Written by Mark A. Tesoriero Friday, 22 March 2013 00:00
A season’s worth of hardwork brought the top seed in both the Hudson Valley Hockey League and Long Island Amateur Hockey League to the Great Neck Bruin’s Midget Minor team. They beat many teams along the way, won a tournament in Pennsylvania and were living a season of dreams after they secured their bid to the New York State Championships in March. However, it was now playoff time and the all the stats, hardware and standings became meaningless. A disappointing loss to a tough Bear Mountain team brought an abrupt end to their quest for a Hudson Valley Championship. They took no solace in the fact that Bear Mountain went on to win that league the very next weekend.
The entire squad was refocused and brought a very different attitude with them to their first Long Island playoff game against a very physical Aviator team. Despite yielding the game’s first goal, the Bruins stuck with their game plan and put the contest out of reach with a four-goal outburst late in the first period. Winger Jamie Esperto found the back of the net twice while Andrew Voigt and Thomas Henry contributed one goal each. From there it became a chippy affair with the teams trading penalties and powerplay goals. Centermen Steven Cacchioli and Brandon Muller added a goal each on the powerplay. The Bruins then killed off a key 5 on 3 late in the second period to maintain their three-goal cushion. Liam Fitzgerald and Joe DeMarco lead the defensemen in hits and blocked shots during the penalty kill. All that was left was to keep their cool as their opponent tried to unhinge them with physical play and after-the-whistle shenanigans. The game ended 8 to 5 in favor of the Bruins who moved on to the finals against their arch rival the Long Island Rebels.
Since these two teams split their season series, everyone knew it was going to be a close, hard fought affair the next morning. The Bruins carried play from the drop of the puck, out-shooting the Rebels for the game by a 3 to 1 margin. They had more chances and more time in the offensive zone in the first and for much of the second period, but could not break through. It was just past the midpoint when Dago Rodriguez unleashed a shot from just inside the blue line. His laser wrist shot found the top of the net and the Bruins had the lead.
Showing uncharacteristic penalty-free discipline, the Bruins went into lockdown in the defensive zone by blocking shots and thwarting chances. The defensive play of the game came when the Bruin’s Ryan King broke up a Rebels breakaway with an impressive sweepcheck from behind, the puck ending up harmlessly in the corner. When there was an open shot, goalie Sean Chalker was there every time to turn it aside or corral a loose puck. Line after line went over the boards with a mission. They knew to win they needed to grind down their opponent as well as the clock, win their individual battles and after 50 seconds pass it on to the next man up. The final buzzer sounded the end to the LIAHL season. The last team standing in the Midget Minor Division was the Great Neck Bruins. They earned their 1-0 shutout with hard work and discipline. It was a quality hockey game that was a pleasure to watch and worthy of a championship trophy.