Once again nine players did battle as the NYTHL reconvened upon Mother Pug's in Staten Island for the League's fourth date of the season. Without the presence of Defending Champion Lou "The Legend" Marinoff - there figured to be opportunity for someone to make a run to the Final and perhaps win it. Lets review the day and find out how it unfolded.
The usual suspects were all on hand, and yes - Even Gary Nichols who again made the trip from North Carolina. With Lou Marinoff halfway across the globe on business - it meant that someone new would make the Final. The right to do so meant fierce battles would be fought as rivalries intensified. In the round robin - Vinny "The Vinner" Catania led the way with a 13-2-1 record for 27 points. rookie of the year Chris D' Andrea finished second with a 10-6-0 mark good for 20 points. Bob D'Addario finished third with 18 points (7-5-4) just one point ahead of Len Mecca who finished fourth (17 points) along with Larry Durham who also finished with 17 points. Mecca finished ahead of Larry on tie breaks, but for Larry it was his best finish in quite some time as he finished over the 500 mark with a 7-6-3 record. George Slater did not follow up last month's round robin with quite the same success as he finished sixth with a 5-7-5 mark. Phil Lynch continues to improve as he finished the round robin in seventh with 12 points. That was a single point better than the league's improving Road Warrior Gary Nichols who had 11 points. Anthony Sciacca continues to work his way back into form, but finished last on this day with just 8 points.
As the playoffs started - the top seven spots were already decided. A best of three play-in series between Gary Nichols and Anthony Sciacca needed to be played to find out who would claim the eighth spot and face The Vinner in round two. G-Nick has already forged a rivalry with Phil Lynch and judging by how this series unfolded, now has another one with Anthony Sciacca. G-Nick took the series two games to one. He won 2-0, dropped game two 4-3, then won the rubber match 5-2 sending him into round two and eliminating Anthony. It was G-Nicks first ever playoff series win.
G-Nick's run ended in round two when he was swept by the Vinner in three games by a combined score of 14-2. Nichols continues to show improvement and with the start of his own league in North Carolina - he is destined to be real dangerous very soon. Two Seed Chris D' Andrea also swept his series by defeating seven seed Phil Lynch. After winning a thrilling game one in overtime by a 2-1 margin, D' Andrea pulled away winning the final two games by a combined 11-4 score. Two more spots for the Semi-Finals needed to be decided. If that weren't enough - the two series each featured practice partners squaring off. Third seed Bob D'Addario faced bitter rival the sixth seeded George Slater. Bob won game one 3-2, but then Slater returned the favor winning 3-2 in overtime. Bob put George on the brink of elimination by shutting out Slater 2-0 in game three. The Bob O was really feeling it when he took a 3-1 lead into the final two minutes of game four. Slater rallied for two late goals which forced overtime, then completed the comeback winning in 4-3 in OT to tie the series. Game five was another nail biter. It was only fitting it would go have to go to overtime and when it did with the game tied at one - Slater was threatening when D'Addario sent the puck into Slater's end of the ice. George then beat him to the puck and slid the puck back into the offensive zone with his right defenseman slowly sliding it past the goalie for the series victory thus shocking the Bob O and for once leaving him speechless. The Final spot in the semis was decided when Len Mecca Swept past his practice partner / rival - Larry "L.D." Durham. All games were close with Mecca winning game one 3-1, then taking games two and three, both in overtime by identical scores of 4-3. Although Len won, Larry made a statement by having a winning day and in losing such a close series to one of the league's most experienced and decorated players - L.D. proved his star is rising.
Speaking of rising stars rookie of the year second seed Chris D' Andrea met fourth seed Len Mecca for a right to play in the League Date Four Final. In what was predicted to be a close, exciting series these two did not disappoint. Although the series ended in a sweep, each game was close. Chris took game one 3-1, then won in an intense 1-0 thriller putting Len on the brink. With Mecca facing elimination and Chris one game from his first Final - the third game needed overtime to decide. When it was over - one of the league's brightest young stars earned his way to his first final by defeating Len 4-3 and taking the series three games to none. Who he would play was decided when longtime best friends and practice partners The Vinner and George Slater would meet. Unfortunately for Slater the experience of The Vinner proved to be too much as he swept past Slater by scores of 3-1, 6-2 and 5-1. Again however this was the first Semi-Final for Slater who was the 2016-2017 rookie of the year. The prior two rookie of the years both made the semi-finals on this day, thus proving the talent pool in the league is deeper and the competition is only getting better.
As his been the case all year the first seed will meet the second seed in the Final. This time with Lou Marinoff not in attendance - Chris D' Andrea claimed one of the top seeds (2) and played in his first final. The Vinner took game one by a 4-2 score. Catania also took game two 4-1. Chris D'Andrea now playing on his own board, stormed out to an early 3-0 lead only to see The Vinner comeback and take the series in Overtime, earning a hard fought 5-4 victory to sweep the series. This was a classic case of a series being much closer than what final scores would indicate. For The Vinner it marked the third time out of four League Dates that he has finished on top. This marked the first Finals appearance for Chris D' Andrea and more importantly served notice that as one of the league's brightest young stars - his future may already be here. He will no doubt be back. George Slater took on Len Mecca in the Third Place Consolation series. Slater won game one 4-3, dropped game two 5-0, then took the best of three series by winning game three by a 4-3 score to secure a third place finish on the day. Further proof that the L.D., Slater, and D' Andrea stock is on the rise.
With many schedule conflicts - the league will be taking February off and will return on Saturday March 12, 2019. We hope to see you there for League Date V!