The NY Stars PWAA team captured the LIAHL Tier II Championship on Sunday, March 3rd in a thriller by beating the Rebels by a score of 6-4. The Stars who finished 3rd in the division and just missed out on qualifying for the state tournament had a daunting task if they wanted to come out on top in the playoffs as they had to face off against PAL and the LI Rebels. They were unable to come up with a point in 4 contests against either of the two teams during the regular season.
The quest started with a resounding 4-0 victory over PAL in the semifinal which catapulted them into the championship game against the undefeated Rebels who had steamrolled Aviator 9-1 in their semifinal game. The team was cautiously optimistic as they knew that despite their losses to the Rebels, the games were relatively close.
The game didn't start well with their opponent jumping out to a 2-0 lead by the end of the first period but the coaching staff kept the players calm and reminded them of what they learned all year. The next goal scored by either team would be crucial to the outcome of the game and luckily for the Stars it came in the form of a Vinny Parente goal to cut the lead in half. His goal gave the team life and hope which paid off as a Michael Agafonov tally a short while later knotted the game at 2. The Rebels stopped the Star's momentum and responded with a goal of their own and but just as they did earlier the Stars counterpunched as CJ DiAgostino cashed in the equalizer with both squads heading to the final period with 3 goals apiece.
As the 3rd period began you could feel the tension in the building as the season came down to these last 15 minutes. The Rebels came out roaring to start and looked to dash any hopes the Stars had of keeping the game close at the end, however, the defense and goalie Alex Gargano staved off the early surge. That surge led to an offensive opportunity as defenseman James Lamantia broke up a play and flew down the left side where he was able to unleash a wicked top shelf wrister from the circle to give the Stars their first lead of the day and send the boisterous crowd into a frenzy. The cheers had just died down when the Stars struck again on a counter attack off of a beautiful breakout. It resulted in Michael Agafonov picking up a head of steam down the center of the ice with a nice touch pass from Christian Bianco at the red line and ripping a shot over the goalie's shoulder for his second of the game which gave the underdogs a 2 goal advantage. This time as the cheers were still going on, the Rebels came right back and cut the deficit to 1 with just under 10 minutes left to play in the game.
And what a ten minutes it was as most of the play was in the Star's defensive end as they fought off the furious Rebel's attack. You had a feeling it was just a matter of time that the game would once again be tied but with 3 minutes to go that fear was laid to rest as a Rebel player received the puck all alone on the doorstep only to be denied with a beautiful glove save by Alex Gargano. It was one of 23 shots he turned away in the last period(40 in the game) and at that point you could sense nothing else was getting by him. A CJ DiAgostino empty netter for his second of the game in the last half minute allowed the players and their faithful supporters to finally breathe a big sigh of relief and as the final buzzer sounded, a year of ups and downs finally came to a head in one big celebratory pile.
Congratulations to Coaches Zack Dobran and Dmitry Oleynik and to the parents and players for their hard work, dedication and commitment this season which resulted in this awesome achievement.