The New York Table Hockey League concluded its fourth season this past Saturday, and it all culminated with Vinny "The Vinner" Catania narrowly defeating the defending champion Lou "The Legend" Marinoff in a classic seven game series. The Vinner regained the title he had lost in last year's epic seven game series. The rivalry between these two has defined the first four seasons of this league with Marinoff winning the league's first title, Catania the second, Marinoff the third and now The Vinner winning the fourth. The road to the title certainly was not an easy one as 12 men battled for New York table hockey supremacy. Let's breakdown and review the round robin and Championship Playoffs.
Twelve men started the day - including new comers Michael Gershon and Rob Howard. Because all of the playoff series were to be best of sevens, there would be only a single round robin. At its conclusion the round robin records of each player would be calculated to establish the brackets for the 2018-2019 NYTHL Playoffs. Vinny Catania finished the season strong by compiling a 9-1-1 record. This gave him the most points for the year and gave him the regular season title and number one ranking. Lou Marinoff also finished 9-1-1 to secure the year's second seed. Bob D'Addario who came into the day trailing Len Mecca for third place by a single point, put up an impressive 8-3-0 record to pass Len and take the third seed. Len's 5-3-3 record gave him the fourth seed. Chris D'Andrea finished the year strong by also posting an 8-3-0 mark to finish as the 5th seed. The NYTHL's Most Improved player - George Slater underachieved in the round robin, posting a record of 3-4-4 which put him in a tie with D'Andrea. The two played a one game tie-break which Chris won in overtime 4-3 thus dropping Slater to the sixth seed. Larry Durham finished the day 3-7-1 which earned him the seventh seed. NYTHL rookie of the year, and also the league's road warrior - Gary Nichols impressed. G-Nick who now resides in North Carolina continued to show marked improvement, finishing 5-5-1 for the eighth seed. Anthony Sciacca started to round into form and finished 4-5-2 which was good for the ninth seed. Phil Lynch continued to show marked improvement finishing 3-6-2 which landed him the tenth seed. Michael Gershon AKA "M.J.G" earned his first two points at his second league date which gave him the eleventh seed. New comer Rob Howard did not win any games but had a blast as he continued to learn in each game he played. Rob and "M.J.G." were not eligible for the playoffs, but the members of the league voted unanimously to waive the rule and let them play. Rob needed to end his day early due to a prior commitment and did not participate in the playoffs. M.J.G. took advantage of his opportunity and took a shot at the 2018-2019 NYTHL Championship. On to the playoffs.
With eleven ranked participants remaining, the top 5 players - Vinny Catania, Lou Marinoff, Bob D'Addario, Len Mecca and Chris D'Andrea all received byes. This meant the 6 -vs- 11, 7 -vs- 10 and 8 -vs- 9 seeds would all play best of seven series to advance with the top five to form the quarterfinals. The Preliminary Round featured sixth seed George Slater taking on M.J.G. Gerson took advantage of his wild card vote in and fought gallantly, but in the end Slater was too much, sweeping Mike by scores of 3-2, 9-0, 4-0, and 4-0. The seventh seed Larry Durham then battled tenth seeded Phil Lynch. Both players have shown steady improvement and have already played some ferocious round robin games. This series was predicted to be close and it did not disappoint. Phil took the first two games by scores of 5-4 and 6-1. Larry broke through with a victory in game three 5-1, but then lost game four 4-3. With Lynch up three games to one - "L.D." mounted an impressive comeback with 6-4 and 5-4 victories to force a deciding seventh game. It was then that Phil managed to hold off Larry to win the series and game seven by a 4-3 margin. The final spot in the quarterfinals was determined when eight seed Gary Nichols met nine seeded Anthony Sciacca. G-Nick started the series with a 4-3 win. Sciacca then took game two 2-1 in overtime and game three by a 4-0 shutout. Trailing two games to one Nichols then tied the series with a 4-2 victory, then went ahead three games to two with a 2-1 triumph. G-Nick then clinched the series at four games to two, with a 3-2 victory over Sciacca in the sixth game to earn the final spot in the Quarterfinals.
The Quarterfinals were set. As a reward for his seven game victory - tenth seeded Phil Lynch then met the top seeded Vinny Catania. The Vinner swept past Lynch by scores of 6-2, 7-5, 9-3 and 6-4. Lynch has shown marked improvement and will no doubt be heard from next season. The Second Seed and Defending Champion Lou "The Legend" Marinoff also swept his Quarterfinal round series by blowing past Gary Nichols by scores of 9-0, 7-2, 7-1, and 7-2. Bitter rivals and practice partners third seed Bob D'Addario and sixth seed George Slater met for a spot in the Semis. D'Addario had lost the last two prior league date playoff series to Slater and was determined to get revenge. In the battle of defenses - Slater drew first blood with a 1-0 victory. D'Addario then tied the series with a 4-3 victory in Overtime. Bob then won game three with a 3-2 victory. Slater bounced back to tie the series by edging Bob 3-2. With the series tied, D'Addario played his best hockey verse Slater to date by taking the final two games by close margins of 4-3 and 2-1. D'Addario advanced to his second Semi-Final in three years. For Slater it was a bitter end, but the league's most improved player won't forget the the taste of defeat and will be out for revenge next year. The final spot of the Semi Finals was earned by Len Mecca. The third seeded Mecca defeated NYTHL rising star, fifth seeded Chris D'Andrea in a well played six game series. Mecca won the opener 4-2 then dropped game two to Chris 5-2. Mecca won Game three 2-1, then fell to Chris 5-4 in Overtime. With the series tied Mecca won a very close game five with a 6-5 victory then closed out D'Andrea in an even closer game six by a 4-3 score, winning the series on an overtime goal. On to the Semi-Finals.
