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The NYTHL’s Eighth season kicked off this past Saturday with eighteen participants from five different states. Unlike the past two, this season the league opened at its home at Rabs in Staten Island, New York. The pandemic forced the two previous opening dates into seclusion at Plycon on eastern Long Island. With so many players competing, it meant the debuts for two more New Yorkers. Robert Brancucci of White Plains and Fred Tinao of Staten Island. Both players made immediate impacts as they each had wins over established players with Fred even winning the “B” Playoff tournament. Another exciting day of grueling competition concluded when Vinny Catania earned another league date championship, ending a great run by George Slater who gallantly fought his way into the finals. Let’s review the day

With eighteen players present a single robin was held consisting of seventeen games. Defending League Champion Vinny Catania was able to hold off Paul Crescitelli now of New Hampshire. The Vinner’s 15-1-1 record (31 points) was just two points ahead of Crescitelli’s 29 (14-2-1). Paulie did deal The Vinner his only loss on the day by a 5-4 margin. George Slater had a tremendous day finishing 3rd with a 11-3-3 mark. Bob D’Addario and Steve “The Stein” Bernstein each finished with 11-5-2 records for 22 points. Bob won the 4th seed due to his 5-3 head to head win over Steve. The Chief in just his fourth league date continues to excel. He also had 22 points (9-4-4), but the one less win gave him the six seed. To show just how tough the day was – 2021-2022 League Finalist Chris D’Andrea finished seventh (10-6-1) and the always tough Len Mecca finished 8th at 9-5-3. The debuting Fred Tinao of Staten Island finished with a very impressive 9-7-1 mark for the ninth seed. He posted wins over Anthony Sciacca, Len Mecca, George Slater and Gary Nichols amongst others. The aforementioned Gary Nichols who made the trip from North Carolina, also played well posting a 8-7-2 mark for tenth on the day. He too had some impressive wins including victories over Chris D’Andrea, Bob D’Addario, and The Chief. Larry Durham 7-10-0 finished 11th. Improving Walter Zissler and Anthony Sciacca each finished 6-9-2 with Zissler earning the higher 12 seed. Robert Brancucci also made an impressive debut with a very competitive 5-9-3 mark. He defeated Larry Durham, Fred Tinao and Anthony Sciacca on the day earning him the 14th seed. Those top fourteen players would automatically advance to the Preliminary Round of sixteen. Brian Sullivan would finish 15th, Lee Hendelman 16th, Mike Gershon 17th and Derek Nisbett 18th to complete the field. Those bottom four would compete to see which two would join the top fourteen. On to the playoffs.

With the top fourteen players all advancing, the next bottom four seeds each played in a best of three series to see who would join them in the round of sixteen. Fifteen seed Brian Sullivan Swept past eighteen seed Derek by scores of 8-0 and 5-0. Sixteen seed Lee after surrendering game one to seventeen seed Mike by a 2-0 score rebounded to take the next two by scores of 1-0 and 3-1 to take the series in three. Brian and Lee then advanced to the Preliminary Round of sixteen.

In the Preliminary round (best of five) the number one seed Vinny Catania took out sixteen seed Lee Hendelman in a three game sweep by scores of 13-1, 10-2 and 11-1. The two seed Paul Crescitelli had a much tougher time against fifteen seed Brian Sullivan. Paulie took the first two games by scores of 3-1 and 5-4. Brian rallied with a 4-3 win and took game four to overtime before being bested by Paulie 2-1. Third seed George Slater did sweep rookie Robert Brancucci, but all three games were tight. Slater won game one in overtime 4-3 then took game two by a 3-1 margin then finally defeated the fourteenth seeded Brancucci in another overtime thriller 3-2. Fourth seeded Bob D’Addario dropped game one to thirteenth seeded Anthony Sciacca 4-2. The Bob O then swept the next three by scores of 4-1, 3-2 in overtime and 4-1. The fifth seed – table hockey legend Steve Bernstein made his way with Brian Sullivan down from Massachusetts and he did not disappoint. The Stein took out twelfth seeded Walter Zissler in four. The series saw first three games go to overtime. The Stein took game one 4-3. Walter was victorious in game two 3-2, then Steve took game three 2-1. Bernstein utilized his experience on all boards with stellar defense to close out Walter in game four with a 2-0 victory. This set up a rematch two years in the making between The Stein and D‘Addario in the Quarter-Finals. The six seeded Chief who was playing in just his fourth league date continues to make his mark on the league with some incredible battles. This series with eleventh seeded Larry Durham was no different. Larry opened with a 4-2 victory in game one. The Chief took the next two by scores of 5-3 and 7-6 in overtime. Larry tied the series with a 7-5 victory in game four thus forcing a deciding fifth game. In what was another classic the Chief took the series with a hard fought 4-3 victory to advance. Chris D’Andrea who slipped in the standings on the day all the way down to the seven seed, did sweep past ten seed Gary Nichols by scores of 2-1, 3-1 and 4-1. In the Final series of the round - eighth seeded Len Mecca met the impressive rookie - nine seeded Fred Tinao. Len who is one of the league’s best players for a long time now was pushed by the upstart. Len won game one 4-2. Fred tied the series with a 6-5 victory. Mecca pulled away with two close victories by scores of 4-3 and 6-4. The eight winners moved on to the “A” Playoffs with the eight who lost now making up the “B” playoff competition.

