The Beat Goes On! - July 2, 2002
Sabres skewer Red Wings 5-3 to garner C League crown
Another season, another championship. The Sabres became just the third team to successfully emerge from the loser's bracket with four consecutive wins and earned yet more championship hardware for their crowded mantle with a 5-3 execution of a undermanned Red Wings squad. The playoff savvy Sabres completed their long journey through the C League playoff by perfectly executing their 'team-first' gameplan. Spotting the Wings an early 1-0 lead, they simply imposed their will on the game. Leading their all-out charge was Chris Brown, who scored the first two Sabres goals, and the C League MVP, the indefatigable Anthony Fiamma. The ubiquitous Fiamma disrupted play at both ends of the ice. In the key 3 goal, 3 minute stretch late first/early second he notched a goal and assist, and it was off his tenacious forechecking that the Sabres essentially put the game out-of-reach on a Gary Lnza putback of a Fiamma shot with just 17 seconds left in the second. The stunned Red Wings scrapped and clawed in the third but really could not muster the vital, necessary offensive push against an ironclad Sabres defense led by co-captain Joe "Boomer" Bosnack.
Down Goes Frazier! - June 28, 2002
Avalanche knock-out Stars 2-1 in overtime in a match for the ages
Dominic Dimiceli's seeing-eye blast 3:56 into overtime capped a stirring comeback and garnered the E League championship for the Avalanche as they finally buried a gallant LI-Stars squad 2-1 in overtime. In this winner-take-all match the Avalanche and Stars played the best E League game of the season. In an intense, hard fought first two periods the offensive could not penetrate the often spectactular goaltending delivered by goalies Chris Reidy (Avalanche) and Gerry Leonard (Stars). Chris Reidy, the E League playoff MVP, was particularly stupendous with several Hasakian saves that left the Stars shaking their helmets in disbelief. The Stars eventually broke the deadlock midway through the third on a Mike Devlin breakaway off a nifty pinpoint lead pass from captain Don Thivierge. The goal stunned the 'Lanche who suddenly faced the daunting task of needing to dent the heretofor impenetrable Stars and Leonard twice. The playoff-callow Lanche, however, reached down and responded with composure and composure. Seemingly steeled by their looming playoff mortality the Lanche began to force their will. The Stars started to tire and the ice tilted. Finally, at 4:06 remaining the worm turned. Defensemen Phil Sacco pinched on a Stars attempted breakout, intercepted a clearing pass and unleashed a rocket from the point that deflected off a Stars defensemen and somehow eluded Leonard. In overtime, the Avalanche continually controlled the action often refusing to permit the Stars to breakout which ultimately led to Dimiceli's heroics.
Refuse to Lose - June 25, 2002
Sabres stare down the maker rally past Red Wings 6-5
The playoff savvy Sabres, facing elimination and looking down the barrel, displayed their championship mettle in the third and pulled out a 6-5 must have over a rattled Red Wings club. In a see-saw game that had multiple lead changes, Rob Florie found the five hole with 3:55 remaining to grab the lead for good and force a decisive C League championship game. The Red Wings seemingly had all the momentum rallying from a 4-2 second period deficit and notching the tying goal with :00.2 left in the second. They came out strong in the third storming the Sabres end and seized their final lead at 9:39 on Mike Marino's fourth goal. The Sabres, as is their want, remain composed and struck back only 50 seconds later on a highlight tic-tac-toe goal finished by Jan Deguire. The teams traded chances down the stretch before Florie netted the gamewinner.
Not Tonight - June 23, 2002
LI-Stars force decisive game with 5-2 thrashing of the Avalanche
Displaying a determination that had so far eluded them in these playoffs, the LI-Stars overcame early jitters and forced the deciding E league championship game with a 5-2 defeat of the Avalanche. The Stars spotted the 'Lanche a 2-0 lead less than three minutes into the game. However, instead of abandonding their game plan the Stars finally displayed playoff resolve, and they slowly and systematically took over the game. Mike Devlin broke the ice early in the second and then Pat McKeon took over. McKeon netted a natural hat trick plus one as the Stars' defense limited the Avalanche scoring chances. The Stars focused play rattled the regular season champs who for the second consecutive game could not unleash their vaunted offensive attack.
