2011-11-11 / Sports

Nikiforov, Ferrazzoli Off To Flying Start With Aviators

By Robby Schwach

The Brooklyn Aviators have been a Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde group for the first two weekends of the season. After beating last year’s FHL champs, the Akwesasne Warriors, in the first game of the season, the team fell in back-to-back games against Cape Cod and New Jersey, teams that many expected them to beat.

Last weekend saw more of the same, as the A’s thrashed their rivals in Danbury with an offensive showcase, 8-1. When returning home the following evening, the team looked to avenge their defeat in overtime to Cape Cod by showing that their loss to the Bluefins was really a fluke (sorry, couldn’t resist). Instead, the Aviators watched as Cape Cod beat them again in overtime, 5-4.

There were many bright spots over the weekend, aside from the obvious dominance in Danbury. All of the Aviators’ recent player moves were positive. New addition Vlad Nikiforov scored two goals and had three assists in Danbury and followed up the next night at home with a hat trick. Another pick-up, Ken Trentowski looked good on the baseline, scoring in Danbury. Colin Ronayne, coming off a quick stint in the SPHL after four years at Oakland University, also looked solid.

The already lacking defense corps was thrown into flux after the knee injury to team captain Steve Obelnicki in Danbury. But the blueliners were bolstered by the signing of old stalwart Nick Grove, who has managed to balance a part-time pro hockey career with other off-ice pursuits.

Grove is something of a local veteran, having played for the original Brooklyn Aces, as well as other local teams as well as the Aviators.

The biggest splash was the emergence of Nikiforov, giving the Aviators an offensive threat they have never really had before. The Long Island by way of Lithuania product has played professional hockey at almost every level except the NHL, and is looking to climb his way back up the ladder.

“I’m trying to play my best here, help the team win, do all the right things … trying to get back to the ECHL [East Coast Hockey League] …sometime this year …next year, maybe [play in] Europe,” said Nikiforov. The high-scoring forward started the year in the SPHL but came to training camp in Augusta trying to win a spot on a roster where many forwards were already signed to contracts.

“It was rough,” said Nikiforov, who clearly expected to be playing at a higher level than the Federal Hockey League this year. His presence, though, should help to boost his own confidence while clearly helping a team that craves a big scorer.

Coach Rob Miller is more than happy to have Nikiforov on the team.

“His work ethic is phenomenal …he’s always moving, he never takes a shift off.”

Another bright offensive light this year has been Chris Ferrazzoli, another local guy (Floral Park) who has returned home after playing down south. Ferrazzoli has three goals and six assists in nine games.

Although Ferrazzoli probably hoped to be playing elsewhere this season, an injury while playing in the SPHL last year derailed those plans. But he’s happy to be playing pro hockey at all after he thought his hockey career was over, and he’s making the best of living at home, spending more time with family and enjoying some home cooking.

While FHL crowds are smaller than other crowds, Ferrazzoli still appreciates the fans.

“They’re why we play. It’s not any fun if no one is there watching,” he said.

His time playing for the New Jersey Rockhoppers four years ago allows him the unique opportunity to “size up” the changes in local pro hockey.

“There’s a lot more skill here [in the FHL] now…there were only three solid teams back then. Ownership has found out what it entails to run the league, to do the daily things, like having a trainer, a hot and cold tub,” said Ferrazzoli.

He added that many players have been surprised at the quality of play in the FHL and that has, in turn, attracted more notice by better players that might have gone elsewhere.

The Aviators play at home this Saturday night, November 12 against the Danbury Whalers at 7:05 p.m. Come watch Vlad Nikiforov before he’s gone, and see whether Dr. Jekyll or My. Hyde suits up to play.

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