Return to Titletown - September 9, 2002
Grizzlies rally to extinguish the LI-Stars 5-4
In a tense, see-saw heavyweight battle between the top two D squads, the Grizzlies roared from behind to capture a hardfought D League crown over a snakebitten LI-Stars club 5-4. After weathering a first period Stars' onslaught the Grizzlies stormed back with the vim and vigor not seen since their first and only HLI crown 7 seasons ago. The tide turned in the second. After a frantic first, which saw Grizzlie goalie Chris Alesi limit the high octane Stars to only one goal on 14 shots, the Grizzlies made adjustments. They positionally packed the defense zone and snuffed the odd man rushes that plagued them earlier. The free space that the Stars seized previously had vanished. Most shots were now challenged and deflected. Nevertheless, the Stars adjusted and took a 3-1 lead middle second on two goals in 35 seconds. The Grizzlies facing another playoff fizzle refused to wilt. In a fateful five minutes, late in the second, they applied relentless offensive pressure which netted three critical goals to assume a 4-3 lead heading into the final stanza. The Stars, however, were not done. Steve Tucker knotted the game at 11:29 remaining with a onetimer off a nifty pass from Frank Hunter. The teams traded several missed scoring chances more due to strong goaltending by each. It finally took a blue line cannon blast from Joe Durso at 5:07 that somehow found the back of the net through a maze of limbs and sticks. The Stars furiously stormed the Grizzlies goal looking for the tie but inevitably could not send this decisive match into overtime.
En Fuego! - September 9, 2002
Napper Tandys stun Mustangs 3-0, Bulldogs spook Phantoms 4-2 as both snatch unexpected HLI titles
Last night saw two taut, intense, well-played, and enjoyable hockey matches in which one of the game's oldest adages was proven true yet again - in the playoffs a hot goalie can singlehandedly win games. Goalies Ed Derudder (Napper Tandys) and Eddie "The Eagle" Kelerchian (Bulldogs) were not merely red hot, they were white hot. Derudder was perfect and we're talking Johnny Van Der Meer perfect - back-to-back playoff shutouts. A goaltender can do no more than what Deruuder did. A team can't lose if the other team doesn't score. Kelerchian, as is his want, played his best when the spotlight was brightest. For him, the bigger the game the better the performance. For both, last night ended with shiny, new championship hardware in hand and a growing reputation as money players.
In only their second season, and far from the inaugural 1-11 campaign, Napper Tandys capped a meteoric ascension to Titletown with a startling 3-0 E League championship victory over a dunbfounded Mustang squad. Tim Henzy provided all the scoring with a third period hat trick the first coming with 7:05 remaining. The Mustangs dominated play for much of the first two periods. They stampeded the offense zone and swarmed the goal but goalie Ed Derudder simply refused to yield. Derudder seemingly had aditional limbs as every type of Mustangs attack could not pierce the goalline. Throughout the Mustang charge Napper Tandys played with spirit, heart, and resolve and waited for the opening. Their patience eventually paid off in the third as they seized upon a Mustang defensive breakdown when Henzy, left uncovered in the slot, roofed his own rebound for the gamewinner. Four minutes later, he slyly intercepted an ill-advided cross ice pass late, broke in alone, and clinched Napper Tandys' sudden first championship.
The Bulldogs, long absent from the championship podium, have now gone back-to-back after an impressive team effort subdued the younger, quicker Phantoms-Black 4-2 to capture the C League title. The Bulldogs played with a extra jump from the drop and frequently negated the Phantoms' quickness advantage. Keeping the Phantoms wide for much of the game they limited prime scoring chances especially in the first and third periods. It was in the second stanza, however, that the game was won. The Phantoms often overwhelmed the Bulldogs' defense during the period and bombarded goalie Ed Kelerchian for 18 shots. "The Eagle" again defied physics and Father Time with several head-shaking saves that frustrated the exasperated Phantom snipers. Clinging to a 2-1 lead heading into the third Mike Catapano provided some breathing room with a goalmouth putback twenty seconds in. The Phantoms fought back. They closed the gap two minutes later as John Reinhart scored off a left circle draw. Big Bob Drencini re-established the two goal lead with 9 minutes remaining and Kelerchian took it home for the resurgent Bulldogs.
Bring on the 'Bears' - September 8, 2002
LI-Stars surge past Avalanche 7-2
Six different players scored as a balanced LI-Stars overpowered the Avalanche 7-2 and avenged last spring championship setback against the 'Lanche. The Stars played with composure and focus. They garnered a 3-0 first period lead and never let the Avs back off the mat. They played well in their defensive zone as they allowed few prime scoring chances throughout. Pat McKeon scored twice to lead the Stars scoring. With the victory, the Stars have set up the only #1 vs #2 finals matchup in the summer playoffs.
Who Let the 'Dogs Out - September 5, 2002
Bulldogs pilfer Bucs 8-4 and Avalanche bury Rats 6-4 as two lower seeds spring upsets
In yet another chapter in their long running rivalry, the Bulldogs upset the Bucs in unconventional fashion 8-4. The Bulldogs took an ordinary 2-1 lead into the second when Bucs goalie, Mike Minchillo, became immersed in a goalmouth tussle that led to his ejection. In a magnanimous, yet necessary, move forward Christopher 'Kid' Carroll strapped on Minchillo's gear and assumed the formidable task of backboning a unprecendented Bucs win. Carroll's remarkable play carried the Bucs to only a 5-4 deficit with under five minutes remaining. Bulldog Tony Chiraz, however, eventually turned the tide. He netted a wrister from the circle with 3:28 left that seemingly deflated the game Bucs squad. The Bulldogs quickly scored again and netted an empty netter to complete the scoring. The Bulldogs were led by two goals apiece from Tom Leprine and Bohumir Drecini. The Bucs' Bruce Kowalski had two in defeat.