Return to Glory - June 21, 2002
Bulldogs 'steal' past Cougars 2-1 in OT to ascend Championship Mountain
Dave Montgomery's rebound putback at 4:08 in overtime defeated a game Cougars club 2-1 and delivered the Bulldogs their first HLI crown in four years. This game was what playoff hockey is all about; nerve wracking, tense play that got a little nasty at times but saw momentum swings, missed scoring chances, and great goaltending. In the end, playoff MVP, Eddie 'The Eagle" Kelerchian proved to be the difference. By the third period the Cougars had assumed much of the play. The created more prime scoring chances in both the third and overtime but were repeatedly rebuffed by Kelerchian's spectactular play. "The Eagle" made numerous saves that defied physics and age and ultimatley provided his teammates the moment to seize upon the Cougars Achilles' heel throughpout the match. Several times in overtime the Cougars could not successfully break out of their own end and were rescued only by their netminder extraordinare Terry Alyward. Albeit, Steve Anderson capitalized on the fateful, final turnover and unleased a rocket that drew Alyward out of position to handle Montgomery's title winner.
Survive and Advance - June 18, 2002
LI-Stars extinguish PLT 3-2 in OT, Sabres stampede Bucs 12-3
The losers bracket is all about getting to the next game. The bracket is frought with peril where the hockey gremlins can cruelly douse championship dreams with bad bounces and untimely deflections. Therefore, everything is in play - pregame sacrifices, stanky shirts, favorite benches, shaved heads... It just does not matter how pretty or ugly a win comes so long as you live to play another day in the march to the Hockey Long Island Cup.
Mike Devlin's third goal 1:17 into overtime advanced the adventurous Stars past PLT 3-2. The Stars, who seemingly need to live on the edge, again surrendered a two goal third period lead in the playoffs. This time, however, they found redemption in the stick blade of Devlin and the timely goaltending of Gerry Leonard. Devlin's second goal, coming early in the third, staked the Stars to a 2-0 lead. PLT stormed back on goals from Damian Ercole and Joe Capobianco with the tying tally coming midway through the final stanza. Each team had chances down the stretch but neither could convert before Devlin delivered the Stars to the championship round.
Leaving nothing to whim the Sabres overwhelemed the Bucs from the first drop with six first period goals and then coasted to a 12-3 victory. The Sabres' offensive onslaught was led by Rob Florie who taunted the Bucs with five goals. Mark Stewart and Gary Lanza each added two apiece, and Anthony Fiamma had four points. With the win the Sabres easily navigated their first trip through a losers bracket and now set sights on avenging their opening round pasting at the hands of the resurgent Red Wings.
Midnight - June 17, 2002
Cougars strike down Scorpions enchanted run 2-1
The Cougars, exhibiting continued resiliency, survived their unfamilar trek through the loser's bracket with a 2-1 victory and in the process snuffed yet another unfulfilled Cinderella run by Scorpions. The Cougars secured a 2-0 lead behind playoff scoring sensation Chris Biamonte's two goals. Biamonte has now scored 7 of the 8 Cougar playoff goals and has more than picked up the scoring slack for the Cougars whose big guns are on the DL. Once again, goaltender Terry Alyward would not wilt down the stretch proving impenetrable in the crucial third stanza.
Up is Down, Down is Up - June 15, 2002
Avalanche edge PLT 2-1, Red Wings trample Bucs 7-3
In the playoffs, sometimes winning teams need to play against their want; games where they unleash untapped team skills to advance. Last night, the Avalanche, who outscored their opponents nearly three to one during the regular season, used ironclad defense to move on. The Red Wings notorious for their rope-a-dope counterattack approach continued lighting the lamp in unprecedented fashion in their pursuit of a overdue championship.
