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Fall 2002 Playoff Recaps

King of the Island

King Me, Again - February 23, 2003

Heineken deny Bulls again, repeat as Long Island Men's Champs 5-4 in King of the Island II

(The King of the Island II pitted HLI's B League champ Bulls against Superior's A League champ Heineken. These two champions also faced off in the inaugural King of the Island game which was won by Heineken 4-3. Last night, as in King I, the Heineken offense was spearheaded by Shawn Lindsay and Seth Wiener).

In a tense, hard-fought, fast-paced battle deserving of King of the Island, Long Island's Mens' Hockey championship game, Heineken, Superior's A League champ, denied the Bulls, HLI's B League champ, 5-4 to repeat as King. Heineken jumped on the Bulls from the first drop. They applied and maintained intense offensive pressure throughout the first generating most of the prime scoring chances. Bulls' goalie, Erik Marghella, weathered the bulk of the onslaught delivering several spectacular stops. The Bulls, however, continually could not clear their zone. Heineken finally broke through at 2:21 on a Seth Wiener onetimer and a minute later on a Shawn Lindsay turnover conversion. Both goals resulted from prolonged offensive zone pressure. Heineken then stretched their lead to 3-0 at 9:18 in the second on Wiener's opportunistic seeing-eye through a congested slot that eluded a screened Marghella. The game was bordering on blow-out.

The Bulls needed a turning point and it came suddenly. A seemingly harmless Darren Siff blueline shot had just enough steam to break free of goalie Eric Scheibe's initial save and barely trickled across the goal line. This fortuitous goal sparked the Bulls. Reversing their earlier passive play, the Bulls stormed Heineken's net. Scheibe, though, came up big during the Bulls' barrage. He made various bigtime saves, none bigger than two through multiple screens where he somehow flashed a pad at the last moment. He could not stem the tide entirely, however, as a Jeff Burns' blast cleanly beat him in the second, and when John Carroll executed a nifty wrap-around less than a minute into the third the teams were tied.

The game then became tight, physical and, at times, nasty as these two champions looked to stake their claim as the best men's team on Long Island. The team traded blows (figuratively and literally) and but not many scoring chances. The corners became contentious and the front of the net was not for the meek. The teams played evenly and the match looked headed for overtime. The breakthorugh came unexpectedly.

While killing a Bulls' power play with five minutes left, Lindsay and Wiener executed an unlikely (and almost slowmotion)length of the ice give-and-go that caught the Bulls napping. Disrupting and turning a Bulls break-in Lindsay hit Wiener with a sharp cross-ice nuetral-zone pass. Wiener reading the defense and anticipating the play feed the puck into what appeared harmless open space in the Bulls zone. Lindsay, however, knew otherwise. He anticipated Wiener's prescience, outskated a lackadaisical Bulls defense, snatched the puck in full stride and cleanly broke in on goal. Marghella stepped out to meet Lindsay and stymied his initial shot but his aggressiveness compromised his rebound position. Lindsay gathered the rebound and calmly topshelved the go-ahead, short-handed goal. Lindsay salted the game away less than minute later as he again capitalized on another Bulls defensive zone breakdown.

During the final minutes the Bulls desperately attacked. They peppered Scheibe but he was ready. Mike Bellinzoni finally narrowed the lead with just over a minute remaining but the Bulls could not muster any serious threat in the final minute. Their only legitimate chance came just as the final horn sounded as John Davidson fanned on a difficult onetimer in the slot.

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How Sweet It Is - March 2, 2003

LI-Stars thump Bladerunners 5-0 to finally ascend championship mountain

Staring down the bridesmaid demons of championship games past, the LI-Stars, in their fourth consecutive title try, finally found Camelot in a resounding 5-0 thumping of an out-of-gas Bladerunner squad. The Stars, leaving nothing to chance, were a starkly different crew than the previous night. They made several line-up adjustments and simply imposed a refuse-to-lose will that was absent in their recent championship disappointments. After stalemating in a scoreless first period the Stars erupted with four second period goals. The Bladerunners had no answer for the rejuvenated Stars' attack as four different Stars scored in the outburst. Sean Pearsell added an insurance tally in the third, his second goal of the game. The key throughout the Stars championship run was not their explosive offense but a resilient defense backboned by D1 League playoff MVP Brian Davidson. Equally capable on both offense and defense, teams had no answer for this multi-threat Star. His spirited play, timely scoring, and never-ending hustle spurred two critical Stars' playoff comebacks in the early rounds. These vital victories earned the Stars the distinct advantage of entering the championship round undefeated and provided the necessary breathing room en route to the Stars well deserved spot on the Long Island Cup.

