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The NYTHL’s fifth league date of the season took place on Saturday February 10, 2024 at Rab’s on Staten Island.  It featured a record twenty one competitors from six different states and two countries.  Dave Reid once again made his way from Ennismore Ontario.  Paul Crescitelli from New Hampshire along with Brian Sullivan and Chris Grover from Massachusetts made their way down.  Gary Nicholls made his way up from North Carolina.  All of those players fought off the effects of long travel as each played very well.  Mike DiGiulio made his debut along with Hank Librandi of Connecticut.  For the day, each player would play a total of twenty games.  With Chris D’Andrea announcing he couldn’t compete in the playoffs, the day went as follows.  The players were ranked according to the day’s standings.  The top twelve players would qualify for the “A” playoffs with the top four of those players receiving byes.   The eight players ranked five through twelve would then compete in a best of five Preliminary Round.  The four winners would move on to the “A” Playoff Quarter-Finals, joining the top four.  The eight players ranked thirteenth through twenty would compete in the “B” Playoffs.     At the conclusion of round robin, Vinny “The Vinner” Catania finished in the top spot with (for a second straight month) an unblemished 20-0-0 record.  Chris D’Andrea and John Power each finished 15-4-1, but D’Andrea would not play in the playoffs.  Paul Crescitelli had a solid day at 14-4-2 as did Len Mecca 12-6-2.  Catania, J.P., Paul Crescitelli and Len Mecca grabbed the top four byes.  Others who played well and qualified for the “A” Playoffs were Dave Reid who was impressive at 11-5-4.  He had the same amount of points as Mecca, but his one less win meant he would not get the bye.  As things turned out – it didn’t matter as Dave Reid’s best work was yet to come.  Walter, Bob D’Addario and Robert Brancucci all were 11-7-2.  George Slater (10-6-4) and Anthony Sciacca (9-5-6) also played well.  Chris Grover from the M.V.T.H.L. making his debut was impressive compiling an 8-9-3 mark, qualifying for the “A” playoffs.  Brian Sullivan (8-10-2) took the last spot amongst the “A” competitors.  With the round robin concluded, it was on to the playoffs

     In the Preliminary Round, #5 Dave Reid defeated #12 Brian Sullivan 3-1 games.  The #6 seed Bob D’Addario swept a very game # 11 Chris Grover.  Bob won the first game 4-3 in Overtime then won game two 3-2 in overtime.  D’Addario wrapped up the series with a 3-2 game three victory.  Although he lost in three games, Grover was very impressive in his debut.  Walter Zissler the #7 seed came back from a 2-1 series deficit to win the final two games from #10 Anthony Sciacca by scores of 4-3  and 3-1 to take the series 3-2. Robert Brancucci’s game continues to grow in leaps and bounds.  The eight seed took down #9 George Slater 3-1 games.  The Quarter-Finals were now set. 

     In the Quarters the one seed Vinny Catania swept past eight seeded Robert Brancucci by scores of 7-2. 5-2, 5-1.  The two seed John Power defeated #7 Walter Zissler 3-1 games.  J.P. took game one 2-1 then lost game two 2-1 in overtime.  J.P. won games three and four by scores of 5-3 and 4-2 to advance.  Paul Crescitelli the three seed could not solve the offense or defense of #6 Bob D’Addario as the “Bob O” swept the series by scores of 7-2, 7-2 and 5-2.  The four versus five matchup figured to be a close one and it was.  The four seed Len Mecca dropped game one top five seed Dave Reid 5-4.  Len Mecca then won the next two by scores of 3-2 and 5-4 in overtime.  Facing elimination, Dave Reid tied the series in game four with a 4-2 victory.  Reid then took the deciding game 4-1 to take the series 3-2 games.  This comeback would not be his only one.  He saved an even better one for later.     