The Avalanche, in the unfamilar spot of a low-scoring game, refused to rattle in a pressure packed playoff situation and eked by a valiant PLT squad 2-1. Jack Waslin, known primarialy for his tenacious forechecking, tallied an unlikely gamewinner at 8:34 in the third putting back his own rebound. The 'Lanche raced out to an immediate 1-0 lead with Kevin Carney scoring off the opening face-off only 13 seconds into the game. PLT, however, regrouped and controlled the tempo the rest of the way. They limited the Avalanche prime scoring chances and waited to capitalize on the Avalanche breakdowns. Lanche goalie, Chris Reidy, was equal to the task and saw his team through to the next round.
In an unexpected offensive performance the new-look Red Wings scored early and often in routing an unsuspecting Bucs club 7-3. The Red Wings goals come from both the established and improbable. Defensemen Steve Russ led the way with an unlikely hat trick. Sniper Mike Marino added two and speedster Cory Green also tickled the twine. Even captain Mike Tricarico found the back of the net during this gleeful scoring binge. The question still remains, however, can the Red Wings conquer while immersed in playoff prosperity or do they yet need to put themselves up against it before they can ultimately prevail?
Taking Care of Business - June 14, 2002
LI-Stars rebuke Phantoms-Red 8-2
The Stars began the long road through the losers bracket with a very workmanlike dismissal of the Phantoms 8-2. The Stars, foused and determined, grabbed a 3-1 first period lead and were never threatened the rest of the way. Captain Don Thivierge set the tone early notching his first playoff tally from the backline. He later added an insurance goal as Pat McKeon and Jesse Roberts each netted two in the win.
Cream - June 11, 2002
Bulls gore Brew Crew 7-3 for B league title, Sabres pierce Leafs 5-2, Bulldogs leash Scorpions 5-3
The double elimination playoff is truth. It allows all contenders a legitimate chance to stake their claim regardless of prior circumstance. The upset-minded crash the party and favorites stumble. But in the end, the double elimination format always proves the true champion. Champions may travel different paths but the worthy few undoubtedly rise to the top. Last night, three squads revealed the truth.
Leaving no doubt, the Bulls have ascended to dynasty status with their 7-3 throttling of a short-handed Brew Crew club to claim their third consecutive HLI B League championship. The Bulls showed no weakness. Their buzzsaw offense, stifling defense, and stonewall goaltending were all on display in an insurmountable confluence of the game's basic elements. The Bulls' attack was again spearheaded by playoff MVP, Mike Bellinzoni. Bellinzoni was everywhere. More important than his goal and two assists was his vivacious play at both ends of the ice. He set the tone and his 'mates finished the task. To their credit, the Brew Crew scraped to the end with Mike Messina notching a hat trick. With their championship secured the Bulls now seek to stamp themselves as the top men's team on the Island. They will face-off against the Superior A League champ, the Heineken Flyers, in the unprecedented Island wide championship match, the King of the Island.
Standing firm in their role of the hunted, the Bulldogs survived a stern challenge from the Cinderella Scorpions 5-3. With the game tied at 3 apiece late in the third, and down a man, the Bulldogs' Steve Anderson put back his own rebound at 3:20 remaining to deflate the surprising Scorpions. The Scorps rallied three times to tie this closely contested match and had illusions of yet a third consecutive stunner. The Bulldogs, however, refused to succumb to the Scorpions' improbable momentum. Peter Kentros was the 'Dogs offensive star as he netted three goals.
With no margin for error, the Sabres bounced back from their uncharacteristic first round flop and dispatched a fickle Leafs squad 5-2. In workmanlike fashion the Sabres gradually broke down the Leafs capitalizing on their opponents' defense zone miscues. The Sabres secured a 2-1 lead early n the second and never looked back. Chris Brown lead the way with two goals and an assist with Rob Florie adding a goal and assist. The Sabres played with much more purpose and now seem refocused on the long road ahead. The Sabres have not yet failed to win a chamionship and should prove to be a tenacious out for either the Red Wings or Bucs.
