Congratulations to the Spring 2014 Over-30 Champs (back-to-back)
Congratulations to Mark Stickney on winning the Playoff MVP award
Having some fun out there pays off for the Shooting Stars
In defeating the consensus pick and favored team to win a championship, the Shooting Stars became only the sixth back-to-back champions in Over-30 league history. In addition, there is a new Big 3 in the Over-30 league of Mark Stickney-Dez-Jim Barber supplanting the previous Big 3 of Matty Iannello-Joe Shannon-Ray Nickerson. The Shooting Stars shut down the high powered offensive attack and running game of Blame the Girl by imposing their will and own running game on them in earning a 4 – 1 victory. In the process, the Shooting Stars stuck to their team motto after a slow start this season of “having some fun out there” which ultimately paid off in the long run.
The finals featured two teams that were the two hottest teams coming into this game. Blame the Girl had won their last six games, while the Shooting Stars won their last four games. Up until the last two games of the season, the Shooting Stars were even in jeopardy of missing the playoffs entirely. Looking at the season series between these two teams, you could see why Blame the Girl were perennial favorites heading into the finals as they went 3-0 and outscored their opponent by a 16-9 differential. In addition, Blame the Girl, since being eliminated early in the winter 2013 playoffs, had payback on their minds and were out to prove to the Shooting Stars that they had something that belonged to them, a championship jacket! However, the Shooting Stars proved that regular season stats mean absolutely nothing when it comes to the playoffs.
As they had done so in the winter 2013 finals, the Shooting Stars had both forward lines playing hard and hustling shift after shift coming back to help out their defense, the defensemen moved the ball out of their zone smartly and quickly keeping the scoring chances to a minimum from the outside, and the goalie consistently made that first save as well as key saves when his team needed him to. They were so effective at doing this and preventing any sustained scoring flurries that Blame the Girl changed their game strategy and sat back in reacting to the pace and tempo of the Shooting Stars rather than attacking and dictating the game as they had done all season. A key question was if Blame the Girl had any answer to the second line of the Shooting Stars (which AGAIN played more like a first line in the playoffs and throughout the season). While the Shooting Stars attacked all game and worked the ball in deep for multiple prime scoring chances, for some reason Blame the Girl sat back and played more conservative for most of this game and never made any significant in-game adjustments until it was too late.
As the first period began, we fully expected Blame the Girl to come out flying trying to score the game’s first goal as they had done so in every one of their previous twelve out of thirteen games played this season. However, capitalizing on a defensive turnover was Mark Stickney as he jumped on a loose ball in the left faceoff circle and scored unassisted top corner only forty-eight seconds into the game. It was just what the Shooting Stars needed for a huge confidence boost in taking the game to Blame the Girl.
What we did notice as the period progressed was the Shooting Stars using their team speed (especially their second line) effectively to pressure the defense causing turnovers that led to scoring chances. Blame the Girl was getting their chances with their own scoring opportunities, but, they were usually from the outside resulting in a one and done chance as the defense of the Shooting Stars maintained excellent position and cleared any rebounds from out in front of the net. At the end of the first period, it was 1 - 0 for the Shooting Stars with both teams having 8 shots on net.
Heading into the second period, surprisingly Blame the Girl did not make some changes to its lines and defense to grab the momentum back. We expected to see Pic be shifted onto the first line to make a power line with Tony Medeiros and Dominic Defrancisco while moving Gary Goodwin back up front from defense and move Carlos Machado back to defense, adding more speed to the second line and give them a jump start. That never happened. What we did see was more of the same from the Shooting Stars from the previous period. And that meant using the speed of John Mastrocola effectively as a deadly weapon. A minute and a half into the period, during a line change by the Shooting Stars, Mark Stickney found himself centering the second line and smartly recognized a mismatch on John’s wing. Also recognizing this mismatch was Ray Dow on defense who passed the ball to Mark who found John open on the wing. After receiving the pass from Mark, John took it from there, simply outrunning the defenseman wide to break in alone on the goalie and his shot found an opening through the five hole, giving the Shooting Stars a 2-0 lead. Late in the second period, Blame the Girl thought they had pulled within a goal only to have the goal called back when a player shot the ball on net, contact was made out front and with the player on top of the goalie in the crease, the goalie was unable to get into position to make the save on the rebound. The goal was waived off. At the end of the second period, we saw more of what we had witnessed in the first period, as the Shooting Stars were dominating and continued to smother Blame the Girl from generating any consistent offense, by holding a 2 - 0 lead, while each team took 16 shots on net.
In the third period, Blame the Girl finally moved Pic onto the first line and moved Gary Goodwin back up front; however, the fore-checking running game of the Shooting Stars was hemming in the defense of Blame the Girl deep in their defensive zone and causing turnovers. Both teams were playing desperate hockey leaving everything on the rink as bodies started flying all over the place. Every loose ball was a battle for possession. Players from both teams were getting hurt but continued to keep playing. Blame the Girl was pressing trying to score to get back into this game, mainly on the strength of the play of Pic creating scoring opportunities until George Medeiros scored a huge insurance goal halfway through the period as he was falling down picking up a rebound in close off a John Mastrocola shot. With less than two minutes to play in the game, Blame the Girl pulled their goalie for an extra attacker and the move paid off as Pic scored in tight off a Mike Naz rebound to give Blame the Girl some hope. However, with forty seconds to play, George Medeiros fought off two defenders after a clearing attempt by Matt Reghitto to score into an open net. Game, set, match for the Shooting Stars and history being made. The final score was a 4 - 1 victory for the Shooting Stars who dominated this game while barely outshooting their opponent by a 28 – 27 margin.
On the way to the finals, the Shooting Stars were led by their second line as Sergio Costa and Sean Snelders each scored and John Mastrocola was hustling all over the rink in defeating Cuckoo’s Nest by the score of 2 – 1. For Blame the Girl, they came in as the heavy favorite but went down early in their game, yet came back to tie it, then pulled ahead in the third period from White Lightning for a 4 – 2 victory as Pic and Dominic Defrancisco led the way factoring in three of the goals.
For his efforts throughout the playoffs, Mark Stickney of the Shooting Stars was named playoff MVP as a unanimous choice. Mark played a solid two-way game in the semi-finals and won a clean faceoff late in the third period after their opponent had just tied up the game. Mark followed this up by scoring the key first goal of the game early in the finals and followed that up assisting on the second goal of the game while playing strong on the ball all game long. With this championship, Mark now has won 8 championship jackets moving into a tie for fourth place overall. Congratulations go out to the first-time winner of a jacket in rookie Sean Snelders.
Congratulations to the Shooting Stars spring 2014 season championship team whose players include: Captain Jim Barber, Market Stickney, John Desmond, Sergio Costa, John Mastrocola, George Medeiros, Sean Snelders, Ray Dow, Jamie Kehoe, Mike Delorey, Matt Reghitto, and Bill Gardynski Sr.
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