All the Way Back - March 11, 2004
Pioneers steamroll Sabres 8-4 to capture first HLI title, Banshees stonewall LI-Dragons 1-0 to claim the LI Cup in inaugural season
Like a fully loaded freight train steaming downhill, the Pioneers scored five times in the first and rolled over the Sabres 8-4 to capture the over30 Championship and their first Long Island Cup title. With the win, the Pioneers became just the fourth team to rise from the loser's bracket and win the back-to-back games needed to earn a championship. The Pioneers were once again led by over30 MVP Dan Coffey who notched one goal and three assists. Throughout the playoffs, Coffey was the offense catalyst for the Pioneers whether scoring or setting up his teammates.
The Pioneers jumped on the Sabres early and often. They got on the board less than four minutes in when Coffey loaded a Warren Sackman onetimer that caught the Sabres napping. Only two minutes later, Eddie Haselin put back a slot rebound catching the slumbering Sabres defense. In another two minutes, and just seven minutes into the game, an unattended Vinny Brigante converted a behind-the-net feed and it was 3-0. The first period onslaught continued with two more goals as the Pioneers closed the first period up 5-0.
The stunned Sabres were simply shellshocked. Even for them, a team steeped in championship experience and hardware, spotting the Pioneers five goals was daunting. But, not unexpectedly, the proud, battle-tested Sabres fought gamely and made the Pioneers work to the end. The Sabres found offense from unlikely sources to narrow the Pioneer lead to 6-3 by the middle of the third. A costly penalty, however, stunted their burgeoning rally and they could not get the critical fourth goal to plant the seeds of doubt. On the ensuing powerplay Sackman quieted the comeback whispers and clinched the championship by jamming home a goal from a goalmouth scramble, his third tally of the evening.
Bridemaids No More - March 10, 2004
Capitals exorcise the demons with a 6-3 defeat of the Phantoms to finally ascend Championship Mountain
Forever burying the ghosts and voices of playoff pasts, the Capitals seized the C League title and claimed their first Long Island Cup championship. This time the Capitals did not blink. In a reversal of the previous championship game, the Caps came ready to win. They executed their best game of the season and perhaps the best in the organization's history. Composed and focused, they played crisp, balanced hockey taking their chances when presented and minding the backend throughout. They were led by another complete, dominant peformance from defenseman Rich Stytzer, the C MVP. Stytzer scored once and assisted on two others but it was, more importantly, his staunch work on the backline that continously frustrated and denied the fast skating Phantoms.
Coming into the game the Phantoms held the advantage. Besides carrying the momentum and psychology from their overtime win they are one of just three teams to accomplish the back-to-back wins needed coming out of the loser's bracket. It was, however, the Capitals who struck first. Once again Peter Wong opened the scoring. Wong, who also shined for the Capitals in these playoffs, was at his disruptive best whirling about the ice forechecking with energy and backchecking with purpose. His speed helped negate the Phantoms quickness advantage and set the tone for his squad. Stytzer then shortly followed up Wong's tally when he smartly anticipated a rebound and beat all Phantoms to the biscuit to beat a compromised Phantom goalie.
The Capitals built the lead to 4-0 through two before the Phantoms would respond. Heading the Phantoms rally was Adam Lagnese who scored twice to half the lead just three minutes into the third. In the past, Lagnese's goals would have likely sparked a patented Capitals meltdown. Not tonight. With Stytzer repeatedly standing up Phantoms at the blueline the Capitals did not allow many more Phantom scoring chances. The Capitals would then put the game out of reach behind two Charlie Sheridan goals and the elusive C League championship finally belonged to the long suffering Capitals.
Let's Play Two - March 8, 2004
Pioneers late surge foils Sabres 5-2, Phantoms frighten Capitals 6-5 in overtime
In another tense, down-to-the-wire over30 playoff thriller, the Pioneers broke away from the Sabres late to prevail 5-2 and send the over30 championship to its final game. Dan Coffey continued his elevated play to yet again lead the Pioneer offense. Tonight, he netted 2 goals and pitched in on another. The Pioneers took a 2-1 lead into the third where the teams traded goals less than three minutes in with Coffey's second goal reestablishing a Pioneer lead they would not relinguish. The third period dripped with suspense with each mistake and near miss upping the tension. The Pioneers finally struck with just one minute remaining when Warren Sackman capitalized on a Coffey goalmouth pressure to bury the insurance tally. Sixteen seconds later the Pioneers finished the scoring and moved to the final, yet most difficult, step of their long journey through the loser's bracket.