Refuse to Lose - June 10, 2002
Cougars roar past Bruins 4-3 in OT, PLT shoot down LI-Stars 5-3
Staring down the barrel of imminent defeat both the Cougars and PLT reached deep and staged memorable 3-1 comebacks last night. Each team's rally was impressive for different reasons. The Cougars, facing playoff oblivion, demonstrated remarkable poise in the face of in-game adversity. PLT displayed unwavering resiliency scoring 4 goals in the final 3 1/2 minutes. These stirring wins elated each squad and can prove to be the critical point in each team's journey for the Hockey Long Island Cup.
Chris Biamonte's topshelf pick on a clean break-in at 2:38 of the first overtime propelled a resolute Cougars squad past the crestfallen Bruins 4-3. Biamonte's goal, his fourth of the game, capped a decisive Cougars rally from a 3-1 deficit. The Cougars battled the whistle throughout. The game's crossroads occurred early in the third when the Cougars faced a 4 minute 5-on-3 disadvantage down 3-2. Cougars' goalie Terry Alyward remain steadfast throughout the penalty kill spectacularly turning away several prime Bruin scoring chances. During the kill the elusive Bianmonte snuck behind the Bruins' defensive and slipped the tying goal past a game Bruins 'tender Lou Orquera.
Down, but certainly not out, PLT staged a comeback for the ages rallying past a stunned LI-Stars with 4 goals in the match's final 3 1/2 minutes. PLT, fueled by a Stars' late penalty, scored two power play goals in 30 seconds to grab the late lead. Damian Ercole and Peter Gemilli each scored twice during the four goal burst with Gemilli notching the gamwinner off a pinpoint Evan Boris pass. The Stars, who controlled most of game, inexplicately sat back trying to kill the third period. For the Stars, Steve Tucker scored twice and goalie Gerry Leonard stood tall in defeat.
Taking Care of Business - June 9, 2002
Bulls quaff Brew Crew 10-2, Avalanche rebuff Phantoms-Red 6-4
The remaining two #1 seeds hit the ice last night and as expected both prevailed albeit handling their spotlight status differently. The playoff tested Bulls left no doubt in controlling their opening round game. The Avalanche, on the other hand, struggled in the unfamilar role of the hunted but persevered nonetheless. With their victories they each stepped closer to validating their convincing regular season titles.
Hitting on all cylinders from the get-go the Bulls seized a 3-0 first period lead and never looked back en route to a 10-2 defeat of the Brew Crew. The Bulls' Mike Bellinzoni set the tone early with his spirited, disruptive play drawing several first period penalties as the Brew Crew lost focus. Shawn Lindsay again provided big offense with 4 goals. He was backed up by Bellanzoni and John Carroll who each tickled the twine twice.
It wasn't easy but the Avalanche stayed steady in crunch time and prevailed 6-4 over a pesky Phantoms-Red squad. The Avalanche never relinquished the lead in this lively battle that saw numerous powerplay chances for both teams. EJ McVetty scored two critical third periord goals the second being the gamewinner with just 4:06 remaining. The Avalanche defense held strong as the Phantoms gallantly tried to comeback one final time. Jason Selss led the Phantoms with a hat trick.
Old School Hockey - June 8, 2002
Bulldogs shun LI-Bruins 2-1, Bucs edge LI-Leafs in 1-0 classic
Come playoff time we typically get a true measure of the grit and determination of playoff teams. The postseason exposes a team's intangible ability to remain steady and composed through the perils of playoff hockey. With raised stakes, the hockey intensifies and defense comes to the fore. As a result, we usually get games that are much more closely contested and hinge on the slightest oppportunity and/or mistake. These white knucklers, while nerve-racking, are both fun to play and watch. It is why we lace 'em up. Last night saw two such games.
It's no longer the regular season for the Bulldogs as they narrowly escape a sharp and focused LI-Bruins club 2-1. Tthe Bulldogs forged a hardfought 2-0 two period lead and then held on through the third as the Bruins attempted rally fell short. The Bruins's Matt Crafa halfed the lead midway through the third and the B's hit two posts down the stretch but could not net the equalizer. The Bulldogs received goals from captain John Reda in the first and Big John Klein in the second. Both goals were assisted by Joe Cantalupo.