Takin' it to the Limit - March 1, 2003

Bladerunners shut down LI-Stars 3-1 to force decisive championship game

Employing a stifling defense that limited any prime scoring threats, the Bladerunners positioned themselves for an improbable championship by forcing a decisive winner-take-all with a 3-1 defeat of an anxious LI-Stars team. The Bladerunners continued their late season winning ways by grabbing an early lead and sitting on it. Their defense was essentially impenetrable rarely allowing a legitimate Stars' scoring chance. The Blades crowded the neutral zone and kept the quicker Stars on the perimeter. The Blades unlikely offensive star was defensemen Terry Tolan who scored twice. The second Tolan goal midway through the second built a commanding 3-0 Bladerunner lead. Although the Stars closed the lead with a goal in the third they never really threatened the Bladerunners in the third and were often reduced to taking long slapshots and hoping for elusive rebounds.

Enter Dragon - February 28, 2003

LI-Dragons slay Mustangs 9-3 to claim first HLI championship

Peaking at the right time, the LI-Dragons scoring express broke open a close 3-2 game in the middle of the second with four goals within three minutes to stun the defending Fall E League champs Mustangs 9-3 to garner the Dragon organization's first HLI crown. Seven different Dragons scored for the new champs but it was the steady if not spectacular play of E League playoff MVP Eric Stern that backboned the Dragons' drive to titletown. Stern was sharp early in this game when the Msutangs controlled play and bomberded him with 21 shots. Despite being outplayed for most of the first the resilient Dragons closed the period with two goals in 45 seconds to escape with a 2-1 lead. Stern continued to frustrate the Mustangs in the second yielding only one goal before a Marc Neider goal would ignite the Dragons' scoring barrage that clinched the victory and the E League championship.

Lords of the Rink - February 27, 2003

GN-Bruins punish Klash 5-1 to reclaim HLI throne, Avalanche trounce Minutemen 6-2 in D2 title barrage

Typical of their performance throughout the regular season, the GN-Bruins used a suffucating defense to spur an opportunistic offense and dispatched an overmatched Klash squad 5-1 to return to titleland after a two year absence. The Bruins dominated this game from the start. They refused any real Klash scoring chances as they bided for an offense openings. The first openeing came middle of the first as Phil DeGaetano capitalized on a prolonged offensive zone pressure putting back a rebound over a prone Klash tender. The offensive pressure began to build in the second as C League playoff MVP Keven Faraci once again imposed his will on the opposition. His relentless, sprightly play disrupted Klash offensive chances and generated numerous Bruin scoring opportunities. Assisting on three of the final four goals Faraci controlled a game in which he did no score. The beneficiaries of his hard work were linemates Cory Green and Scott Wood who each scored twice. In all, Faraci had two goals and 7 assists in three playoff games with his two goals (including the overtime gamewinner) coming in the Bruins 3-2 semi-final scare against the Court Officers.

Finally unleashing the full might of their high powered offense the Avalanche overwhelmed a besieged Minutemen squad 6-2 to gain their second HLI championship in as many years. The Avalanche balanced offensive assault blasted 56 shots at Herculian Minutemen goaltender Rob Marotta. For most of the game Marotta singlehandly kept the Minutemen sniffing around as they were tied at 2-2 as late as 5:58 of the second. But, instead of becoming rattled (as was their want in the past) the Avalanche became resolute. After peppering Marottta with 14 first period shots the Avalanche unleashed a furious 28 shot blizzard in the second. Marotta played Superman for as long as he could but kryptonite finally surfaced off the stick of D2 playoff MVP Kevin Carney. Carney scored twice in four minutes late in the second to provide the championship clinching lead. For good measure, the Avalanche scored twice more in the third off another 14 shots. Eight different 'Lanche players scored during these playoffs but it was Carney who stood out. Carney, who scored just those two goals, nonetheless spurred his teammates throughout the playoffs with his untiring two-way play and hustle.

