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CATANIA WINS SIXTH STRAIGHT N.Y.T.H.L. CHAMPIONSHIP


The NYTHL held its year end Championship this past Saturday June 15, 2024.  It was the ninth and final league date to close out the N.Y.T.H.L.’s ninth season.  Rab’s in Staten Island, New York played host.  Eighteen participants from five different states engaged in battle for the right to be called this season’s N.Y.T.H.L. Champion.  The day featured the debut of Christian Dubois (yes the son of table hockey great Kenny) who performed well.  There were a couple of great comebacks, but by day’s end – it was Vinny Catania who won his sixth consecutive title and seventh in eight years.  Larry Durham took home the “B” title and awards were given for rookie of the year, most improved player and sportsmanship.  Let’s recap the day.

     Eighteen players were present at the Championship, fourteen of whom were eligible to compete for the League’s top “A” championship.  A final round robin was held by breaking the participants into equal – nine man groups.  They then played each opponent within their group once for a total of eight games.  Those results were added to the cumulative standings for the year and each player was then seeded by their year’s winning percentage.  The overall one and two seeds each received a bye into the Quarter-Finals.  The remaining twelve batted to see which six would join the top two seeds.  The six who lost in the preliminary round then played for the league’s “B” title.  Christian Dubois out of Bethel Connecticut made his debut.  He along with Double L – Larry Lassiter, Hank Librandi and Mike Digulio each did not have enough appearances to qualify for the overall “A” title.  They did however join the six who lost in the preliminary round of the “A” tournament, totaling nine who competed for the “B” Championship.

     Before the play commenced – Phil Brancucci was awarded the league’s most improved player.  The sportsmanship award went to Walter Zissler and rookie of the year Phil Brancucci.  All three men were deserving of their awards and are a credit to not just the league, but table hockey as a whole.  The final round robin of the year was played.  In group one - League Champion Vinny Catania led the field with a perfect 8-0-0 record.  His overall one seed was clinched long ago.  Bob D’Addario was very impressive. He suffered only a 4-3 loss to the Vinner.  The Bob O (7-1-0) surrendered only nine goals in eight games.  He earned the fifth seed overall.  Brian Sullivan, rookie of the year Phil Brancucci, George Slater and Walter Zissler all finished 4-3-1.  Slater clinched the third seed.  Zissler placed as the eighth seed with Sullivan finishing ninth.  Hank Librandi 2-6-0, “Double L” Larry Lassiter 1-7-0 and Mike Digulio 0-8-0 rounded out the group finishing as the fourteenth, seventeenth and sixteenth seeds respectively.  In group 2 – the league’s most improved player Rob Brancucci and Chris D’Andrea each finished 7-0-1.  As they also tied each other in round robin play.  D’Andrea earned the second seed for the year as Brancucci secured seventh.  The ageless Anthony Sciacca was again solid.  He finished 6-2-0 which clinched him the six seed.  League veteran Len Mecca was also 6-2-0 as he clinched the fourth seed overall.  Larry Durham and Lee Hendelman each finished 3-4-1.  Durham earned the tenth seed as the improving Hendelman finished eleventh.  The Debuting Christian Dubois finished 1-6-1 and would compete in the “B” tournament.  Christian who is the youngest player at fifteen ever to compete in the N.Y.T.H.L. earned a victory in his very first game.  He also improved as the day went on.  Dennis Simone 1-7-0 and Derek Nisbett 0-7-1 concluded their seasons.  Simone as the fourteenth, and NIsbett the eighteenth seed.

     It was now time to start the 2023-2024 N.Y.T.H.L. Playoffs.  In the Preliminary round Vinny Catania and Chris D’Andrea earned a bye as they were the top two seeds. The twelve remaining players did battle in a best of seven series to see who would join them in the Quarter-Finals.  Those who lost would then compete for the “B’ title.  Three seed George Slater nearly shut out eighteen seed Derek Nisbett for the series.  George won by scores of 2-1, 9-0, 3-0 and 6-0 to move on.  Four seed Len Mecca also swept past his opponent - Fourteenth seed Dennis Simone by scores of 3-0, 3-2 OT, 7-2 and 4-2.  Fifth seed Bob D’Addario defeated twelfth seed rookie of the year Phil Brancucci in a sweep by scores of 6-4, 5-4, 4-3. and 3-2.  Six seed Ageless Anthony Sciacca swept past eleventh seed Lee Hendelman 6-3, 3-1, 5-1 and 2-1.  The seventh seed Rob Brancucci powered past ten seed Larry Durham in another sweep by scores of 2-0, 7-3, 7-4 and 3-1.  In the final preliminary round series the number eight seed Walter Zissler took on ninth seed Brian Sullivan.  Brian took game one by a 4-1 score, then Walter drew even with a 3-1 victory.  In the pivotal game three Walter took down Brian in overtime 4-3 for a 2-1 series lead.  Zissler then pulled away with victories of 4-1 in game four and a 4-0 shutout in game five to put the series away.  It was on to the next round.

      With the top eight seeds all advancing, the Quarter-Finals were all set.  The One seed Vinny Catania matched up against eight seed Walter Zissler.  The Vinner took game one 5-3, then never looked back.  Catania swept Zissler by then winning the next three games by scores of 7-1, 6-5, and 5-2.  Two seed Chris D’Andrea then faced seven seed Robert Brancucci.  These two tied earlier in the day during round robin play.  Rob – the league’s most improved player was surprisingly battered by D’Andrea.  Chris took game one 7-2.  It didn’t get better for Brancucci as he suffered a 9-2 loss in game two.  D’Andrea coasted to a series sweep by winning game three 7-4 then closing out the series with a 4-2 conquest.  Despite losing in convincing fashion, Brancucci had a wonderful year and is poised to do even better next season.  The Slater – Sciacca rivalry was renewed.  The third seeded George Slater started strong with victories of 2-1 and 3-1.  Sciacca struck back with a 2-1 victory of his own.  Anthony failed to tie the series in game four, falling in overtime 4-3.  Sciacca then clamped down as he pulled to within one game with a 3-2 game five victory.  He then tied the series with a thrilling 1-0 shutout.  Sciacca left little to doubt, by defeating Slater in convincing fashion 5-1 to move on.  In the round’s final series, fourth seed Len Mecca took on fifth seed Bob D’Addario.  The Bob O who finished as the league’s runner up last season was determined to at least equal that feat.  Len wasn’t as accommodating as he took game one 4-2.  Bob tied the series in overtime of game two winning 4-3.  Len then retook the lead in the series by defeating Bob 3-1.  D’Addario tied the series with a 5-4 victory, then took game five 4-2.  Smelling blood in the water, Bob finished off Mecca in game six via an 8-5 victory which propelled him into the semis.

      With a trip to the finals at stake the Semis were underway.  The League Champion Vinny Catania took on the league’s elder statesman Anthony Sciacca.  The Vinner took games one and two by scores of 5-4 and 7-3.  Sciacca - who is playing his best table hockey ever, unfortunately was overwhelmed in the series.  Catania finished another sweep by winning game three 2-1, then closed out the series with a convincing 6-1 win.  The Vinner had qualified for his ninth straight Final.  To see who would join him, the second seed Chris D’Andrea faced five seed Bob D’Addario.  The Bob O opened the series with a neat 2-1 victory.  Chris then tied the series by blowing out D’Addario 7-1.  Bob then clamped down as the two battled their way into overtime scoring just a goal each.  D’Addario scored the game winner to win the game 2-1 and take the lead in the series by the same score.  Needing a win to tie the series, D’Andrea played hard but lost another nail biter by a 5-4 margin.  The Bob O now had a commanding three games to one lead, and sat just one game from his second straight Finals appearance.  That’s when The Bob O did a Bob O thing.  The sometimes too arrogant D’Addario walked over to the trophy table and kissed and hugged the Finalist trophy saying “you will soon be mine”.  He assumed the series was over, but couldn’t be more wrong.  The two again took a one all tie into overtime.  Bob O needed one more goal to clinch the series, but it was Chris who scored the game winner to win the game 2-1.  With Chris trailing the series 3-2 he then followed up with a resounding 6-0 shut out to tie the series.  Now it was do or die for both players.  It was one game to see who would go to the Championship.  The momentum D’Andrea had built up by this point was too much as he rolled to a 4-2 game seven victory to humble D’Addario and punch his ticket to the Final against The Vinner.

      It was now time to crown a Champion for the 2023-2024 season.  Vinny Catania came in having won five consecutive championships and six of the last seven.  He has not dropped a game in the Finals since dropping game six of the 2019 Championship versus the great Lou “The Legend” Marinoff.  Catania’s game seven victory that year had started his string of 5 titles in a row.  The next four by sweeps, and now a seventeen game Finals winning streak coming in to this year’s Championship series.  For Chris - this was his second Finals appearance in the last three seasons.  He was swept by The Vinner in the 2022 Championship.  Unfortunately for him this year was more of the same.  Catania’s defense was able to subdue Chris’s offense.  Catania opened the series on his home board.  The Vinner rolled to victories of 6-1 and 5-1 in games one and two respectively.  The series then shifted over to D’Andrea’s board of choice.  It seemed to make a small difference in game three, but the result was another Catania victory.  This time by a much closer 2-1 score.  Needing one more victory, The Vinner played his best game of the series and shutout Chris 6-0.  The Vinner swept the series 4-0 and ran his finals winning streak to twenty one games (five sweeps).  This was his sixth consecutive championship and seventh in eight years.  For Chris – he is a tremendous player and this result doesn’t change that.   

     The third place series was held between five seed Bob D’Addario and Six seed Anthony Sciacca.  Anthony jumped out by winning game one 5-1.  Bob rebounded by taking game two 2-0 and game three 4-1.  Sciacca then tied the series at two with a 2-0 shutout.  Bob won the pivotal game five in overtime 2-1.  Anthony stormed back to tie the series at three by defeating Bob 5-1.  To his credit – The Bob O was able to rebound and save face by winning game seven 2-1.  This secured Bob Third place honors on the year, with Sciacca finishing fourth.

      In the “B” Playoffs the six preliminary round fatalities were joined by Christian Dubois, Double L, and Hank Librandi.  The two lowest seeds “Double L” – Larry Lassiter and Derek Nisbett would play a seventeen versus eighteen seed best of three play-in round to join the other seven in the Quarter-Finals.  Double L earned his first ever series win by winning the best of three by a two games to one margin Double L took game one in OT by a 2-1 score.  Nisbett tied the series with a 2-1 victory of his own.  Double L then took the series with a 3-0 game three shutout.  For his reward Double L then took on ninth seed Brian Sullivan in the Quarter-Final round.  Sullivan rolled to a four game sweep in the series by scores of 5-0, 8-2, 7-0, and 4-2.  The debuting Christian Dubois entered as a thirteenth seed against fourteenth Hank Librandi.  Hank took game one 3-1.  Christian then made the necessary adjustments then rolled the rest of the way.  Dubois won the next four by scores of 8-2, 1-0, 6-1 and 3-1 for his first ever series victory.  Way to go Christian!  Eleventh seed Lee Hendelman swept past fifteen seed Dennis Simone by scores of 8-1, 5-4, 4-1, and 4-1.  Ten seed Larry Durham closed out the Quarter-Finals with a four game sweep of Mike Diguliio.  Durham won by scores of 6-3, 3-1, 6-2, and 7-1.  The Semis were then set.   Nine seed Brian Sullivan rolled to a game one victory over thirteen seed Christian Dubois.  Again Christian was able to adjust and win game two 3-2 to tie the series.  Sullivan took the next game by score of 6-0.  Once again Christian rebounded from a blowout loss to win 4-3 and re-tie the series.  In the end Brian Sullivan who finished second in the year’s most improved player voting proved to be a little too much for the young Christian.  Sullivan took the final two games by scores of 3-2 in overtime and 4-2 to advance to the “B” Finals.  For Christian this was his first step of what will be a very promising table hockey journey.  In the other Semi, ten seed Larry Durham renewed his rivalry with eleven seed Lee Hendelman.  Lee opened the series with a 7-6 win.  Larry tied the series with a 5-3 victory.  Lee then took game three 3-1.  Durham again tied things up in game four with a 2-0 shutout.  Hendelman again retook the series lead with a 6-5 triumph.  Larry again tied the series with a 3-2 victory, then won the series with a game seven 3-1 win to advance to the “B” Championship versus Brian Sullivan. 

     Each player had previously won a “B” title, Sullivan in 2020 and Durham in 2021.  This is the first time these two have met for the “B” Championship.  Larry was able to hold on for a 4-3 victory in game one.  He then played better as the series went on.  Durham won 5-1 and 5-3 to put Sullivan on the brink of elimination.  In a very entertaining game four – Larry proved to be a little better than Brian as he won the game 2-1, and swept the series 4-0 games to become “B” Champion.  This was Larry Durham’s second “B” title.  Lee Hendelman defeated Christian Dubois 2-1 games (scores of 7-2, 5-6, and 8-2) to take the third place best of three “B” consolation series.

     Another great season is now in the league history books.   The 2023-2024 campaign saw 29 people compete in nine league dates.  Christian Dubois, Mike Digulio, Hank Librandi and Double L – Larry Lassiter are some of the new and exciting players of the league.  The N.Y.T.H.L. just completed its ninth season.  Just because you may not have been part of our past, doesn’t mean you can’t be part of the future.  You too can join us and be part of our TENTH ANNIVERSARY SEASON.  As always - the news story ends with the same question.  What are you waiting for? GET BEHIND THE RODS AND IN THE GAME! See you in the 2024-2025 season which starts in October.

 

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