Shaking off a devestating last second tying goal, the Phantoms resurrected their championshp aspirations with a 6-5 overtime win over a stunned Capitals squad. In a game ruled by momentum swings, the Capitals seemed to have grasped their first LI Cup crown when they miraculously tied this up-an-down affair with just one second remaining in regulation. Nick Calkins unleased a desparation spin-o-rama slapshot that somehow snaked its way through the maze of legs to catch the inside of the left post and ricochet into the net. In the first three overtime minutes a Capitals championship winner loomed imminent. The undermanned, gassed Phantoms struggled to clear their zone but somehow managed to keep the Capitals from getting a prime scoring chance. They settled down in the fourth OT minute and when Jason Selss emerged from a corner battle he slid the gamewinner along the ice to send the C league playoff to the extra game. Selss scored twice for the Phantoms who had taken both a 3-0 and 4-1 lead only to see the Capitals battle back to tie.
Sudden Glory - March 7, 2004
Avalanche snuff LI-Stars 3-2 in overtime to claim D1 title, Blues exterminate Scorpions 3-2 on late goal to wear D2 crown, LI-Dragons muffle Banshees 4-2 to force deciding game, Pioneers lease Bulldogs 7-4
In a game controlled down the stretch by their opponent, the Avalanche found a way to squeak out a 3-2 overtime win to capture the D1 championship. Brian Goodman scored 2:25 into overtime with a goalmouth stuff of a loose puck that escaped the Stars netminder. The play was set up by the tenacious forecheck of D1 MVP Frank Ingebrethsen who won a behind-the-net battle to work the puck into the slot. Ingebrethsen then occupied both the Stars goalie and defensemen to free Goodman for the championship winning score.
The Avalanche came out out of the locker room focused. They skated with jump unleasing an effective and aggressive forecheck that befuddled the Stars. They outshot the Stars 11-6 in the opening stanza and led 2-1 behind goals from Ingebrethsen and John Prange. The 'Lanche appeared poised to take this game, and the championship, with the same dominating fashion that they ended the season and began the playoffs.
Then, inexplicably, the game and momentum went bye-bye. It was if the Avalanche suddenly became awed of where they were and what they were playing for. Startlingly it got a little 'warm' on the bench. The Stars smelled the weakness and pounced. They asssailed the offensive zone and fired 17 shots at Avalanche netminder Chris Reidy. Shots came from everywhere but, alas, none found the back of the net. Reidy was equal to the task drawing upon his past playoff crunchtime experience to get his team through.
The Stars maintained their steady pressure into the third. They continued to carry play and tied the game at 9:34 when Frank Hunter went top shelf. The Avalanche were back on their heels and the Stars kept coming with Pat McKeon leading the charge. McKeon, at will, knifed through the Avalanche defense and twice in the final minutes he created two open net opportunities for teammates that rendered Reidy helpless. But each open net chance was blown with both doorstep shots wide right. The Avalanche somehow survived to overtime setting the stage for Ingebrethsen to deliver the championship.
Rallying with two third period goals, the Blues come from behind and wrestled the D2 championship from the Scorpions 3-2 to claim their first LI Cup in three years. Championships come in different forms and sometimes a team is destined for glory. The Blues championship winning goal carommed off an unsuspecting Jon Newman skate catching the inside of the right post and sneaking past a confounded Chris Lattanzio with just 2:59 remaining. Earlier in the final stanza the untiring D2 MVP Tony Testa tied the game off a Neil Pratesi cross slot feed. The Blues successfully killed the final minutes but not without trepidation. Tom Zdrojeski was called upon to make three sterling championship saving stops as the Scorpions feverishly scrambled for the elusive game tying tally.
This championship match was not for the meek. Each team played with heightened intensity and subsequently the whistle blew (and blew). Twenty-one penalties were called as each team banged along the boards and contested for slot real estate. Each team enjoyed full 5-on-3 advantages. Three goals resulted on the power play, two by the Blues. They game dripped with the passion meritted by the game's magnitude.
In the end, it was an unforseen Scorpion defensive lapse that proved critical. Heading into the third, Lattanzio loomed impenetrable. He had put aside a rare mental lapse that yielded the first Blues goal and locked into a Zen state that only goaltenders achieve. The Scorpions defense had dropped into their highly successful bend-but-don't-break shell around Lattanzio. Their defense-first approach allows shots but is predicated on the defense clearing the loose change and the forwards gaining the blueline. So it was with amazement that the Scorpions betrayed their gameplan and let up, if for the briefest of time. The Blues seized the rare good fortune when Pratesi intercepted a Scorpions break out, caught the Scorpions back on their heels, and swiftly found the ever opportunistic Testa for the tying goal. This tally compromised the Scorpions and eventually exposed them to the whims of the hockey gods.