Return to Glory - February 26, 2003

Rangers pillage Bucs 5-0 to capture first HLI crown in six years

Casting aside a growing legacy of near-misses and untimely woe the Rangers left no room for chance as they controlled all aspects of tonight's game and captured their first HLI championship in six years by thumping the Bucs, their long time rival, 5-0. Throughout the game the Rangers pressured the Bucs zone and limited the Bucs' offensive chances. Their attack was led by their second line of Joe Migliore, Mark Miller, and Dave Rosenberg who accounted for four goals and six assists. Rosenberg, the over30 playoff MVP, continued his torrid postseason, in which he scored in every playoff game, by netting two more goals. Both goals came in true Esposito fashion. As a consumate garbageman Rosenberg thrives in the congested slot where his determination is often unmatched by the defensemen that are usually draped over him. Migliore added a goal and three assists, none prettier than his third period cross-ice rope that freed Miller on a clean breakaway that Miller buried and in doing so vanquished the Bucs and the ghosts of playoffs past.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Elvis has left the Building - February 25, 2003

Bladerunners end Sabres' championship reign 4-2

Coming back from a 2-0 first period deficit, the Bladerunners scored four unanswered goals to defeat the Sabres 4-2 and unexpectedly end HLI's longest running championship streak at four. After playing tentative in the first period, the Bladerunners came out of the break with renewed energy. They began to carry play and finally broke through when a Peter Haas blast found its way through traffic. Seizing momentum, the Blades unleased a relentless attack on the suddenly vulnerable Sabres. Haas scored again to tie and John Klein broke the deadlock as he buried a rebound. In the past the Sabres would thrive with their back against the wall but tonight they could not muster the tying goal in the final minutes. Haas salted the game away and completed his hat trick with an emptynetter in the last minute. The startling defeat rendered Sabres' co-captain Joe 'Boomer' Bosnack uncharacteristically silent as he muttered only a terse 'No Comment' in the postgame.

Where o' Where has Cinderella been? - February 24, 2003

Minutemen shock Scorpions 2-1, Klash demoralize snakebitten Court Officers 5-4 in double overtime, Mustangs escape Rage 2-1

It took until the last possible dance, but Cinderella finally crashed the party as the Minutemen, the last surviving wildcard team, took out the first #1 seed this postseason with a startling 2-1 upset of the Scorpions. Mike Whitum provided the heroics with just 3:36 remaining as he stuffed the puck through a mad scramble directly in front of Scorps' goalie Chris Lattanzio. The Minutemen got on the board first as Mike Hearns fooled Lattanzio with an along-the-ice shot mid-second period. The Scorpions, who suffered a five period playoff scoring drought, finally broke through at 5:07 in the third as Larry Jordan deflected a Tony Santos power-play blast. The goal seemingly rejuvenated the lackluster Scorps. They applied their most intense scoring pressure of the playoffs over the next 5 minutes but could not break Minutemen goalie Rob Marotta. Marotta made several spectacular saves down the stretch none more impressive than a behind-the-back shaft save that appeared destined from above.

In perhaps the most electric playoff game this postseason the Klash found redemption in outscoring a heartbroken Court Officers squad 5-4 in double overtime. Jim Moore provided the overtime heriocs at 4:42 of the second OT as he narrowly beat a pinching defensemen along the right boards just as the Klash successfully killed a penalty. The fortuitous breakout led to a 3-on-1 which created a precarious dilemma for Officer goalie Mike Falabella. Falabella made the initial save but could not contain the rebound which Moore pounced on and snuck by the prone tender. The goal capped a spirited, third period Klash comeback as they twice rallied to tie the score. This match had an intensity only found in the playoffs. These two equal squads battled and scraped gamely enroute to their regulation deadlock. Mike Russell, fresh off the DL, showed no ill effects in notching a hat trick for the Officers. His third goal at 7:57 of the third re-established a one-goal Court Officers lead. The Klash, who never led in this contest until the final goal, faced and conquered several anxious moments down the stretch. In the last minute and for half the first overtime they successfully killed two penalties in which the Officers did everthing but score.

