Aviators Road Trip A Roller Coaster Ride
It’s been a long time since Wave editor Howard Schwach took to the road for a sports event – if you don’t count the Army-Navy game in 2009 – but his son and grandchildren are hooked on the New York Aviators, the professional hockey team that plays its home games at Aviator Sports at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn and wanted to follow the team into the playoff season.
So, on Friday afternoon, March 11, he found himself on Route 7 in Connecticut, pointed for Danbury Connecticut and two pivotal games between the Aviators and the Danbury Whalers.
With the series tied at 1-1 in the bestof five series, the two games at the Danbury rink might well end the series right there. Or, as happened, a tie in the two games would bring the final game back to Brooklyn for the tie-breaker.
Of the 3,000 fans, the great majority, perhaps 99 percent, were wearing Whalers jerseys. The other one percent were rooting for the Aviators, but were shy about it in face of the overwhelming numbers the opposition brought to the game.
Of the dozen or so Aviator fans at the game, perhaps half were the parents of the players, the other half fans like us who wanted to see the Aviators move on to the Federal Hockey League championship series.
The rink fairly rocked with energy as the players took the ice.
The Aviators struck first, with a power play goal by forward Jesse Felten, assisted by Mike Thomson and Matt Puntureri, a trio that would prove themselves over and over again during the weekend series.
That would be the only goal of the period, leaving the Aviators in front 1-0 at the end of the first.
The Whalers tied it up at 5:53 of the second and the game went into the third period tied at 1-1.
The Aviators went up at 9:32 in the final stanza, with a goal by Warren Galloway, assisted by Casey Mignone and John Goffredo.
The joy of the Aviator fans did not last long, however.
With 16.7 seconds remaining in the game, the referee called a penalty against Aviator Goalie Kevin Druce for kicking the net away from its moorings. The rules, I was told later, call for a penalty shot for any delay of the game penalty in the last two minutes of the game.
It was an anticlimax when Danbury scored at seven minutes in the overtime period for the Whaler win.
The 2,990 Whaler fans screamed some obscenities at the 12 Aviator fans and it was over.
Saturday night, however, was a different story.
After a day in New Haven, exploring the Peabody Museum, Yale University’s natural history museum, it was back to Danbury for dinner and another game, with the Aviators now down 2-1 and still playing in enemy territory.
Faced with a 2-1 deficit and the season on the line, the Aviators showed what they were made of, winning 7-0 behind solid offense and a shutout by Druce.
Scoring first for the Aviators was Matt Puntureri, assisted by John Goffredo and Andrew Scampoli at 8:56 in the first. Aviator fans feared that the game would be a replay of the night before, but it proved to be entirely different.
The A’s came up with three in the second period, the first from Scampoli, with assists by Mike Thomson and KC Timmons. The second was scored by Nick Grove on assists from Casey Mignone and Steve Obelnicki. The final goal of the stanza came from Puntureri from Grove and Thomson.
The final goals came in the third from Brett Dickenson, assisted by Puntereri and Timmons; Scampoli from Nick Vandenbeld and Jarrett Rush; and finally, Rush from Puntureri.
Druce recorded 22 saves in the shuout.
We waited outside the arena for the players to come out after the game. They were all pleased to see some home support so far from home and were excited about the Sunday game back in Brooklyn.
The long drive back to Rockaway from Danbury took about an hour and a half after midnight on Saturday night, but we had to skirt about flooded roads and the overturned bus that remained on Route 95 in order to get home.
On Sunday, the 5:30 game was crowded with Danbury fans, who had rented a bus to come to Brooklyn.
Although the crowd was decent, it was far fewer than the 3,000 that turned up at Danbury; perhaps several hundred. Chris Holmes got the scoring started for the Aviators, with a goal at 9:02 in the first, assisted by Angelo Serse and Longo.
The Whalers came back with a goal, leaving the game tied 1-1 at the end of the first.
The teams traded goals in the second as well. Puntureri scored early, but the Whalers came back with two, leaving the score 3-2 Whalers after the second.
Aviator fans were worried that it was all over, that the game would end in Danbury’s favor until, with a few minutes remaining in regulation, Nick Grove found the net to tie the game at 3-3.
In 3:56 into the overtime, Puntureri found the net again, winning both the game and the series for the Aviators.
It was a roller coaster weekend, but satisfying for Aviator fans.
In the five-game playoff series against Danbury, Puntureri had five goals and 7 assists for 12 points. Jesse Felten had 4 goals and 6 assists for 10 points. Thomson had no goals, but nine assists.
Druce was 3-1 with one shutout and a .912 save average.
The Aviators now face the Akweasne Warriors at Aviator on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. and again on Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m.