The sixth league date of The NYTHL’s 5th season saw players from as far north as Massachusetts to as far down south as North Carolina compete in a double round robin and playoffs. The League also expanded by three - adding Steve and Linda Ressman and Dale Ostrander. In doing so Linda became the first woman to compete in league history, and the league’s first husband/wife combo. Dale took the ride up with a returning Gary Nichols as the Carolina duo meant business. With the Corona Pandemic looming this could be the last league date for awhile. The top seven players went on to compete in the “A” Playoffs, with the bottom six competing in the “B” playoffs. Let’s review the action.
The double round robin was packed with excitement as old rivalries were renewed and new ones formed. With Steve and Linda Ressman’s debut – it marked the first time a woman has ever competed in the NYTHL and thus set up a natural rivalry with her husband. Dale Ostrander who resides in North Carolina with Gary Nichols brought their instate rivalry up to New York for all to see. For Gary it was a return and Dale a debut in the NYTHL. Gary’s rivalries with Larry Durham and Phil Lynch would once again be renewed and the battle for the League Date 6 title was on. For a second straight month – the battle for first was intense and saw very little difference between the top spots. Once again League Champ Vinny Catania led the field with an 18-1-5 record. He secured the top spot and A playoff bye by rallying for a tie after being down by three to John Power. That tie was good enough to hold off Power who was 18-2-4 and finished just a single point behind the Vinner. Len Mecca finished third with a 15-3-6 mark just one point ahead of fourth place George Slater 17-6-1. Larry Durham who continues to have his best season yet, had his best league date yet, compiling a record of 15-8-1 good for the fifth seed. Larry’s 5-4 victory over the Vinner in the second round robin was the only defeat Catania would suffer on the day. Dale Ostrander from North Carolina was the biggest surprise as he compiled a 13-10-1 record. Dale’s outstanding debut earned him the sixth spot in the A playoffs. The age defying Anthony Sciacca earned the final spot in the A Playoff by also finishing with a 13-10-1 mark. Sciacca lost tie breakers to Dale, thus finishing seventh overall. Gary Nichols return to the NYTHL would see him finish eighth and miss out on the A Playoffs, but his 10-11-3 record was good enough for the top spot in the b tournament earning him a first round bye. Phil Lynch 8-14-2 would finish ninth overall and gain the second seed in the B and a first round bye. Brian Sullivan continues to improve as he won 7 games finishing tenth overall and third seed in the B tournament. Walter Zissler in his second league date also showed improvement by winning six games, finishing eleventh overall and the fourth seed in the B. Steve and Linda Reesman rounded out the field by finishing 12th and 13th respectively and were the 5th and 6th seeds in the B playoffs. Linda did get her first win against her husband in round robin one with Steve returning the favor in round robin two.
It was on to the playoffs. The Best of five Quarterfinals were set. The number one seeded Vinner had a bye. The number two seed John Power for a second month in a row again drew a tough opening round opponent in seventh seeded Anthony Sciacca. J.P. swept past Anthony by scores of 6-3, 3-2 and 7-5 to complete the sweep. Number three seed Len Mecca drew surprise six seed Dale Ostrander. Len defeated Dale 5-1 in game one. Dale tied the series with a 4-1 triumph in game two. Mecca won game three 4-1, then closed out the series in four with a 6-4 victory. For Len it was on to the Semis. For Dale – it was the start of a very promising career in the NYTHL. In what on paper was to be a close series – it played out in reality even closer. Fourth seed George Slater took on fifth seed Larry Durham. Larry took the lead by winning game one 4-3. Slater tied the series with a 3-0 shutout. Larry once again took the lead in the series with another 4-3 victory, putting him just one game away from his first league date semi-final appearance. With his back against the wall – Slater rallied for a 5-4 victory in game four to tie the series at two. In the deciding fifth game the two battled through a tension filled five minutes with Slater scoring the game’s only goal in the last minute for a 1-0 victory, taking the series in five and moving on to the Semi-Finals.
The Semi-Finals were upon us and they provided a couple of rematches. First- the one seed Vinner and 4 Seed George Slater once again did battle for a trip to the League Date 6 Final. The Vinner defeated George 6-1 in game one. Catania followed that up with a 7-2 victory in game two. The Vinner then put the series away with a neat 5-0 shutout. The Vinner was rolling, having outscored George 18-3 in the series sweep – rolling his way into another League Date Final. His opponent was determined when Second seed John Power would once again battle third seeded Len Mecca for a third straight month. Two months ago the two met in the Quarter-Finals of League date 4 with Len winning three games to one. In last month’s Semi-Finals - Len also took the series by the same 3-1 margin. With a trip to the Finals on the line, Len again would set the pace by winning games one and two by scores of 7-5 and 5-4 respectively. Facing elimination, Power took game three with a 4-3 victory. J.P.’s attempt at tying the series fell short as he once again fell victim to Len by a 4-1 score. Power lost a third consecutive series in three months to Mecca by a three games to one margin.
For a third time Vinny Catania and Len Mecca would meet in a League Date Final this season. It also marked the second month in a row. Catania swept Mecca during League Dates 2 and 5 earlier in the year. As the series opened – it was a hard fought battle between two opponents that knew each other very well. The Vinner edged Len 4-2 in game one. Catania followed that up with an even closer 2-1 victory in the second game. The Vinner would close out the series with a 7-1 win over Mecca thus giving Catania the League Date six championship. This marked the eleventh straight League Date title for Catania
In the “B” playoffs, Eighth seed Gary Nichols and Ninth seed Phil Lynch had byes. Eleventh seed Walter Zissler defeated new comer and Pioneer thirteen seed Linda Reesman in a three game sweep by scores of 4-0, 4-0 and 5-1. Tenth seed Brian Sullivan faced 12 seed Steve Reesman. Sullivan’s experience was too much for the newcomer as he defeated Steve in a three game sweep by scores of 6-1, 2-0 and 6-2. In the Semi-Finals Eight seed Gary Nichols faced the victorious tenth seeded Sullivan. Nichols won rather easily by scores of 5-1, 7-3 and 4-3 thus advancing Gary to the B Finals. Ninth seed Phil Lynch also easily advanced when he defeated eleventh seeded Walter Zissler by scores of 6-2, 3-0 and 5-0.
Phil Lynch and Gary Nichols have met last season and Gary’s return to the league ensured that the rivalry would continue. The two would meet for their first B Final. Gary took game one 5-1. Phil played a better game two, but still fell short 4-2. Gary Nichols completed the sweep with a neat 4-1 victory to win his first B title.
Six league dates are in the books. The competition continues to get more intense. The NYTHL continues to expand with great people. Great people on great games – I ask “What are you waiting for?” GET ON THE GAME! Get behind the rods.