(Back row Left to Right) Mike Naczas, Umberto Biancardi, Ray Nickerson,
, Joe Shannon, Tony Mastrocola, Jim Clarke
(Front row Left to Right) Mike Caso, Mike Luise, Alby Luise, Pat Pirone
Heading into the playoffs the consensus was that playoff seeds and records would have no bearing on the eventual championship team. All four teams that qualified for the playoffs had an equal chance of winning the championship. There was simply no clear cut favorite team heading into the playoffs. This was the first time in league history that this reporter could honestly make that assessment. Ironically, the two teams scoring the most goals as well as giving up the most goals during the regular season found themselves playing in the Finals. Neither the On My Own nor the In Shannon We Trust team sported a better than 500 record in the standings, and each team managed to put together a four game undefeated streak during the regular season to propel themselves into the playoffs. Each team was very capable of exploding for goals and putting together mini bursts, scoring multiple goals in bunches in a short amount of time. This game would feature the league’s two best clutch players and leaders of their teams in Matty Iannello of In Shannon We Trust and Dave Curcio of On My Own and each team had two solid offensive lines.
In Shannon We Trust won the regular season head-to-head competition with On My Own, winning two of the three games, yet, were outscored 15-12. Each game was a high scoring contest. The consensus and what everyone expected going into this game was more of the same, an offensive onslaught and goals scored in bunches. It would be the ball control style of In Shannon We Trust, quarterbacked by the veteran leadership of Matty Iannello on offense and Joe Shannon on defense, against the run and gun shoot first style of On My Own, quarterbacked by this season’s co-MVP Dave Curcio on offense and Ray Dow taking care of the defense. The poor goalies for both teams were simply an afterthought. What nobody expected was the dominating performance of the second line for In Shannon We Trust. How dominating was the line of Mike Luise-Pat Pirone-Umberto Biancardi? They accounted for their team’s first five out of the six total goals that their team scored in this game. When is the last time that you can remember a Matty Iannello/Joe Shannon team scoring 6 goals, and only factoring in on one of those goals and still winning the game?
In Shannon We Trust had all their players accounted for, while On My Own was missing defenseman Paul Castonguay who was out with a lower body injury. His loss would prove crucial for On My Own, as it put more pressure on Ray Dow to stay on the floor longer, while asking Ed Nigro and Mike Delorey to play more and do more individually than they had to during the regular season.
The first period was played in a wide open back and forth style, with On My Own holding a slight edge in play and control of the ball. Two minutes into the game, at 8:09, the hustle of the second line for In Shannon We Trust forced the game’s first turnover by the defense of On My Own. The defense had chances to move the ball out of their zone, but ended up out of position and overplayed one side of their zone, forgetting to notice Pat Pirone was wide open at the bottom right circle to collect an Umberto Biancardi rebound and score easily into a wide open net. That goal put In Shannon We Trust up
1-0. From their second shift on, we could notice repeatedly how the second line of In Shannon We Trust was dominating the second line of On My Own. At 3:55, Dave Curcio did what he has been doing all season long, leading by example to tie the game up at 1-1 off a feed from Ray Dow. However, using a page out of their semi-final playoff win, In Shannon We Trust quickly answered to once again grab the lead and momentum back, answering only 41 seconds later at 3:14. Mike Luise found himself down low behind the defense to score off the rebound of a Mike Caso shot from the point, putting In Shannon We Trust back up 2-1. Once again, the defense of On My Own got caught out of position focusing on the initial shot and never picked up the player on the off wing. After one period, the score favored In Shannon We Trust 2 - 1, while they held an 11 – 10 edge in shots on net.
At the start of the second period, with the game still within reach and down by a goal, after forcing a turnover, Ray Dow jumped into the offense for a four-on-two breakout. What looked like a great potential scoring chance and game changing moment quickly fell apart as the ball went to the left wing and the ball spun off the wingers stick right to the defense. Next thing you see is all of the forwards all caught in deep, and Mike Caso making a heads up play to quickly transition the ball up to Pat Pirone. Before anyone on On My Own could react, Pat found himself on a breakaway and scored at 7:08 as his shot was partially saved by the goalie but deflected into the net, giving his In Shannon We Trust team a 3-1 advantage. The second line of In Shannon We Trust really started to assert themselves by keeping up the pressure and attacking the defense of On My Own, playing an aggressive style that was taking its toll on the defense. At 4:21 of the second period, this aggressive style paid off as Mike Luise once again scored off a rebound in close assisted by Pat Pirone, increasing their lead to 4-1. With just under two minutes to play in the period, On My Own caught a break as In Shannon We Trust was caught with too many men on the rink. On My Own loaded up the power play by putting Dave Curcio and Ray Dow back on the point. With five seconds left on the man advantage, Anthony Lauletta was in the right place at the right time, picking up a rebound off a shot from Ray Dow from the point, set up by a cross rink pass from John Colucciello, scoring at 0:46 to make this a two-goal game at 4-2.