Showing, for the first time in this playoff, the grit and determination that led to the franchise's first championship last fall the Mustangs gutted out a 2-1 defeat of the Rage. The Stangs, who appeared to have left their offense in the regular season, finally showed some spark late in the second. Trailing the Rage 1-0 in the second, the Mustangs began to press Rage goalie Pete Zsamboky. Zsamboky, accustomed to facing numerous shots, again played gallantly but eventually buckled as Mitch Cagner deflected in the tying goal. In the third, the Stangs continued their urgent play. Their constant pressure earned a 5 minute power play which they subsequently converted into the gamewinner. Zsamboky had made several bang-bang saves during a Stang flurry but could not contain a rebound. Mike Minarcyzk jumped on the loose puck, netted the winning goal, and essentially jettisoned the Rage. The deflated Rage could not muster any serious challenge after Minarcyzk' backbreaker but take solace in the baby step of earning the organization's first playoff win this postseason.

Twinkle, Twinkle - February 23, 2003

LI-Stars on the brink, knock-off Blades 5-3, Sabres perish Grizzlies 6-3

You don't now when they come and are often unaware during them but successful teams look back at certain defining moments when they reverse fortunes and fundamentally change the team's character en route to a championship. Last night, the LI-Stars, often close-with-no-cigar in their postseason history, faced adversity and prevailed rallying`past the dazed Bladerunners 5-3. The LI-Stars squandered several early golden chances and fell behind 2-0 late in the first. In the past, such a predicament proved to be a flashpoint. Not tonight. The Stars maintained composure and scored twice in the period's final two minutes. They fell behind again 3-2 but Bryan Davidson embraced and converted an odd-man rush to tie the score. The Stars played smartly and close-to-the-vest to start the third. Their newfound patience paid off. On a power play Danny Roberts tickled the twine at 7:22 remaining. Davidson then added an emptynetter to finish the scoring and perhaps the Stars stamped themselves with a new identity.

Executing a script tried-and-true the Sabres once again faced down playoff mortality and played their best game in weeks in eradicating the Grizzlies 6-3. The Sabres, who like it on the edge, calmly spotted an early 1-0 Grizzlies lead before they methodically built an insumoutable 5-2 lead early in the third. The Sabres offensive outburst was led by Jan Deguire who netted a hat trick and Mark Stewart who added two. Chipping in with two assists apeice were Anthony Fiamma and 'Doc' Tarricone.

Back in the Saddle - February 22, 2003

Bucs leash Bulldogs 5-1, Rage deprive PLT 4-2

Shaking off the sting of their previous game, the Bucs got back to the business of winning and dispatched a lackluster Bulldogs squad 5-1. The Bucs got back to their brand of hockey - grab the lead, limit chances, and punish teams on breakdowns. Goalie Mike Minchillo set the tone with some early big stops. By the middle of the game the Bucs staked a 3-0 lead. In a Bulldog last gasp Dave Montgomery closed the lead to 3-1. Buc John Kannenegeiser, however, snuffed the rally with the first of two goals with 5 minutes remaining.

In the end, it's not how many you take but how many you take that go in. The Rage, outshot 36 to 15, rode the stingy play of goalie Pete Zsamboky and endured wave after wave of PLT pressure in securing the organization's first playoff win. PLT grabbed a 1-0 first period lead behind a Pete Gemelli tally and continuously attacked the offensive goal. Zsamboky was simply too good for them this night. He displayed an assortment of saves in styming the frustrated PLT squad. His stellar work buoyed his team who finally woke the offense in third. Playing more as a team the Rage began to open up the offense to create sustained offensive pressure. They began to generate PLT turnovers and seized upon their fleeting opportunities. John Brengel scored the go-ahead goal at 11:14 and defenseman Paul Milana's putback at 8:52 proved the gamewinner. Milana later added an insurance tally.

Knockin' on Heaven's Door - February 21, 2003

LI-Dragons lasso Mustangs 3-1, Klash snuff Pioneers 5-2

Playing with a composure belying their playoff inexperience the LI-Dragons trumped a more veteran Mustangs squad 3-1. The Dragons utitlized a counterpunching defense/goaltending first approach, the hallmark of their opponents. They only mustered 11 shots but scored them startegically in establishing a 2-0 lead. Goalie Eric Stern backboned the Dragons' defensive effort. He turned away the first 20 Mustang shots as the 'Stangs carried the offense play in the first two periods outshoooting the Dragons 22 to 8. The Stangs lone goal came late second. The Dragons successfully maintained their defensive shell to limit the Stangs to just 7 third period shots.