Behind the timely play of goalie Eric Stern, the LI-Dragons scored two third period goals to extend the E1 championship to the ultimate game with a 4-2 defeat of the Banshees. After a scoreless first period the Dragons struck first and second. But these two goals in four minutes had the contrarian effect of igniting the Banshees. The Banshees responded with their first sustained pressure often pinning a suddenly disoriented Dragons defense in their own end. Stern, who has faced the playoff pressure cooker before, yielded only two Bill Dacunto goals while turning away 13 other Banshee shots. Several of Stern's stops left Banshee heads wagging in disbelief. The Dragons game winning goal came from an unlikely source. In a line-up dripping with offense it was an inspired shift by the Dragons' third line that turned the game. Mark Neider and Wanda Sykes caught the Banshees flatfooted in their own end and worked a lunch pail goal from the back to the front of the net at 11:34 of the final stanza. Mark Kossack scored just a minute later and Stern was firm the remainder for the game.
In an uncharacteristically high scoring affair, the Pioneers put down the Bulldogs 7-4 to advance to the over30 championship. In this game both teams scored more than their previous two games combined. Such a matchup heavily favored the Pioneers who can score with all lines whereas the Bulldogs rely on executing their role oriented approach. The Pioneers scored twice early putting the Bulldogs in an undesired catch-up position. To their credit they battled back to tie the Pioneers at 3-3 three minutes into the second. But the genie was out of the bottle and the Pioneers exploded with three more goals to lead 6-4 heading into the third. Dan Coffey notched the hat trick with a helper, Pat Calcagno scored twice with an assist, and Stan Cotek added a goal and two assists for the winners.
Finally - March 5, 2004
Scorpions sting Stalkers 4-0
Winning for the first time in five tries this season against their divisional nemesis, the Scorpions finally beat, and eliminated, the Stalkers 4-0 and in the process skated into the D2 championship. This match was another sterling example of winning Scorpion hockey; solid goaltending, steady defense and opportunistic offense. After grabbing a 1-0 first period lead the Scorpions extended thier lead to 3-0 in the second behind two classic Scorpion goals. The first was scored by Sean Henderson courtesy of the hard hat work behind the net of Chris Incontro and Chris Babieracki. The second was scored by Eric Wagner, his second of the game, on a 2-on-1 break-in directly resulting from a highlight reel save by goalie Chris Lattanzio denying a Stalker odd man rush. Lattanzio, while not heavily pressured, was called upon to make several other key, timely saves, a couple of the 'wow' kind.
Promise Land - March 4, 2004
Klash prevail 4-3 in double OT over GN-Bruins to finally raise the Long Island Cup, Napper Tandys whitewash Cyclones 6-0 to garner first LI Cup
Scoring at 2:33 of the second overtime, the Klash raised the Long Island Cup for the first time with a dramatic 4-3 defeat of the GN-Bruins, the defending Fall champions. B League MVP Jay Leavy slipped the winning biscuit under the pad of a sliding Mark Tessario and an elusive LI Cup championship finally belonged to the Klash after four previous runner-up finishes. This match, played in soft and soupy conditions, tested the mettle and heart of both squads. The Bruins, as is their want in championship battle, were ready and often the better team. They outshot the Klash 46 to 27 including a decisive 22 to 9 advantage in the third and overtime periods. They were quicker to the puck and stronger in front of the net. Frequently, they pinned the Klash in their own end. All three Bruin goals, two by Kevin Faraci, resulted from their ardent forecheck. Midway through the second they led 3-1 after Faraci scored off an ill-advised Klash centering pass. At this point, the Klash were reeling and facing the very real prospect of the dreaded 'if' game.
But, as often required in a championship season, a team must look in, respond and pull out a match that does not belong to them. Anthony Fiamma scored the Klash second goal, their most important goal of the season, just 15 seconds after Faraci scored. Six minutes later, Eliot Pitney took a Leavy pass and snapped the tying goal just under the bar. The match was on. The Bruins, unfazed, responded with a third period one would expect from a proud title defender. They dominated the final stanza but as often occurs in playoff play up steps an improbable star.
Under the intense, prolonged Bruin pressure Klash goalie Mike Anderson would not yield. Notable chunks of the third and overtime was played out in his kitchen as the Bruins continuously crashed, literally as well as figuratively, the net. Anderson simply would not allow the Klash to lose. His play and vision along the ice was divine as the puck frequently moved precariously, teasing the goal line and imminent Bruin victory. The Klash, however, would perserve including killing off two penalties in the third and overtime periods. The championship winning tally came suddenly, following an all-too-familar hockey sequence. The Bruins broke in 2-on-1 on Anderson and worked a wide-open, dead-nuts game winning shot that Anderson somehow, someway got just enough stick to carom the puck into the corner which then sprung an immediate, other way rush from which Leavy would deliver the championship winner.
Leaving no doubt, Napper Tandys dominated the Cylones 6-0 to clinch their first Long Island Cup championship. In this match, Napper continued to reap the benefits of their revised game approach. Focusing their attention and effort towards playing the game Napper controlled both sides of the puck from the get go. A tenacious forecheck stalled the Cyclones from getting out of their end. A committed backcheck disrupted the Cyclones in the neutral zone. And, as always, a rock solid performance by E2 Playoff MVP Ed Derudder denied the limited Cyclone scoring opportunties.