One final hurdle needed to be cleared by the four remaining participants to get to the Championship. On this side of the bracket - the one seed Vinny Catania met fourth seed Len Mecca. Catania won games one and two rather easily by scores of 6-2 and 3-0. Then it happened. The very thing that makes Len Mecca the savvy table hockey veteran that he is - he adjusted. One of, if not the most experienced and knowledgeable players - Mecca then used those adjustments to turn the series around. Mecca took game three by a 2-1 score. Len then defeated The Vinner 3-2 in Overtime to tie the series. Mecca stormed ahead in game five with three quick goals to stun the Vinner. Catania then bared down and used everything in his arsenal to come back and take game five by a 5-4 score. The Vinner then closed out the series with a 5-2 victory in a game that was closer than the final score. Mecca's great performance was no surprise to the Vinner. It was a one hell of a series. Catania was in the Final. Now it would be between second seed Lou Marinoff and third seed Bob D'Addario to see who will face him. D'Addario's unorthodox style of play and tough defense make him a tough opponent for anyone. "The Legend" has seen and done it all. he was the Champion for a reason and this series would be an interesting match up. Marinoff took a very exciting game one in overtime by a 7-6 margin. Lou won another close game two by a score of 2-1. D'Addario turned in a very impressive defense performance to pull within a game by winning game three with a 2-0 shutout. With the pressure on - Marinoff turned back D'Addario by scores of 5-3 and 4-3 to take the series four games to one. The Legend advanced to the Final to once again form the only Final series to date that this league has ever seen. Lou Marinoff -VS- Vinny Catania. The series loss for D'Addario was encouraging for him, because he played his best table hockey to date and made The Legend work hard in every game of the series before succumbing to the champ.
D'Addario then faced Len Mecca in a best of three consolation series to determine Third Place for the year. The third seed D'Addario defeated Mecca 3-1 in game one. Mecca took game two 3-2, then D'Addario clinched his first ever third place finish with a very exciting 4-3 victory. Now on to the Championship.
In a rivalry that has been compared to any other great sports rivalry - when it comes to Table Hockey, especially here in New York there is no bigger than Marinoff versus Catania. The two have met for every Championship ever played in the NYTHL. They have also met in 10 straight league date finals in which they have both appeared at the league date. Marinoff won the inaugural season, then Catania won the title in year two. Marinoff won it back exactly a year later and here we are. This season Catania had won 5 of 6 of the League Date Final series played between the two. All of the history was out the window as this year's Championship began. Marinoff opened the series by coming back to win game one in overtime by a 5-4 score. Catania evened the series with many great saves in a hard fought 1-0 shutout. Lou took game three easily by a score of 6-2. Marinoff then came within a whisker of taking a strangle hold of the series by storming out to a 3-0 lead in game four. A victory by The Legend would put him up 3-1 games. Instead a furious comeback by Catania , capped by an overtime goal by the Vinner earned Catania a 6-5 victory to tie the series. Catania then won another close one in game five by a 4-3 margin. The Vinner was just one game away. Not so quick said The Legend. He did as he always does - play his best with his back against the wall. Marinoff came back with a vengeance to win game six by a 6-3 score to force a deciding game seven.
For a second straight year the championship between these two would be decided by a single game. As the seventh game started - you could hear a pin drop as the tension mounted. The game began and Marinoff took the lead when his right defense blocked a right wing pico from the Vinner and sent it straight into the Vinner's net just seventeen seconds into the game. Just five seconds later, Catania tied it with a right wing to center high tip from the blue line. Following a turnover - Marinoff regained the lead with a right wing to center high tip from the blue line of his own. The 2-1 lead was again short lived when just three seconds later The Vinner executed a left wing to center tip from the top of the face off circle. Catania then took the lead 23 seconds later when he used a trick pass from the right wing off the right wing boards to his center for a tip in from just in front of the goal crease for 3-2 lead. Marinoff came back again, tying the game just 13 seconds later with his patented moving right wing pico shot. The score remained tied until there was 2:26 remaining when Marinoff neatly tucked in a rebound from the right wing with his center for a 4-3 lead. The Vinner then utilized another trick play by clearing the puck from his right defense next to his own goal and banking it off the left wing boards at center ice and then into Marinoff's net just ahead of Lou's attempt at a save. The game was again tied at with 1:55 left to play. The game remained tied until 1:06 when off of a center ice scramble, Catania's center was able to get just enough on the puck to slowly put it in from just inside center ice. The Vinner then scored again with another left wing to center tip from the top of the face off circle. Now up by two, Catania took a timeout to strategize the last 48 seconds because he knew a Marinoff onslaught was coming. Catania was forced to make a couple of tough saves in the ensuing twenty eight seconds but another neat tip in by Marinoff's center brought him to within one with 19 seconds remaining. The Legend was never really able to regain possession of the puck in the waning seconds and Vinny "The Vinner" Catania held on to regain the NYTHL 2018-2019 Championship. The win ties him with Marinoff with two NYTHL Championships each through the League's first four years.
The NYTHL is now four years young. This past year sixteen players competed from all over the east coast. With the rapid improvement of the Soho S-Slot boards that are played on and the continued growth of the league with several new enthusiastic players - the future is very bright. If your reading this - you are probably interested. If your interested - you should be playing. Its the game you played as a kid on steroids. Great leagues are comprised of not just great players, but great people. Now as table hockey is picking up momentum - it's your time to join us. We hope to see you when our 5th season kicks off in October. Wishing you all the best, health, happiness and a great summer!