior attack also knew something else: He wasn’t going to be sitting. Not with so much at stake.
Gray, clearly hobbled Wednesday by what his coach said was a deep thigh bruise suffered in last Saturday’s LIC, still managed two goals in a tough 7-6 loss to Yorktown in a state Class B semifinal played at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium.
“We didn’t think he would play, but he wanted to,” Wildcats coach Mike Taylor said. “It affected his play, but he still was productive and he drew a better defenseman. I give him credit for even playing.”
Gray scored both of his goals in the first half, which ended tied at 4. He finished the season as Suffolk County’s leading scorer with 101 points and also led the county with 79 goals. “But he wasn’t able to dodge as much as usual,” Taylor said.
Yorktown’s defense made it difficult for any of the Wildcats to dodge or finish. Its defense featured four Division I college prospects and limited SWR to just 17 shots. “Playing a zone was interesting. We had seen man-to-man on film and didn’t think they’d play zone the whole game,” said Taylor. “We had trouble finishing. We hit some pipes [four]. They had four great poles and they handled our dodges. It’s tough to hold our offense to six goals.”
Shoreham-Wading River (18-3), which got two goals and two assists from Jason Curran, took a 5-4 lead in the first minute of the third quarter when Jon Constant scored off a perfect feed from Curran. But the Wildcats, who averaged 12.4 goals a game, didn’t score again until Curran’s long, desperate shot, trickled in with five seconds left. They couldn’t manage a shot after winning the final faceoff, sending Yorktown (16-6) into Saturday’s state final against Jamesville-Dewitt at Middletown High School.
“That’s a team with history. For our guys, it’s their first time here, with me as their coach,” said Taylor, in his second season. “This is a step for our program. I told the kids it’s been a great journey. There’s no failure this season. We won the Long Island Championship and we were one goal from maybe reaching the state finals.”
Hunter Embury, who scored the last three goals, gave Yorktown a 6-5 lead when he scored, man-up, from right in front of goalie Jimmy Puckey (seven saves) with 6:17 left. “Yorktown was very resilient, very methodical and they wear you down,” Taylor said. “Every time we made a mistake, they capitalized.”
Another of those mistakes was a penalty that gave the Huskers an extra-man opportunity with 1:11 left. Fearing Yorktown would run out the clock, SWR stationed Puckey near midfield and put another defenseman on the back line to try to force a turnover. But Embury was able to shake free and scored into an empty net to make it 7-5.
“In the two years we’ve lost five games by a total of five goals,” Taylor said. “That haunts me every day.”