2010-10-29 / Sports

New League, New Season Begins This Week For Aviators

By Rob Schwach

Aviators coach Rob Miller addresses his team on the first day on-ice at training camp. Aviators coach Rob Miller addresses his team on the first day on-ice at training camp. The New York Aviators pro hockey team opens their inaugural season in the Federal Hockey League this weekend with games scheduled in Danbury, Connecticut on Friday and Saturday nights (October 29 and 30), followed by another away game on Halloween against the Broome County Barons.

The Aviators won the league championship in the first season of the Northeast Professional Hockey League last year, and have “moved up” to the new Federal league.

With the move, the Aviators expect much more challenging opponents than last year, when they went undefeated in the regular season. To meet the challenge, Aviators coach Rob Miller has bolstered last year’s core with a number of bigger, much more physical players, including some from Canada and overseas.

While training camp was still operating at press time, and final rosters were yet to be determined, Miller was expected to head to Danbury with a squad that mixed last year’s regulars (Chris Holmes, Mike Thomson, Jesse Felten, John Goffredo, K.C. Timmons, Angelo Serse and Andrew Scampoli among others) with new players Chris Tutalo, Nicholas Kugali and Matt Puntureri.

New defenseman Nicholas Kuquali of Pittsburgh advances the puck during A’s training camp. He played four years for the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. New defenseman Nicholas Kuquali of Pittsburgh advances the puck during A’s training camp. He played four years for the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. Many of the new players have a connection, having all played together at one time or another for the Twin City Cyclones in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Puntureri scored 14 times for the 2008-09 team, coached by Aviators GM Mark Richards. One of the team’s goalies that year, Kevin Druce, will likely be the Aviators’ main netminder when training camp breaks, especially with A’s favorite Eddie Neville out with an injury. Tutalo and Stephen Obelnicki also played for Twin Cities.

The team has added some players who aren’t afraid to mix things up, including Joe Pelle (185 penalty minutes in 2008-09 for the Hudson Valley Bears and the Brooklyn Aces), Chris Bain and Obelnicki, who scored 18 goals for the Twin City Cyclones over the past two seasons, while accumulating 257 penalty minutes. A quick Internet search found that most of Obelnicki’s top entries were hockey fight videos.

The Aviators play their first seven games on the road, but return for their first home game on Friday, November 12 at 7:30 p.m. at the Aviator Sports Facility on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn. The team has three other home games scheduled right after that (November 13, 18 and 19). Tickets are available online at newyorkaviators. com.

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