Any Napper success starts with the man between the pipes. Derudder can, and has, carried his team to a championship - it is impossible for a team to lose if the other team doesn't score. In this playoff, Derudder allowed just two goals in three games. Come crunch time Derudder steels and keeps his team in games; seemingly the closer the game the better he plays. Tonight, Derudder's strong play came in a key stretch of the second period.
This championship match was, for all intents and purposes, over early in the second. Kyle Tomczak's first of two, off an end-to-end rush, stretched the Napper 2-0 first period lead and prompted an unplanned Cyclone time-out. Off the time-out the Cylones responded with their best and most spirited play. For five minutes they battled to get back but was repeatedly turned away by Derudder. Derudder did not, and would not, yield the back of the net and when Marty Cawley scored with 3:41 left in the second the stocky lady started warming up. Rounding out the scoring in the third Tomczak and Norm Rafsol each scored their second goal and the celebration was on.
Ready or not, Here We Come - March 3, 2004
LI-Stars overwhelm Panthers 8-1, Phantoms-LCF scuttle Cement 5-4
Looking nothing like the team that labored through a playoff loss two games ago, the LI-Stars dominated a short-handed Panthers squad 8-1 to advance to the D1 championship. The Stars exploded in the second period with six goals on 25 shots. They were relentless in their attack as the cycled and passed crisply. They consistently hemmed in the beleagured Panthers and ultimately wore them down. For the game, the Stars outshot their opponent 51 to 15. The Stars' Bill Murphy registered a hat trick and Pat McKeon scored twice.
Behind Jason Selss' three goals and Chris Derose's spectactular goaltending the Phantoms never trailed in eliminating the Cement 5-4. With the win the Phantoms move forward into the C champioship. Staying ahead was the key for the Phantoms. Cement brings a high octane offense and produces many shots, and a working margin helps negates the Cement shot barrage. Cement pumped 43 shots at the Phantom net but, alas, Derose was ready. When on, Derose can carry his squad and tonight his 'A' game was needed to fend off the Cement attack. The Phantoms smartly worked a 4-2 lead heading into the third by exploiting the Cement predilection of aggressive offense. Cement scored twice in the third but if not for Derose's heroics this game was likely lost. Several times Cement thought they had the game tied. Their final, fruitless attempt came late as Dan Marone's hat trick attempt was rejected by a sprawling Derose toe.
Takin Care of Business - March 2, 2004
Scorpions blanket Phantoms-Red 3-0, LI-Dragons euthanize Mustangs 10-2
Playing like a team ready for the long trek to titletown, the Scorpions played smart and focused to foil the Phantoms-Red 3-0. For the Scorpions to win they need to play strong from the back out. They do not have dominating offensive weapons, relying instead on three steady lines to be patient and strike when opportunity presents. Last night, the Scorpions executed their gameplan to a tee. Scorpions goalie Chris Lattanzio was impenetrable stopping all 41 Phantom shots. The Scorpion backline bent but did not break limiting any sustained pressure and second chance rebounds. And, the Scorpion offense scored all three on odd-man rushes with the first goal, and gamewinner, coming on a shorthanded breakaway conversion by Tom O'Keefe.
Striking early, striking often the LI-Dragons routed the Mustangs 10-2 in a playoff rematch. After struggling for goals in their previous two playoff tilts the Dragons were finally able to unbridle their explosive offense. Six different Dragons lit the lamp with Mark Kossack leading the charge with a hat trick. Mike DePuy and Bob Lisse each scored twice. The Dragons scored just 24 seconds in and when they netted two more within five seconds of each other midway through the opening stanza the Mustangs were flagging. The Dragons quickly countered a Mustang last gasp, closed the period up 4-1, and ambled to the win.
Bounce Back Monday - March 1, 2004
GN-Bruins stall Storm 5-4, Cyclones flatten Phantoms-OS 5-3, Cement apprehend Court Officers 6-4, Blues subdue Stalkers 4-2
Refusing to relinquish their throne, the GN-Bruins get it done in a gut check 5-4 defeat of a dejected Storm squad. The defending Fall champs spotted the Storm two first period goals and worked a 4-3 lead heading into the third period. The Bruins' Vinny Kelly scored three of the four goals as the Bruins' 'Kid' line consistently created scoring chances. One minute into the third, the Storm's Ed Kurz tied it at 4-4 with a impressive individual effort as he deked and reached around a sprawled Bruins tender. The 'Kid' line, however, would strike one more fateful time when Vinny Kelly baited a defensemen away from the center of the ice to allow a streaking Cory Green just enough room to redirect a precise laser pass past a helpless Storm backstop.