Coming back from their worst performance of the season the Klash rediscovered their tight defensive style and in workmanlike fashion eliminated the Pioneers 5-2. After spotting a first minute Pioneers' goal the Klash buckled down and limited any sustained Pioneer pressure. They forechecked the Pioneers into numerous defensive zone turnovers resulting in several goals. Chris Brown and Bob Plansker each scored twice for the Klash and Neil Brenes added a goal and two assists.

Sweating Bullets - February 20, 2003

GN-Bruins subdue Court Officers 3-2 in overtime

Along the way to a championship, teams usually face a gut check where they need to reach within and prevail. Last night, the GN-Bruins passed their gut check needing overtime to sneak by a valiant Court Officers squad 3-2. Kevin Faraci's right circle blast fooled Court goalie Mike Falabella beating him under his blocker at 2:41 in extra time. Falabella was stupendous in this tilt. He faced 35 Bruins shots, many pointblank, and would not yield. His counterpart was equally impressive. Bruins goalie, Mark Tesoriero, made several cool-hand stops in the tense final minutes of regulation. Making the Officer's effort more impressive was that they played without two of their three big offensive guns. They spotted the Bruins a two goal lead but battled back and had chances in the third to filch the win. In addition to his gamewinner Faraci scored another and assisted on the third.

And Still Heavyweight Champion ... - February 19, 2003

Bulls gore Li-Bulldogz 5-2 for title repeat, Bladerunners foil Sabres 4-1, Avalanche bury Scorpions in big comeback prevail 4-3 in a shootout

Meet the new boss - same as the old boss. In their sternest test yet during their championship run the Bulls found and reached a higher level to put down the aspiring and formidible LI-Bulldogz 5-2 to defend their B League championship. The Bulls, focused from the get-go, took the action immediately to the high powered Bulldogz and played defense through ferocious offense. They relentlessly stormed the Bulldogz end the first half of the game and nabbed a seemingly unassailable 3-0 lead. The Bulldogz, however, still had bite. Fighting back with a 17 shot second period they potted two within three minutes late in the stanza to pressure the Bulls for the first time and set the stage for the game's watershed moment. An unintended, intentional Bulldogz offsides with just 45 seconds remaining in the second forced a critical defensive zone faceoff. Mike Bellinzoni masterfully won the draw negating the center and allowing playoff MVP Shawn Lindsay to circle from the far boards, scoop the puck and label top-shelf past helpless goalie Tom Draser. The goal drained the stunned Bulldogz squad and re-established solid ground for the champs. In the third, the Bulls played textbook team defense and were never seriously threatened en route to their repeat title. As expected, Lindsay led the offensive. He scored three in this decisive match and netted 7 of the Bulls 13 goals in the postseason. With this championship victory the Bulls advance to a King of the Island rematch with Superior A league champ, Heineken, and seek to avenge a close loss in the inaugural King of the Island game.

Continuing their late season run into the playoffs the Bladerunners shutdown the crafty Sabres 4-1. Playing close to the vest and smothering the normally opportunistic Sabres offense the Blades grabbed the initial lead and methodically put it out-of-reach. The Sabres had difficulty penetrating the defensive-minded Blades. The Blades limited scoring chances by keeping the Sabres on the perimeter and away form the goal. Four different Blades scored in a balanced offensive effort.

Conquering what would usually be an insurmountable Scorpions three goal lead, the Avalanche resurrected their postseason with a rousing four goal comeback and stung a dismayed Scorpions crew 4-3 in another postseason shootout. The Avalanche regulation comeback was capped by a Jack Waslin onetimer in the center slot off a sharp Brian Goodman goal line feed with just 2:34 remaining. The Scorpions looked to have the game in hand with an dominating first period performance. They played crisp, composed hockey as Larry Jordan scored twice, the second with only 7 seconds left in the first. The Avalanche, however, refused to melt. Showing a maturity lacking in previous campaigns the 'Lanche calmly worked their way back. 'Lanche goalie Chris Reidy, as is his want in the playoffs, made several clutch breakaway saves to bolster the Avalanche's confidence and set the stage for the overtime drama. Two overtimes could not settle this battle. In the extra time each team a had power play but to no avail. In the shootout the first two shooters, Lanche Phil Sacco and Scorp Keith McPherson, eached scored. The goalies ruled the next three shooters leaving it to Lanche Tom Vassal and Scorp Sean Henderson. Vassal went first, made a nifty move and rang both posts before finding the back of the net. Henderson, however, was stoned by Reidy and the comeback was complete.