     The Semi-Finals were set.  Once underway, The Vinner would go on to sweep Bob D’Addario by scores of 5-3, 3-2 and 6-2.  The Vinner has eliminated the Bob O from every league date this year except for one.  At League Date two, The Stein Steve Bernstein had eliminated D’Addario three games to one in their Quarter-Final matchup.  In the other Semi-Final two seed John Power took on five seed Dave Reid.  Reid took the first two games by scores of 6-2 and 5-1.  J.P. battled back to win game three 5-3.  Reid took complete control and ended the series with an impressive 4-0 shutout to take the best of five in four three games to one.  On to the Finals.

     For a second straight month it was Vinny Catania versus Dave Reid in the Finals.  The Vinner had swept Reid in convincing fashion last month, but it didn’t take long to see that this month wouldn’t unfold quite the same way.  The Vinner did come out of the gate strong to take games one and two on his home ice by scores of 6-4 and 4-2.  Another sweep or even a victory was not in the cards for Catania this month.  The series shifted over to Reid’s home ice and down 2-0 games - Dave began his impressive comeback.  Facing elimination, Reid bounced back to take game three 4-3.  Game four was a nail biter that went to overtime.  The Vinner could have ended the series right there, but it was Reid who tucked in a neat goal from his right wing to center to win in overtime, tie the series and force game five.  With the series back on the Vinner’s home ice, Catania had hoped to slow the momentum of Reid.  That wasn’t the case.  Dave Reid played a much more solid game all around.  Limiting his turnovers and capitalizing on Vinner miscues.  Reid stormed out to a 4-1 lead.  The Vinner just missed converting a low tip from his leftwing to center as he connected, but the puck died on the goal line.  That would make a difference later on.  The Vinner scored two goals in the game’s final thirty seconds to pull within one, but time ran out.  Dave Reid had come all the way back from two games to none down, and win the final three games to take the League Date 5 title.  This was Reid’s first league date victory in five attempts.  He continues to improve at a rapid rate and it will be fun to monitor his success as he gains more and more experience.   This marked the second time this year that the Vinner was defeated in a league date final.  J.P. took him down at League date two.  The NYTHL is tightening up and this year’s title is truly up for grabs.  Catania will no doubt have his work cut out for him as he aims for a sixth straight championship.  League date Five however was all about Dave Reid.  That grit and determination that made him a two time Stanley Cup Champion in the National Hockey League has carried over into his table hockey career.       

     In the “B” Playoffs #13 Gary Nicholls from North Carolina swept # 20 Derek in three. Lee Heldelman (14) swept past the debuting Mike Digiulio (19) in three.  Number fifteen Larry Durham swept past Hank Librandi who also made his debut.  Both Hank and Mike show promise and should be solid players in no time.  Phil Brancucci the sixteen seed defeated seventeen seed Dennis Simone 3-1 games.  The “B” Semis were now set.   Gary Nicholls took on Phil Brancucci in a series that did not disappoint.  Phil B. came back from 2-1 games down to tie the series and force game five.  Nicholls proved to be too much winning the final game 6-3 to clinch his spot in the “B” Final.  Lee Hendelman once again would battle Larry Durham in what is becoming a great rivalry.  Hendelman won the B Final last month versus Durham in five games.  This month Durham returned the favor.  Larry won games one and two.  Hendelman tied the series by winning games three and four.  Larry played his best game of the series in game five, as he won 4-1 to take the series three games to two.   The “B” Final was set.  The thirteen seed Gary Nicholls took on the Fifteen Seed Larry Durham.  Nicholls made the most of his trip up from North Carolina as he blew past Durham in impressive fashion.  Nicholls swept the series by scores of 9-6, 2-1 and 6-3.  Nicholls who had missed the “A” playoff on a tie-break, rebounded well as he won the “B” title in his season debut.  It was a very impressive showing for Nicholls.  Hopefully we see him again soon.

     Another hair blowing, eyebrow raising league date is in the books.  It was our most heavily attended league date ever with 21 players competing.  The league continues to grow as more and more are being made aware of and reintroduced to this great sport.  Dare I ask?  With great games to play and great people to compete on them – what are you waiting for?  Get behind the rods and Join the NYTHL.  Like so many others, you will be glad you did.  See you at League Date VI on Saturday March 16, 2024.


See you next month – Be Well!


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