In a match not a close as the final score, the Cyclones attoned for their previous flat performance in a dominating 5-3 elimination of the Phantoms-OS. The Cyclones fired 48 shots including 39 in the first two periods when they built an imposing 5-0 lead. Russ Broming scored twice, and Bill Loud and Steve Lockwood each chipped in with a goal and assist. The Cyclones struck quick, scoring twice before the fannies could warm the seats. They continued to barrage Phantoms netminder Erik Miklich who singlehandedly tried to keep his squad close. His overwhlemed mates, however, could not generate any offfense to lessen the Cyclone seige.
Coming back from a two goal deficit, Cement rallied with five straight to put away the Court Officers 6-4. Early on, the Officers looked like winners as they grabbed a 3-1 lead and seemed to have neutralized the high-powered Cement offense. Even when Cement began to break down the Officer's defense goalie Peter Nawrocki played big time limiting Cement to just two second period goals off 18 shots. The Officers continued to keep pace with their quicker opponent and when they killed a five man disadvantage they seemed poised to find a way. But, despite the Officers outshootting Cement 15-9 in the third, it was Cement who hit the back of the net as Dom Ferreira's second tally and two Dan Marone twine ticklers 'cemented' the win.
In another workmanlike performance, the Blues did what was needed to foil the Stalkers 4-2. With the win the Blues moved just one step away from the organization's first championship in three years. For a second consecutive game the Blues would not trail. Tonight, they again took a 2-0 first period lead that they would never surrender. The Stalkers twice halved the deficit but could net the equalizer. For the second time in playoffs, Tony Testa led the Blues offense. He scored twice with each goal establishing a two goal Blues margin.
Hide the Wife and Kids - February 29, 2004
Capitals spook Phantoms 5-3, Banshees rally past Mustangs 5-2, Avalanche snow Panthers 4-2, LI-Stars eradicate Grizzlies 3-2
Venturing into unchattered territory for the star-crossed franchise, the Capitals placed themselves into the C championship with an impressive 5-3 defeat of the Phantoms-LCF. Pete Wong lead the Capitals attack with two goals and an assist with his goals opening and closing the game's scoring. As with most Capitals victories, goalie Mike Anderson played a prominent role and his third period play secured this crucial win. The Capitals built a 3-0 lead midway through the second before Adam Lagnese scored twice to tempt the choking ghosts of Capitals past. The Capitals, however, did not lapse into another playoff collapse. Doug Horn responded just 80 seconds after Lagnese's second score to restablish a two goal lead. Anderson then took over and delivered his team. In the third, he made four spectacular diving saves and stoned a breakwaway to repel the Phantoms final, furious, but futile, attempt to knot the game.
Spotting the Mustangs a 2-0 first period lead the Banshees struck with five unanswered to move into the E1 championship in their inaugural HLI season. Special teams play was the key to this Banshee victory. After halving the Mustangs lead early in the second, the Banshees scored twice killing off a penalty. Mike Gozley notched the first shorthanded tally by bolting from a far-end faceoff, streaking untouched past a flatfooted Stang defense and shooting high over the blocker. A minute later, a Steve Tucker blast from the point had just enough steam to break through an apparant save. In the third, it was a Paul Perednia powerplay tally that put the game out of reach as he onetimed a Tucker cross slot feed.
Continuing their impressive 2004 run, the Avalanche moved to the brink of a D1 championship with an impressive 4-2 shutdown of the Panthers. The Avalanche, who have are now 7-1 in '04, have the look of a champion. In this tilt, inspired play from both the front and back line tamed the Panthers. The Panthers opened the scoring just a buck fifteen in but eventually they succumbed to the incessant Avalanche pressure. The Avalanche scored four consecutive times and if not for a bigtime performance by Panther goalie Bob Conklin the final result would have been much worse. Frank Ingebrethsen's two third period goals, less than two minutes apart midway in the third, put the game away for the Avalanche.
Uncharacteristically employing a defense-first game plan, the LI-Stars put down a listless Grizzlies squad 3-2. The Stars consistently beat the Grizzlies to loose pucks and limited prime scoring chances as the Grizzlies could not summon the intensity they need for victory. After gaining an early lead, the Stars were content to be patient and wait for their scoring chances. In the second, Frank Hunter put back a rebound from a blueline shot, and Jesse Roberts capitalized on a Grizzly breakdown and converted an odd man rush to establish an insurmoutable 3-0 lead. The Grizzlies showed a flicker of life in the final period but it again proved too little, too late.
Here We Go Again - February 28, 2004
Sabres leash Bulldogs 2-1, Pioneers finish Rangers 4-2, LI-Dragons exterminate Rats 4-3 in OT
Executing their playoff handbook step-by-step the Sabres put a stranglehold on another title pursuit advancing to the over30 championship final with a 2-1 defeat of the Bulldogs. Last's night chapter - Score early, then Protect. Scoring twice in the first the Sabres would allow no more than an early second period Bulldog goal. The Sabres seem to relish and thrive in the tension of the close game; the greater the pressure, the stronger the resolve. Goaltender Jimmy Stilleti repeatedly refused prime Bulldog chances. The Sabre defense repeatedly refused rebound shots. And, again, the team repeatedly refused to lose.