With a trip to the Semis at stake, the top seeded Vinner swept past Len in three games by scores of 4-1, 5-2 and 3-2 it was a tough draw for Catania so early on. Second seeded Paul Crescitelli battled seven seeded Chris D’Andrea in a rematch of last year’s playoff Semi-Finals. Chris’s tough finish was a bad break for Paulie who like Catania drew such a tough opponent early on. D’Andrea who struggled earlier in the round robin put things together when it counted. Chris won games one and two by 5-4 scores, the second was in overtime. D’Andrea completed the unexpected sweep with a 5-2 victory to advance. The third seed George Slater took on The Chief and as always the six seed gave Slater all he can handle. George opened things with a 3-1 victory only to have the Chief tie the series with a 3-1 victory of his own. George won a nail biter with a 1-0 shutout in game three. The Chief again tied the series with a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory in game four. The two went toe to toe before Slater iced the series in five with a 3-2 victory to take the series by the same score. The Final Semi-Final berth was up for grabs. The fourth seeded Bob D’Addario would take on the fifth seeded Steve Bernstein in a rematch of the series from League Date two of the 2020-2021 season in which D’Addario won in four games. The Bob O was very braggadocios about the victory because he felt the victory over table hockey legend Bernstein would propel him to greater heights and garner him more respect amongst the table hockey world. Those a bit more sane would chalk it up to the Stein’s inexperience on the board. Nevertheless two years later these two met again. Bob’s earlier success two years ago and earlier in the day had no effect on The Stein who was out to prove a point and did. Bernstein came from three goals behind on successive occasions to blow past Bob 10-7 in game one. The Stein would then take a closer game two by a 5-4 margin. In what was some poetic justice Steve Bernstein displayed just how truly great he really is on a table hockey board by dismantling the Bob O by a 6-3 score to sweep the series and move on to the Semi-Finals. For once D’Addario was silent.

The Semi-Finals were set. One seed Vinny Catania cooled off the then hot Chris D’Andrea who was fresh off his upset of Paul Crescitelli. The Vinner clamped down on Chris holding him to just two goals in the series. The Vinner swept past Chris by scores of 3-1, 5-0 and 3-1. In the other Semi-Final Third seeded George Slater met fifth seeded Steve Bernstein. George with his tenacious defense scored victories on his home board in games one and two by scores of 5-3 and 2-0. The series shifted onto the Stein’s board for the next two and so did the momentum. The Stein prevailed 5-3 in game three and then tied the series with a 2-1 conquest in game four. The series was back on George’s choice of board in game five and that proved to be the difference as George won the game 3-1 and the series 3-2 with the home team winning every game in the series. The victory earned George the right to once again face Catania in the Finals.

League Champion Vinny Catania left little to chance as he faced longtime friend and rival George Slater. The Vinner scored early and often as he pulled away with an 8-2 victory in game one. Catania won a closer game two by a 5-3 margin, then it was full speed ahead as he finished the series with a 6-1 victory to earn the year’s first league date title. Slater would finish second and by virtue of standings The Stein would place third. Not bad for someone with so little S-Slot experience.

In the “B” Playoff Quarter-Finals ninth seeded Fred swept past sixteen seed Lee in three games. Ten seeded Gary swept fifteen seeded Brian Sullivan with two 4-3 victories in overtime and a 5-4 victory in game three. Fourteenth seeded rookie Robert Brancucci upset eleventh seeded Larry Durham with 5-4 and 4-3 victories in games one and two and after losing game three 5-1, rebounding to take game four with a 2-0 shutout to win the series 3-1 games. Twelfth seeded Walter Zissler battled thirteenth seeded Anthony Sciacca in a brutal five game series. Game one went to Sciacca 6-3. Walter took the next two by 4-2 and 6-4 scores. Sciacca tied the series with a 3-2 win before losing to Walter in game five 6-0. In the Semi-Finals the two debuting rookies did battle with Fred Tinao sweeping past Robert Brancucci by scores of 5-2, 6-3 and 3-2. In the other Semi-Final after winning game one 4-3, Gary then dropped the next three to Walter by scores of 5-3, 5-3 and 2-1. The “B” Finals would pit Ninth seeded rookie Fred Tinao versus the improving twelfth seeded Walter Zissler. Fred Tinao then capped off his very impressive debut with an emphatic sweep over Zissler by scores of 4-0, 4-3 OT and 5-1. Tinao's “B” title was good for 9th overall on the day and was his first title. Walt would finish tenth and Gary by virtue of standings would be eleventh. Just like his good friend The Chief – Fred Tinao hasn’t entered the league to just have fun. He is here to win. Both have served immediate notice to the rest that they are forces to be dealt with.

As is always the case - new players form new friendships and rivalries. Don’t just read about us. Become part of the action by joining us. We will be back at Rab’s Country Lanes in Staten Island on Saturday November 19, 2022. If you love table hockey or are even curious about it – come down and check the NYTHL out. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed. For more in depth game results, stats, standings and information please log on to WWW.NYTHL.COM


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