90 Seconds - February 18, 2003

Rangers snatch victory from deflated Bucs 4-3

The Bucs, 90 seconds away from putting a stranglehold on the over30 playoff, relinquished a 3-2 lead in a span of 45 seconds to hand the Rangers a 4-3 win. The Bucs, who rallied from a 2-1 deficit in the third, could not net the equalizer in the final, frantic 45 seconds. The Ranger scoring hero was Al Sandorfi who roofed a backhand for his second last minute gamewinner this postseason. The Rangers knotted the score 45 seconds prior off a Rob Gahagan blast that deflected its way to the back of the net. This game was playoff hockey at its best; even, clean hockey played with an intensity only found in the playoffs. With the loss, the Bucs now face a formidable Bulldogs squad whom they have not beaten in the last two seasons.

Came to Play - February 16, 2003

LI-Stars de-claw Grizzlies 7-4, GN-Bruins maul Pioneers 11-1, Court Officers ambush Klash 5-0

In snapping a two season, five game losing streak to the Grizzlies, the LI-Stars took the initial step towards their first HLI fall championship by putting down a dismayed Grizzlies squad 7-4. The Stars had to look within to garner this win. They raced to an early 3-0 first period lead only to see the Grizzlies score twice in the last two minutes of the initial stanza. The Stars bumped the lead to 4-2 before Grizzlies' special teams tied the game mid second. It was at this point the Stars refused to wilt and seized the lead for the final time on a Steve Tucker gaol at 2:06 off a beautful give-an-go from Jesse Roberts. The third period period belonged to the Stars' Jason Selss and goalie Carl Guarino. Guarino stopped all 13 Grizzly shots, many at close range, as the Grizzlies furiously sought to send the game into OT. Selss scored twice in the final stanza (earning a hat trick) the first being the critical blow at 12:58 that provided the Stars some wiggle room in the frantic third.

Serving notice that the C Championship will go through Great Neck, the Bruins overwhlemed a depleted Pioneers squad 11-1. There was little doubt in this firstrounder as the Pioneers had neither the guns nor the legs to contend with the Bruins' lethal mix of youth and experience. The onslaught came in measured waves as the Bruins methodically attacked and systematically put away their overmatched opponent. Cory Green lead the victors with 4 goals and Ben Parker chipped in with 2 goals and 3 helpers. The win clearly establishes the Bruins as prohibitive C League favorites.

Coming to play from the first drop, the Court Officers raided the Klash early and waltzed to an easy 5-0 win. The Officers, bouyed by the their rousing rally in their final regular season game, beat the Klash everyway a team can spank a contender. Simply put they played with playoff intensity and the Klash did not. Bryan Zash led this total team effort with 2 goals and an assist. Mike Kilbride added 3 assists and Mike Lamiroult had 1 and 1.

Movin on Up - February 15, 2003

Mustangs barely get by PLT 4-3, LI-Dragons outlast Rage 4-3 in a prolonged shootout, Rangers muzzle Bulldogs 4-2, Avalanche sack Minutemen 3-0

Playoff pressure impacts teams and players differently. It can give rise to unforseen fortune while sabotaging championship aspirations. Last night the Mustangs, the divisional heavyweight, felt the pressure and struggled to get by a pesky PLT squad 4-3. While never seriously in danger, the favorites could not separate from their opponent. After quickly staking a 2-0 lead they permitted PLT to quickly halve the lead less than a minute later. For the better part of the next period PLT carried play. Without the stellar play of goalie Jim Bauman the 'Stangs were in trouble. They successfully fended off PLT's attack, however, and Mitch Cagner's late second period goal provided well received breathing room. PLT's Steve Lawrence scored twice, the second at 4:37 in the third, but it proved too little, too late.

In a thrilling nip-and-tuck classic the LI-Dragons finally put away a bruised Rage squad 4-3 that was decided only after an unbelievable nine player shootout. The Rage forced the overtime with two third period goals both off end-to-end rushes to tie the game at 3-3. The overtime saw both teams with numerous chances but the two goalies (Pete Zsamboky - Rage and Eric Stern - Dragons) both thwarted prime scoring opportunities. In the shoot-out the Rage were on the verge of the organization's first playoff win when the last Dragon shooter, captain Chris Keramis, come through in the crunch and beat Zsamboky to the stick side. Four more shooters were needed to finally break this tense deadlock with the Dragons' gamewinner potted by Nicholas Aujalay.