Taking the first of four the Pioneers began the long climb back with a just-enough-to-win effort to put away an undermanned but scrappy Ranger crew 4-2. Dan Coffey provided most of the Pioneer offense notching the trick including the shorthanded gamewinner. Consistently the quickest player on the ice, Coffey made the play of game to break a 2-2 third period deadlock. Anticipating and intercepting an errant Ranger powerplay breakout pass Coffey caught the Rangers heading up ice and netted the decisive goal past a scrambling Ranger goalie five minutes into the third. The Pioneers defense held serve the rest of the way preventing any sustained Ranger pressure.
A unlikely 90 foot neutral zone blast by Chris Austin just 26 seconds away from a shootout propelled the LI-Dragons past the Rats 4-3 in overtime. Austin was the man for the Dragons. He scored all four Dragon goals with his third being the most important. Just seconds after Sean Munaghy's second goal with only 3:46 remaining gave the Rats their final lead, Austin tied it back up . The teams played even through most of this match with both goalies playing well.
Seeing is Believing - February 27, 2004
Klash weather #1 Storm 3-2 in bizarre ending
In an ending equally inconceivable and incredible the Klash played the final minutes without their goaltender and hung on to a nerve wracking 3-2 victory over the Storm. Clinging to a 3-1 lead with only 3:11 remaining the Klash goalie became embroiled with a Storm player in his crease. Their exchange became a disagreement of the fighting kind and resulted in the unimaginable ejection of both players. Staring the prospect of yacking away their hard earned lead, the Klash banded together and persevered through the agonizing clock watch limiting the Storm to only one additional goal. While Kiran Mhatre (2 goals), Eliot Perry (1 goal and assist) and Jay Leavy (2 assists) accounted for all the Klash scoring, it was their untiring forecheck and defense during the final tense minutes that proved more vital.
Another One(#1) Bites the Dust - February 26, 2004
Napper Tandys dominate #1 Cyclones 4-1, Capitals sink Cement 7-2
Playing perhaps the best game in their history, Napper Tandys advanced to the E2 championship game with a 4-1 mastery of the Cyclones. Playing crisp, focused hockey Napper Tandys never allowed the Cyclones into this match. They bombarded the Cyclones for 43 shots. They limited the Cyclones to 11 shots. They consistently and effectively cycled through the offensive zone. They effortlessly broke out of the defensive zone. They, most importantly, stayed out of the box. Mike Medwig scored twice in the first providing all the scoring Napper would need in this command performance.
Securing the organization's first playoff victory, the Capitals counterpunched the high octane Cement offense to make history with a 7-2 win. The Capitals defensive firm of Boyd, Giammarusco, Rybacki and Vasquez proved the key to this victory. They blocked numerous shots and, for the most part, kept the quicker Cement forwards out of goalie Mike Anderson's kitchen. Anderson, as well, shined standing firm throughout numerous Cement pressures. From their bend-but-not-break effort the Capitals were able to launch odd man rushes which led to most of their goals. Pete Wong and Charlie Sheridan both scored twice for the winners.
Don't Drink the Water - February 25, 2004
Banshees scalp #1 Rats 3-1, Sabres ambush #1 Pioneers 4-3
In a cautious, conservative game the Banshees scored three unanswered to upset the regular season champ Rats 3-1. Both teams began the game emphasizing defense and limiting scoring chances. After a scoreless first, the Rats finally broke the deadlock with a Sean Munaghy slot tap-in. This goal, however, sparked the Banshees. Al Barrow responded less than two minutes later to tie the match. Then, the Banshees struck twice more in third with Mike Bergman and Mike Metz scoring just none seconds apart to build their 3-1 lead. This lead was never threatened the rest of the game and the Banshees had relegated yet another #1 to the losers bracket.
Following their tried and true playoff handbook, the playoff savvy Sabres stood up and took it to an unsuspecting Pioneers squad who saw their championship aspirations sidetracked 4-3. From the drop the Sabres matched the intense, physical style favored by the Pioneers. The Pioneers pressured the Sabre end all three periods outshooting the Sabres by more than 2 to 1 but ultimately they could not shake the Sabres. Buoyed by goalie Ruben Santana's stellar play the Sabres played closed to the vest and capitalized on their few offensive chances. Two key late second period goals merely two minutes apart set the Sabre table for the third. Shortly after the Pioneers tied the game they gained a man advantage with just five to go and looked poised to sneak away with the win. They should have known that the Sabres had them right where they wanted them. A determined, individual penalty kill by Mike Caporale proved the climatic play. He bulled through two Pioneer defenders to get two shots to net a shorthanded game winning tally. Next.