In a battle worthy of a championship forum the Bucs and LI-Leafs traded blow for blow for 43 1/2 minutes before John Kannengeiser's finally broke the scoreless deadlock and advanced the Bucs 1-0. Kannengeiser's gamewinner was a ontimer off a nifty Bruce Kowalsky pass during a rare 3-on-2 odd man rush. This playoff classic was nip-and-tuck throughout as each team thwarted the scattered hard earned goal scoring opportunities. Both squads displayed exemplary team defense and were backed by rock solid goaltending from the Bucs' Mike Minchilllo and the Leafs' Chris Vience.
The Slipper Fits! - June 7, 2002
Scorpions sting Cougars 4-2, Red Wings foil Sabres 7-1
Continuing their recent white hot play the Scorpions pulled another major D League surprise and frustrated an unsuspecting Cougars 4-2. Piggybacking another stellar performance by goaltender Chris Lattanzio the Scorpions rope-a-doped the Cougars early withstanding their initial first period onslaught. Once absorbed, they counterattacked in the second period and quickly reversed a one goal deficeit to a three goal lead. Larry Jordan once again led the Scorpions scoring with two goals. Keith McPherson added a goal and helper. The win propels the Scorpions one step beyond their Fall 2001 Playoff Cinderella run.
In atypical fashion, the usually defense-first Red Wings flexed some offensive might and unleased a balanced attack in methodically wearing down a flat Sabres squad 7-1. Seven different Wings scored. The Wings secured an early 2-0 lead and were never threatened in the contest. The playoff setback places the Sabres in an unaccostumed seat in the losers bracket. Pay heed to the wounded bison.
Beware the Bugs! - June 4, 2002
Scorpions shock Maple Leafs 3-2, Bruins declaw Grizzlies 6-4, PLT slay Dragons 10-0, Phantoms corral Mustangs 3-0
Goals may steal the girls but goalies steal the wins as the Spring 2002 playoffs started with a bang last night with three 'dogs upsetting higher seeded teams. In two upsets the goaltender propelled their respective team to victory. A hot goaltender is legendary in hockey lore. In the coming weeks look for the names Lattanzio and Yasso as they attempt to lead their underdog squads to the 'Hockey Long Island Cup'.
In a heist job rivaling Brinks Scorpions goaltender Chris Lattanzio stole a 3-2 win as the Scorpions withstood a furious third period rally from the Maple Leafs high octane offense. Lattanzio was simply stupendous as the Maple Leafs' threw everything at him - pucks, bodies, helmets, water bottles, sinks... - in the third period. The Scorpions worked a 3-0 lead behind sniper Larry Jordan's hat trick before bracing for the inevitable Leafs barrage. Lattanzio refused to yield under the Leafs' pressure making several spectactular stops in a third period spent predominantly in the Scorpions defensive zone.
In a matchup of two storied D League rivals, the Bruins seized a 4-1 lead midway through the game and smartly secured a payback playoff win over an uncharacteristically flat Grizzlies squad 6-4. Danny Higgins's natural hat trick (and assist) led the scoring for the Bruins who played with poise for much of game never allowing the Grizzlies to seriously threaten their lead. The Bruins' Tommy Peterson chipped in with a goal and assist. If the Bruins can repeat last night's disciplined play they can make things very interesting in the D League draw.
PLT wore down a game but undermanned Dragons squad early in the third period and advanced into the double elimination round with a 10-0 win. Evan Boris notched 5 goals and an assist in the victory. Dragons goaltender, Darren Petraro, was gallant in defeat frustrating the PLT attack for much of the first two periods. PLT finally broke the Dragons early in the third putting the game out-reach behind two Joe Capobianco goals.
Never before had the Phantoms thrown a playoff shutout but last night goaltender Rich Yasso made history in leading the Phantoms to a 3-0 upset of the Fall 2001 E League champs Mustangs. Yasso was stellar throughout the game especially early on as he repelled several Mustangs powerplays. Rob Corbett's late first period deflection proved the gamewinner as Jason Selss added insurance tallies in each the second and third periods. The jury's still out, however, on whether the Phantoms can repeat this unaccustomed dedication to the playoff-proven defense-first game attack.