It was here that the game’s most controversial moment took place. With the clock winding down and momentum seemingly back with On My Own, an ensuing scramble of bodies and sticks took place out in the high slot in front of the On My Own net. With only seconds left on the clock, Umberto Biancardi found himself with the ball on his stick and somehow managed to fight off a defender to roll the ball towards the net. What happened next seemed to happen in slow motion. With the goalie down and bodies all over the place, the ball slowly rolled in the crease and eventually crossed the goal line apparently right before the horn sounded. The question remained was did the ball actually cross the goal line before the horn sounded? Opinions varied on this question. Some said it did, while others said it did not. In the end, the referee was in perfect position on the goal line and ruled that the ball had indeed crossed over the goal line and the goal stood. After two periods, In Shannon We Trust held a commanding 5-2 lead, as well as a 22-19 shot advantage.
It was here that a visibly upset On My Own team had to make a decision. They were being outplayed by their opponent’s second line, they weren’t crashing the net to generate some rebounds and scoring attempts, and they weren’t forcing the defense into mistakes. They could either quit or fight back into this game. At 8:33, Matty Iannello took advantage of another defensive turnover by a forward, walked down the middle on a three-on-two, looked the defense off to his left making them think he was passing, and scoring giving his team a seemingly game clinching goal, making the score 6-2. When Dave Curcio went down behind the net and suffered a game ending hand injury a minute later you could just feel the energy sucked out of the On My Own team. Their best player and team leader out of the game and down four goals, everyone was saying this game was over and they had no chance. That is everyone except the On My Own players themselves.
In the last four minutes of this game, it was all On My Own as In Shannon We Trust let up and sat back. That strategy almost did them in. At 4:27, Joe Mancinelli came down the left wing on a pass from Anthony Lauletta to score on the short side, making this a 6-3 game. With 2:20 left, John Colucciello found Ray Dow wide open high on the left point and his bomb went through multiple players into the net, closing the deficit to 6-4. With under a minute to play, On My Own pulled their goalie and after a timeout, John Colucciello scored off a scramble out front, as Ray Dow returned the favor and set him up, scoring at 0:15 seconds left to make this a 6-5 game. However, there would be no dramatic comeback as In Shannon We Trust controlled the last seconds of this game to wrap up their championship win. At the end of the third period, the final score was 6–5 in favor of the In Shannon We Trust team as they outshot On My Own by a 28–26 margin.
On the way to the Finals, In Shannon We Trust, as the 4th seed, shocked the first overall seed, the Wanna Be’s as Ray Nickerson netted the hat trick, Joe Shannon’s bomb from his clearing line midway through the third period, and Mike Luise’s 2-goals scored broke opened a very close game in the second period to emerge with a surprisingly easy 6–2 victory. For On My Own, they had a much more difficult road to the Finals, as they went down 2-0 halfway through their game against Midas Touch, but came back on the strength of two clutch faceoff wins for goals, including Dave Curcio’s game winner with just over two minutes to play, for a 3-2 victory. Defenseman Jon Pickard was immense in this game for Midas Touch who had this game won and deserved a better fate, but, let up and allowed On My Own to creep back before winning this game.
For his efforts throughout the playoffs, especially in the Finals, Pat Pirone of In Shannon We Trust scored 2-goals and added 3-assists in winning his second playoff MVP award (spring 2009 was his other playoff MVP award). Congratulations also go out to Pat for once again tying Ed Nigro for most championship jackets won with 11. In addition, Papa Smurf finally won his first-ever jacket (we are sure that all the little blue Smurf people will be very proud of his accomplishment) and for Mike Naczas, the drought is finally over after 9 years, when he won his last jacket. Who said the Big 3 were all done in the Over-30 league and no longer made an impact?
Congratulations to the In Shannon We Trust championship team whose players include: Captain Matt Iannello, Joe Shannon, Ray Nickerson, Mike Luise, Pat Pirone, Tony Mastrocola, Umberto Biancardi, Mike Caso, Mike Naczas, Jim Clarke and goalie Alby Luise.
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