Hop on the Magic Carpet - February 24, 2004
Mustangs gallop past LI-Dragons 5-2, Phantoms-LCF handcuff Court Officers 4-2
Continuing to display an unprecedented high-powered offense, the red hot Mustangs dazed the Dragons 5-2. In past playoffs, the Mustangs would employ a grind-it-out, defense-first approach to win tight, low scoring games. But, this year, they closed the regular season uncharacteristically scoring more than five a game. And tonight they again unleased their newfound offensive fury. After a scoreless first period the Mustangs netted five unanswered. Key to keeping the usually high-powered Dragons scoreless was the resurgent effort of Mustang goalie Jim Bauman. Bauman, flashing back to saves of yore, repeatedly frustrated and denied the Dragons. Feeding off their rejuvenated backstop the Mustangs struck in the second and rampaged to five straight goals from five different players. The Dragons continued to press but could not break Bauman, and the 'Stangs secured the upset.
Behind the inspired play of netminder Chris Derose the Phantoms sustained a early 2-0 lead to defeat the Court Officers 4-2. Derose made several clutch stops in the pressure filled third period. Amid constant congestion and disarray Derose was quick with the glove and staunch in the crease. The Officers had tilted the ice in pursuit of the tying goal but ultimately could not get the equalizer past Derose. The Phantoms Adam Lagnese scored twice in the first but it was an Artie Mediate goal off a smart backdoor pass late in the second that proved to be the gamewinner.
Calling Cinderella - February 23, 2004
Stalkers shock #1 Scorpions 6-4, Klash declaw GN-Bruins 6-3, Avalanche contain LI-Stars 4-0, Cement clip Red Wings 8-3
In the first seismic event of these playoffs the Stalkers continued their confounding mastery of the Scorpions to stun the #1 seed 6-4. After spotting the Scorpions an opening minute goal this match was never really close. With six unanswered the Stalkers built a dominant 6-1 lead. Steve Tucker scored three times and Paul Perednia tallied two to fuel the onslaught. Three meaningless Scorpions goals in the third provided only the cosmetic of a close game. The win was the Stalkers' third in four tries against the Scorpions who have lost only four times all season.
Scoring three times in the first period the Klash never looked back as they skated past the GN-Bruins 6-3. Jay Leavy scored three times and Elliot Pery scored twice as the Klash top line outscored the GN-Bruins 'Kid' line. The Klash defense held strong through a critical stretch early in the third when the Bruins mustered their best pressure of game. Klash goalie, Ruben Santana, made several key stops during this Bruin tempest and denied them to get any closer than two. John Hughes scored twice for the Bruins.
In a match that would make the Devils and Wild proud the Avalanche never allowed the LI-Stars to summon much offense en route to a ho-hum 4-0 shutout. The Avalanche defense was stellar throughout as they limited the LI-Stars to just 16 shots. The Avs controlled all three playing zones as the Stars could not sustain any offensive pressure. Four different Avs scored in the balanced winning effort.
Erupting for five goals in the third Cement broke open a one goal game and retired the Red Wings 8-3. The Wings were able to hang in through two making the most of their limited scoring opportunities to trail only 3-2 going into the third. Cement, however, assailed the Wings in the third. With constant pressure and deft passing they threw 16 shots at the net with five finding the twine. David Jose led the offensive charge with three goals and Eric Yanega contibuted a goal and three assists. Tracey Recenello scored twice in the losing effort.
Deuces Wild - February 22, 2004
Napper Tandys sting Phantoms-OS 2-1 in OT, Banshees extinguish Rage 2-1, Bulldogs relegate Rangers 2-1, GN-Bruins exhaust Beavers 8-5, Sabres exorcise Bladerunners 4-2
Calling upon their past experience of playing low-scoring, tight playoff games Napper Tandys prevailed 2-1 in overtime over a deflated Phantoms squad. Rick Nash provided all the scoring for Napper with his OT heroics coming just 21 seconds into extra hockey. Nash's winning tally was set up by defensemen Brian Baloga's rush which drew anxious Phantom defenders and enabled Nash to get free. As usual in Napper playoff games, goalie Ed Derudder played a major part in the victory with solid netminding especially in the opening stanza when the Phantoms generated their best chances.
In a close, low-scoring affair the Banshees held off a fevered Rage squad to advance 2-1. After a scoreless first period the Banshees struck 5 minutes into the second when Pat Pinion deked past a Rage defender and unleased a quick wrister against the grain that found the back of the net. A similar rush netted the second Banshee goal when Mike Gozley worked past a single defender to tickle the twine. The Rage went down fighting but were unable to secure the equalizer with an apparent tying goal waved off with just six seconds remaining.