Taking the first sure step in the intense over30 playoff the Rangers made an early 3-2 second period lead stand up and eked by the Bulldogs 4-2. This playoff pits the three teams, all longtime HLI organizations, that finished only a single point apart in the regular season. In this initial tilt the Rangers grabbed a quick 2-0 lead before the Bulldogs stormed back with two late first period goals, one minute apart, both resulting from prolonged heavy offensive zone pressure. A Rob Gahagan blueline laser one minute into the second re-established the Ranger lead; a lead no-one in the arena thought would endure. Gahagan later iced the game with a length-of-the-ice empty netter.

In a game dominated by the goaltenders, the Avalanche emerged with a 3-0 shutout of the Minutemen. Avalanche Chris Reidy turned away 17 shots in pitching his shutout. Reidy, who has made a habit of stepping up in the postseason, stoned Mike Digiovani twice in the third to perserve the whitewash. Minutemen Rob Marotta was equally impressive saving 30 of 32 shots. The game was 1-0 deep into the third before John Prange lit the lamp for an insurance tally. Prange's second goal, an emptynetter, sealed the Minutemen fate.

Winning Ugly - February 13, 2003

Bulldogs escape Red Wings 6-5 in shootout, Grizzlies rally past LI-Bruins 4-3

In the first-ever playoff matchup of two long-standing, proud HLI organizations, the Bulldogs 'shot' down the upset-minded Red Wings 6-5. This epic clash demanded and delivered extra hockey. After two tense, opportunity filled overtimes the two squads faced down in a shoot-out duel which appropriately went the limit. Tom Foley's goal proved the difference. Bulldogs' goalie Eddie 'The Eagle' Kelerchian, playing with damaged wing, reached back in Hasekian style and snuffed the Red Wings last gasp. This game contained all elements of playoff hockey: prime scoring opportunities, clutch goaltending, power plays, penalty kills, and even a little nastiness. The Red Wings rallied in the third scoring the last two regulation goals the second with just 2:03 on the clock. Joe Cantalupo scored twice for the victorious Bulldgos. Matt Crafa and Eric Weigel each netted two for the losers.

In the latest chapter of HLI's fiercest playoff rivalry, the Grizzlies denied the Bruins yet again spotting a 3-1 lead before ekeing out a 4-3 comeback win. Al Sandorfi's knuckleball with just 22 seconds remaining somehow eluded beseiged Bruins' tender Chris Vience. The Bruins had staked a 3-1 lead midway through the second on a Chris Viscusi goal off a nifty give-an-go from Marc Hedquist. At this point the Bruins looked primed to vanquish their nemesis. The Grizzlies would have none of it. With the ice tilted the Grizzlies controlled play throughout the third and imposed their will to ultimately break the Bruins. Darren Giglio's improbable seeing-eyer from the point squared the match before Sandorfi clinched the victory.

Look Who's Crashed the Party - February 12, 2003

LI-Bulldogz deny Bulls 4-3, Pioneers stun Capitals 4-3

Serving notice that the B League championship is far from mere formality, the LI-Bulldogz have now added grit to their makeup as they employed defense and goaltending to secure a well-deserved upset of the defending B champs Bulls 4-3. Bulldogz goalie Tom Draser was the game's #1 star as he refused, simply refused, to break under a Bulls' third period barrage. He turned away 20 Bulls shots and was downright stupendous in the final three minutes which were played under a Bulls powerplay. Bulls goalie Bill Prange was equally as impressive. His best work was in the first as several clutch saves kept the Bulls close during the 'Dogz 18 shot period. The Bulldogz scoring hero was Eric Spallina who netted two including the gamewinner with 5:39 remaining. With the win the Bulldogz force a third and decisive game to settle a most unexpected B League playoff.