Displaying their recently earned playoff mettle the Avalanche gutted a 6-4 win over the Rats to breathe new life into their middling summer season. Mark Bocchi's second and third goals, both in the second, broke a 3-3 tie and the Avs were not challenged again. The Rats had built a 3-2 first period lead on Mike Leverock's natural hat trick. The Rats, however, took a five minute major late in the second that the Avs seized upon. On the ensuing powerplay they scored three goals to close the period and essentially put the game on ice.
Back in the Saddle - September 4, 2002
Phantoms-Black serve Court Officers 8-2 tee time, Grizzlies vanquish Minutemen 3-1
The Phantoms broke open a close, tense game with a 4 goal burst middle of the third to end the Court Officers' season 8-2. Chris Adrian's second goal made it 4-2 with 11:31 remaining and proved the turning point. The Court Officers, who up to that point had played their opponents even in an up-and-down affair, briefly lost focus and gifted the Phantoms with a four minute 5-3 man advantage. The Phantoms seized the moment with Mark Becker providing much of the damage. After Peter Lagonikos quickly scored to make it a 5-2 game, Becker turned a natural hat trick to finish the scoring. The win propels the Phantoms back into a C League championship game after a three season absence.
The Grizzlies, displaying a total focus and purpose that has eluded them since their Spring 2000 championship, advanced with 3-1 victory over the Minutemen. The Grizzlies controlled this match from the drop. They applied relentless pressure and used timely goaltending to deny the Minutemen. The Minutemen, though, did not go easy. Thanks to Rob Marotta's heroic goaltending the Minutemen remained a threat and had several key opportunites to tie late in the second. The Grizzlies, however, limited the Minutemen's third period scoring opportunities, and Mike Voigt's laser beam, his second goal of the game, put the game out of reach early in the third. With the win, the Grizzlies are poised to add fresh hardware to their dusty championship shelf.
Irish 'Dogs are Barking - September 3, 2002
Napper Tandys douse Rage 3-0 in E League upset, Mustangs exterminate Scorpions 6-2
In the first HLI playoff game for both hockey organizations, Napper Tandys stunned the regular season champs Rage 3-0 to advance to the E League championship. Napper Tandys played inspired hockey and outhustled the Rage for much of the game. They consistently beat the Rage to the puck and created more scoring opportunites. The Rage played tentative for the first two periods. When they got themselves sorted in the third they could not penetrate Napper goalie Ed Derudder who turned away ten third period shots to perserve the shutout.
The Mustangs proved too much for the upset-minded Scorpions and moved on with 6-2 victory. The playoff savvy 'Stangs spotted the Scorps a 2-0 first period lead before they got down to business. Three goals within 3 minutes late in the first secured their initial lead and that proved all they would need. The 'Stangs, known for their stingy defense, allowed the Scorpions only three shots in each of the last two periods. They captialized on Scorpion breakdowns and used two shorthanded goals to stretch their insurmountable lead. Steve Goldstein turned the 'trick with three and Ken Classon added two as the Mustangs now seek their second E League championship in three seasons.
Too Much - August 22, 2002
5th Squad bombard Bulldogz nab B League title in 9-6 shootout
The 5th Squad unleashed a full offensive assault on a haggard Bulldogz squad en route to a decisive 9-6 championship performance. After spotting the 'Dogz a quick 2-0 lead the 5th Squad found focus and reigned shots upon their beleagured opponent. The 'Squad closed the first period with a 4-2 lead and stretched it to 6-2 early in the second. To their credit the Bulldogz gamely fought and closed to 7-5 at the end of two but were quickly rebuked early in the third. The big gun again was Ryan Cruthers who added 5 more goals to his playoff tally. Adam Weinbrom added two and John Giardano had four helpers. Mike Manneta and Mike Schinn each had two for the Bulldogz.
Hanging On - August 20, 2002
Bulldogz slay Dragons 8-4
The Bulldogz skated to 6-0 lead with 9:40 left in the third and then withstood a furious Dragons rally to advance into the B League champiohip game 8-4. Bulldogz goalie, Kevin Birnstill, was simply stupendous during the Dragons' 22 shot third period barrage. The Dragons closed to 6-4 with 4 goals in 4 minutes, the last at 5:34 remaining. With the ice tilted and the Dragons breathing fire Birnstill made two head-shaking saves that seemingly deflated the game Dragons squad. The Bulldogz notched two empty netters to put the game away. Mike Mannetta and Mike Schinn eached scored 3 for the victors. James Cianci scored 2 in a losing effort.
Eye of the Tiger - August 19, 2002
5th Squad dispatch TCS 7-4
The 5th Squad shook off the hangover of a late season swoon and used two offensive bursts to propel past TCS 7-4. The 'Squad, who stormed the divison early in the season with offensive pyrotechincs, found their AWOL offense for two brief onslaughts, one each in the first and third periods, to score their seven goals. They quickly nabbed a 3-0 lead at the onset but watched TCS gallantly battle back to tie the score early in the third. The 5th Squad then unleased round #2 and swamped TCS with 4 goals in less than 5 minutes to put the game out of reach. The 5th Squad was led by hat tricks from both Ryan Cruthers and Jeff Schnaars. TCS who played even throughout most of the game was led by Marcel Vartovniks' two goals.