In yet another stirring chapter in one of HLI's marquee rivalries the Bulldogs scored with just two minutes remaining to get past the Rangers 2-1. In a game dominated by the two tenders, a Pete Kentros shot deflected off a defensemen's leg on a 2-on-1 break-in and eluded a stunned Chris Vience. Vience at times singlehandedly kept his team in the game. The Bulldogs stormed the Rangers out of the lockerroom and took an early lead. Throughout the first two periods they continuously pressured the Rangers and often pinned them in their end. Vience, however, would not yield until Kentros' climatic shot. Bulldogs netminder Eddie "the Eagle" Kelerchian again was playoff steady only allowing a first period screen shot to get past. While not under the constant seige faced by Vience he came up big in the tension filled third period which saw both teams with numerous chances to pot the go-ahead goal.
Finally wearing down a game, but undermanned, Beavers squad the GN-Bruins broke open a 3-3 tie late in the second with three goals in three minutes and advanced with a 8-5 victory. Twice in the first two periods the Bruins established a two-goal edge to only see the scrappy Beavers fight back and tie late in the second. After knotting the match, however, the Beavers, who to this point played poised and focused, lapsed just so and the Bruins pounced. Before the Beavers could regain their bearings the Bruins had opened a 7-3 lead. The hardy Beavers mustered one final rally but could get no closer than two. The Bruins were lead by the second line combo of Scott Wood and John Hughes with Wood notching a hat trick and an assist and Hughes scoring once and helping on two others.
In an atypical first period outburst the Sabres scored four times and then held firm to eliminate their postseason nemesis, the Bladerunners, 4-2. Anthony Fiamma was an offensive machine for the Sabres scoring and assisting twice. The Blades could not contain the fast skating Fiamma who was able to compromise the usually tight Bladerunner backline. The Bladerunners fought gamely to get back into the match but could only summon one goal after the first against an unprecedented Sabre defensive shell. The Sabres took only four shots in the final two periods eschewing offensive oppurtunity for supreme defense.
Let's Get it On - February 21, 2004
Panthers claw Grizzlies 4-3, LI-Stars send home LI-Bruins 5-2, Blues frustrate Phantoms-Red 5-3, Stalkers fry PLT 8-5
Scoring with just 2:28 remaining Nick Dimules completed a hat trick to lead the Panthers past the Grizzlies 4-3. The decisive goal found its way through a screen to sneak past Grizzlies netminder Bob "Big Bear" Avery. Avery singlehandedly kept the Grizzlies in this match which saw the Panthers, at times, dominate play. An aggressive Panther forecheck pinned the Grizzlies pinned in their own end and kept them from generating much offense pressure. The Grizzlies, however, had made the most of their limited opporutunities and tied the game with an Ari Sillam goal with 5:38 left in the third.
Bolstered by Carl Guarino's timely saves the LI-Stars secured an early lead that it never relinquished and eliminated the LI-Bruins 5-2. Several clutch Guarino stops kept the Bruins scoreless for the first half of the game. During this time Guarino turned away a 3-on-1 break-in and shorthanded breakaway, and the Stars built a 2-0 lead. The Bruins finally got on the board mid-second but Sal Croce's first of two just two minutes later deflated the Bruins who could not muster the necessary season saving comeback. Pat McKeon also scored twice for the winners.
In a rematch less than a week old, the Blues went old school and clamped down their defensive zone in the third and moved past the Phantoms-Red 5-3. In a game that was playoff intense throughout, the Blues never trailed en route to their first round victory. Tony Testa netted three including the gamewinner 5:45 left in the second when the Blues reclaimed a two goal margin. In the third, the Blues' defensive play from the front to back line never allowed the Phantoms to truly threaten before they salted away the win with a emptynetter in the final minute.
Three goals in a five minute span broke open a close game and propelled the Stalkers to a 8-5 win over PLT. During this decisive stretch Steve Tucker notched two of his three goals with his final tally staking the Stalkers to an insurmountable 7-3 lead. The Stalkers grabbed a 2-0 first period lead before the teams started trading goals. Twice PLT closed to one goal but could not net the equalizer. The Stalkers Mike Berman scored once and assisted twice and Joe Cimino scored twice in a losing effort.
Hanging On - February 19, 2004
Phantoms-OS persevere in an 8-6 nailbiter over a plucky Bonecrusher crew
Almost squandering all of a five goal second period lead, the Phantoms-OS advance with a 8-6 victory over the Bonecrushers. After leading 7-2 deep into the second the Phantoms needed a late topshelf goal from Darren Loyal to salt the game away. The Bonecrushers, in the organization's first LI Cup appearance, seemed dead when the Phantoms' Sal Croce netted his second goal with 2:23 remaining in the middle stanza. But finding a fortitude that may serve them well in future playoff action the 'Crushers unleased a five minute blitzkreig that narrowed the Phantom lead to 7-6. The stunned Phantoms had inexplicably dropped into a prevent defense and suffered greatly. A timely TO, however, settled the beleagured squad and the Phantoms matched the Bonecrushers through the remainder of an intense third period. For the winners, Don Thivierge scored and assisted twice.