One of the axioms of playoff hockey is 'a hot goaltender can carry a team'. Another one is 'beware the team that brings it every night'. During their uneven, return HLI season the Pioneers experienced the ups-and-downs characteristic of a .500 season. One constant, however, was that they came to play each and every time they laced them up. Last night, as a decided underdog, they avenged two lopsided regular season losses and relegated the Capitals to spectators 4-3. Pat Calcagno notched the decisive tally, off an odd man rush, with only 3:08 remaining. This critical blunder capped a game of missed opportunites for the dejected Caps. The most damaging lapse, however, occurred with just 6 seconds left in the second as Vincent Brigante seized upon a Capitals' defensive zone breakdown to knot the game at 3-3. Paul Salvato and Ed Haselein also scored for the Pioneers with Haselein joining the select fraternity of players who have scored HLI playoff goals in three decades.

Baby Steps - February 11, 2003

PLT exorcise the Phantoms 4-2

Skating hard from the first drop, PLT netted three goals in the first five minutes and held off a scrambling Phantoms squad 4-3. The scoring tag-team of Damian Ercole (2 goals) and Evan Boris (1 goal and 2 assists) proved a little too quick for the Phantoms defense. They repeatedly created sustained offensive pressure and if not for the goaltending heroics of the Phantoms' Eric Miklich (35 saves) this game was over early. To their credit, the Phantoms hung around and provided some anxious moments in the final two minutes in which they narrowed a two goal deficit and had several pointblank chances for the elusive equalizer.

On to Everest - February 10, 2003

LI-Bulldogz thrash Hurricanes 11-5, Minutemen exterminate Rats 3-2 in OT

Striking quick, and then often, the LI-Bulldogz ended the Hurricanes' season last night with a comfortable 11-5 win. The 'Bulldogz, playing with a cohesion and flow that eluded them for most of this slate, scored twice in the first minute and never loked back as they put away a game but depleted 'Canes squad. Ed Kurz broke out of his scoring slump and pumped four past the beleagured Hurricanes tender. Kevin Smith joined the scoring party adding his own trick. The LI-Bulldogz, who were never threatened during this affair, now set their sights on HLI's version of Everest having to defeat the Bulls twice to rightfully earn their spot on HLI's Long Island Cup.

It didn't take long for playoff hockey to get underway. The Minutemen and Rats staged the first overtime match of the Fall 2002 playoffs; a game which saw the Minutemen oust the upset-minded Rats 3-2 on a David Periera gamewinner 35 seconds into OT. The game was filled with the cling-clang of pucks striking iron as each team sweated out numerous posts throughout the contest. The Rats, on the strength of two Richie Ahrens goals, took a 2-1 lead into the third. The Minutemen quickly knotted the score at 14:35 of the third on a Mike Vollmer twine-tickler. Down the the stretch the Minutemen had the better scoring chances but were denied repeatedly by Rats' goalie Sal Taurielo and his two 'friends'.

Championship Mettle - February 7, 2003

Bulls gut one out, sneak past LI-Bulldogz 5-4

In the end, it's just about the W's. To build and sustain a dynasty it's not about who scored but who won. Championship teams always seem to find the way especially when the "A" game is left in the locker room. Last night, the Bulls, displaying championship fortitude and heart, survived their sternest test of the season and stole a 5-4 win over a deserving 'Bulldogz squad. The Bulldogz, who outshot the Bulls 38 to 21 (30 to 13 in the final two periods), outplayed the Bulls for long stretches of the second and third periods but could never garner a lead. The Bulls just found a way. Tonight, it was the counterpunch as they punished the 'Dogz for their scant defensive zone breakdowns. The Bulls' Shawn Lindsay and John Carroll each scored twice but the key goal was netted by Mike Bellinzoni at 12:17 of the third. His goal disrupted the heavy pressure being mounted by the Bulldogz and re-established a two goal lead that could not be overcome. Goalie Bill Prange, fresh off the DL, showed no rust and was stellar in his return to action.

Wasting No Time - February 3, 2003

LI-Bulldogz stun Hurricanes 7-3 for organization's first playoff win

Showing no fear or trepidation in their first playoff game, the LI-Bulldogz wasted no time posting the first upset of the Fall 2002 playoffs and blasted the Hurricanes 7-3. The Bulldogz capitalized on two crucial defensive lapses to seize Uncle Mo' and swamp the Hurricanes with four goals in the decisive second period. The 'Canes, lacking the spark of their last start, had no fight in the third. Peter Raimondi scored two and Kevin Smith and Rob Taylor each chipped in with a goal and assist for the winners.