Follow Section 1 hockey on Twitter @MSGV_Icass
BREWSTER, N.Y. — Kevin McGee started out the year as White Plains' top defenseman, charged with commanding a unit that graduated a pair of all-state talents in Connor Lawrence and Jack Peeples.
Boy, have things changed for McGee and the Tigers.
The junior defenseman-turned-forward showcased his offensive skills in Sunday's Section 1 Division 1 opening round playoff game against No. 8-seeded Somers/North Salem (9-11-1). McGee notched a career-high four goals and an assist as the No. 9-seeded Tigers (8-13) cruised to an 8-5 win at Brewster Ice Arena. White Plains will square off against top-seeded Suffern in the quarterfinals on Tuesday at Sport-O-Rama at 6:30 p.m.
“(McGee) is one of the most talented hockey players on our team and one of the best in the section,” Tigers coach Howard Rubenstein said. “He just had a game tonight. He was all about it. He could have four goals almost every game. We had him at defense earlier in the season, but I think center is his natural position and he really showed that tonight.”
McGee made the move up front — where he's paired on a line with senior stars Drew Sobo (1G, 4A) and Paul Variano (2G, 2A) — back on Jan. 19 in a loss to Rye Town/Harrison. As a forward, he has totaled eight goals in nine games. In the 12 games prior to the switch, McGee had scored just four times.
Against Somers/North Salem, McGee and his linemates were an overpowering force. The talented trio wasted little time getting it started, recording 10 first-period points (4G, 6A) as the Tigers roared out to an early 4-1 lead.
“This was the fourth or fifth game that Me, Drew and Paul have been playing together and it really just clicked,” McGee said. “We have been practicing a lot and found each other a lot.”
McGee kept it going in the second period, scoring back-to-back goals to give White Plains a 6-1 lead with 7:58 left in the period. Sophomore defenseman Chris Medeot then tallied a shorthanded goal to make it 7-1 heading into the third.
“It's the playoffs — a time to play big,” McGee said. “We wanted to play Suffern on Tuesday. That's a rivalry for us, so we just came in fired up.”
White Plains and Suffern met in last year's Section 1 Division 1 title game, however, the two have gone in different directions this season. The Mounties (16-2-2) have remained at the top of the pyramid, while the Tigers have struggled through a rebuilding year. Suffern won the regular season matchup between the two teams, 4-0, back on Dec. 23.
Despite all the factors working against the Tigers, McGee believes they have an honest shot to shock the section.
“It comes down to a lot of heart,” he said. “We have to come in there fired up. Obviously, Suffern's a great team and always have been, but we are capable of beating them. We held them to three goals until the last 15 seconds the last time we played them. Our defense needs to be strong, block shots and (goalie Chris Stangarone) has to come up big. And we have to capitalize on our chances.”
For White Plains, it's a chance to pull off the upset of a lifetime.
GAME NOTES: Somers/North Salem scored four of its five goals in the third period after White Plains starting netminder Chris Stangarone was relieved … In her final varsity game, Somers/North Salem's Jackie Verhave scored her first career goal. She buried it on the power play with 4:47 left in the third period off an assist from David Rubenstein … White Plains' Paul Variano leads the Tigers in scoring with 44 points (29G, 15A), while teammate Drew Sobo (8G, 26A) is second with 34 points.
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Tigers roar from the start: White Plains never really left this one in doubt, jumping out to a 4-1 first-period lead that ballooned to 7-1 heading into the third. The first line — consisting of Kevin McGee, Drew Sobo and Paul Variano — were on the ice for six of the seven goals.
2. Somers/North Salem depleted: Somers/NS only dressed 13 players and was missing a total of six. In the realm of high-intensity playoff hockey, lack of depth pretty much doubles as the kiss of death.
3. Family affair for Rubensteins: This really isn't a key to the game, however, it's worth noting that White Plains coach Howard Rubenstein has two sons — David (goalie) and Matt (forward) — on Somers/North Salem. Here's what the coach had to say about the experience of coaching against his sons: “It was tough. I'm a White Plains guy and we are going out for the win, but at the same time (my sons) are a big part of the other team. It's tough and bittersweet. We have to try to take (my sons) out of the game to be successful, but at the same time in the back of my head I want to see them be successful every time I see them play.”
White Plains 4 3 1 8
Somers/NS 1 0 4 5
WP (12:03) Drew Sobo from Paul Variano and Kevin McGee | 1-0 WP
WP (9:44) McGee from Sobo and John Longo | 2-0 WP
SN (7:28) Noah Hale from Luigi Olinto and Mitch Lanyi | 2-1 WP
WP (4:02) McGee from Sobo and Variano | 3-1 WP
WP (0:16) Variano from Sobo | 4-1 WP *
(13:15) McGee from John Sullivan | 5-1 WP
(7:58) McGee unassisted | 6-1 WP
(6:56) Chris Medeot unassisted | 7-1 WP **
SN (13:37) Hale from Lanyi and Olinto | 7-2 WP
WP (7:31) Variano from Sobo | 8-2 WP
SN (6:52) Mike Ferrara from Kevin Duffy and Hale | 8-3 WP
SN (4:47) Jackie Verhave from David Rubenstein | 8-4 WP *
SN (0:50) Lanyi from Will Pappas | 8-5 WP
* Indicates power play goalkeeper
** Indicates shorthanded goal
White Plains: Kevin McGee (4G, 1A); Drew Sobo (1G, 4A); Paul Variano (2G, 2A); Chris Medeot (1G); John Sullivan (1A); John Longo (1A)
Somers/NS: Noah Hale (2G, 1A); Mitch Lanyi (1G, 2A); Luigi Olinto (2A); Jackie Verhave (1G); Mike Ferrara (1G); Kevin Duffy (1A); Will Papas (1A); David Rubenstein (1A)
White Plains: Chris Stangarone (19 saves, 1 goal against); Arielle Miller (4 saves, 4 goals against)
Somers/NS: David Rubenstein (8 saves, 7 goals against); Raynor Lundy (9 saves, 1 goal against)
White Plains 9 6 10 25
Somers/NS 13 7 8 28
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass