The NYTHL’s Third League date of its eighth season took place this past Saturday with thirteen participants from four different states. Rookies Fred Tinao and Robert Brancucci had impressive days in just their third league date. League Champ Vinny Catania did not lose a round robin game for a second straight month, but the real story was written when Paulie Crescitelli came back from a two games to one deficit to defeat Catania in the League Date Three Finals. If that wasn’t enough – Derek was able to get his first win of the season in what was a great day of table hockey. Let’s review the day.
With thirteen players present a double round robin was held consisting of twenty-four games. Defending League Champion Vinny Catania once again led the field with a 21-0-3 record. George Slater had a solid day finishing in second with a 16-5-3 record. Rookie Fred Tinao performed incredibly well in just his third league date as he placed third with a 15-5-4 mark. Paulie Crescitelli finished fourth at 14-7-3. League veteran Len Mecca had his usual solid day finishing fifth at 13-7-4. League Power Chris D’Andrea placed sixth, recording a 13-8-3 record. The league’s Elder statesman Anthony Sciacca continues to defy father time as he cruised to an 11-8-5 record good for seventh. Brian Sullivan had one of his best dates yet, finishing eighth just one game under 500 (10-11-3). Rookie Robert Brancucci in just his third date recorded a 10-14-0 record landing him in ninth. Larry Durham had a disappointing day finishing tenth (6-16-2). Lee Hendelman however continues to gradually improve. His 6-18-0 record had him eleventh. Also improving Mike Gershon won four games and was twelfth. Finally the 2021-2022 N.Y.T.H.L. sportsman of the year Derek Nisbett did finish last in thirteenth, but did pick up his first victory of the season. Congrats Derek – well deserved! It’s on to the playoffs.
This month because thirteen players competed, the top three would receive byes. This meant the remaining ten would play a best of five preliminary round series. The five winners would be added to the three who had byes to compete in the “A” Playoffs with the five who lost moving into the consolation “B” Playoffs. Fourth seed Paul Crescitelli did not allow a goal against thirteen seeded Derek Nisbett, as Paulie swept the series by scores of 3-0, 5-0 and 7-0. Five seed Len Mecca also did not allow a goal against twelfth seeded Mike Gershon. Len swept the series by scores of 2-0, 7-0 and 6-0. Six seed Chris D’Andrea had no trouble sweeping past the improving Lee Hendelman by scores of 6-1, 6-2, and 3-1. Seven seed Anthony Sciacca took out the ten seed Larry Durham in four games. Sciacca opened the series with a 5-1 victory, and then followed it with an exciting 3-2 overtime triumph. Larry fought back with a 5-4 overtime victory of his own before succumbing to Sciacca in game four 3-2. In what was the best opening round series, the eight seed Brian Sullivan stormed out winning games one and two by the score of 3-1. The nine seed Robert Branucci was un-phased as took the next two games by scores of 5-2 and 4-3 to tie the series. Brian finally took the series by jumping out to a three goal lead then holding on for a game five and series victory of 3-2. On to the Quarterfinals.
The One seed Vinny Catania allowed just two goals in three games over his opponent - the eight seed Brian Sullivan. The Vinner swept the series by scores of 3-0, 6-2, and 10-0. Second Seed George Slater did not fare as well as he was not only upset, but swept by the seventh seeded Anthony Sciacca. These two have been playoff rivals in a back and forth saga. This time Anthony got the better of George by scores of 2-1, 6-3 and 3-2. Third seeded rookie Fred Tinao who continues to impress, met his match when he faced the six seeded Chris D’Andrea. Fred took game one by a 3-2 score. Chris tied the series with a 2-0 shutout. Fred then got the better of Chris 4-1 in game three, thus putting Chris on the brink of elimination. D’Andrea then showed everyone why he is one of the league’s top players by rallying to tie the series with a 3-1 victory in game four. D’Andrea then put Fred away for good with a decisive 6-2 victory to win the series in five. We now move to the Semis.
The one seed Vinny Catania was able to limit the ageless, surprising seven seed Anthony Sciacca to just one goal in their Semi-Final series. The Vinner swept Anthony by scores of 4-0, 5-0 and 3-1. The Vinner’s opponent in the Final was determined when fourth seeded Paulie Crescitelli swept past Chris D’Andrea, avenging his League Date 1 Quarter-Final loss by sweep earlier this season. Paulie neatly took the series by 5-4, 5-4 OT, and 5-2 scores. Paulie who was upset last month in the Preliminary round “A” playoffs by Anthony Sciacca and was forced into the “B” Playoffs, which he won, was now competing for his first League Date Title. All he had to do was beat The Vinner. Considering history most assumed he wouldn’t. On this day Paulie had different plans. On to the Finals.
To properly set the stage let’s review what Paulie was up against. The four time defending League Champion Vinny Catania who just happened to own a 51-1-4 record on the year and an undefeated run of 27-0 in this year’s league date playoffs. Paulie did deal Vinny his only loss in league date one, but then dropped the next three to Catania. This including two games earlier in the day by scores of 6-4 and 5-1. Game one was tight, but The Vinner managed to win in overtime 3-2. Paulie then took it to the Vinner, easily winning game two by a 4-1 score. The series shifted over to Paulie’s board where the Vinner recorded a relatively easy 5-2 victory to put Paulie just one game from elimination. Another Vinner League date victory looked imminent, but Paulie refused to be deterred. Crescitelli then had command of game four leading most of the time by two goals and winning by that margin 5-3. The series would go to A fifth and deciding game on The Vinner’s board. This deciding game five was one for the ages, and will be talked about for some-time. Paulie jumped out to the lead 1-0. The Vinner tied it. Paulie scored again. The Vinner tied it again. Paulie then scored a third, then a fourth goal to take a two goal lead. The Vinner scored to pull within one. With 1:55 left, Paulie regained his two goal lead and the score remained that way until Vinny pulled within one with just twenty seconds left. Paulie then had difficulty clearing the puck from behind his own net and the five second rule was invoked leaving just eight seconds remaining. The Vinner took the puck on his left wing and neatly slipped the puck to his center - which completed the low tip into the net which tied the game with just four seconds remaining. The last four seconds ran off with no scoring and the game went to overtime. Off the faceoff Paulie eventually took control of the puck before The Vinner cleared it. Catania had it on his center but had it knocked away and that gave Paulie the only opportunity he would need. He took the puck on his rightwing and slid it across as he had done all series long – converting an angled high tip to his center for the overtime victory. Paulie had knocked off The Vinner to win the League Date Three title. Kudos to Paulie - who is one of the league’s road warriors. He drives six plus hours to make the event then overcame the odds to capture his first league date title. This will no doubt intensify his rivalry with The Vinner.
In the consolation “B” playoff Play-In Quarter-Final (12) Mike swept past (13) Derek. In the Semi-Final round (9) Robert swept past (12) Mike, (10) Larry Durham swept past (11) Lee. This setup a Final of Ninth seeded Robert Branucci against tenth seeded Larry Durham. Robert continued his fine play, opening the series with a 2-1 victory over Larry. Larry then rebounded to tie the series with a 2-1 victory of his own. Larry then took the lead in the series by winning game three 3-2, then closed out the series winning game four 4-2. Larry’s 3-1 game victory marked his first “B” league date title of the year. Robert in just his third league date along with Fred Tinao have displayed tremendous ability and will soon be forces to be reckoned with.
Another great League Date is in the books. I want to take this time to wish all of the members of the N.Y.T.H.L. and table hockey players all over a very HAPPY AND HEALTHY HOLIDAY SEASON. The next League Date is on January 21, 2023. With Paulie staking his claim as a legitimate threat to The Vinner’s title and so many others not far behind - I end the year as I always do each month. I once again ask this: With such a great venue, so many great people and superior SOHO Classic S-Slot games to play on – What are you waiting for? GET BEHIND THE RODS AND IN THE GAME! See you next month!