New Jersey Rockhoppers are taking part in the final playoff of the Eastern Professional Hockey League Championship Series with a 4-3 overtime win against the Brooklyn Aces held at the Aviator Arena. Matt Puntureri scored the winning goal against the Aces on Saturday night.
The Aces started off strong with a 0-1 lead scored by Dan Carney. This dynamic quickly changed when in the first period; Pat Serpico opened the scoring and tied the game with his quick work, hitting the puck fiercely into the net. “Pat Serpico had it huge. The second goal gave us all the momentum to grab the lead. His goal was fantastic. That would have been the game changer for me.” said Brian Gratz, head coach of the Rockhoppers.
Nick Niedert, Rockhopper goalie, stopped 15 out of 16 of the shots, even though they had the added advantage of having retired Canadian professional hockey player, Ron Duguay from the New York Rangers playing along with the Aces. Duguay has come out of retirement to promote the Madison Square Garden charitable organization by playing a game for both the Aces and tomorrow for the Rockhoppers. "Ron Duguay is a great guy. The boys wanted to show a level of respect,” said Gratz. Duguay played the entire game without wearing a helmet.
Serpico thrived with more unbalanced scoring after he made another solid goal passing by the Aces’ goalie Miro Recicar.
A dog pile of both teams occurred after a fight broke out amongst the players. After minutes the referees broke up the fight when two players went down on the ice to battle it out. “Tempers were flaring right at the end of the game,” said Coach Gratz. This caused four penalties, in which two were cancelled out since both teams were penalized. From the Rockhoppers, both Matt Puntureri and Dustin Henning were sent to the penalty box. Quickly after the last minute of regulation, CJ Tozzo used a screen to put the Aces back at an equal score with the Rockhoppers. Puntureri was also able to return to the rink from the penalty box.
“Obviously, we were trying to protect our goaltender; he’s the backbone of our team. One thing led to another we were trying to pull the other team off our goaltender,” said Gratz, he continued, “I don’t think the referrer made the right decision, it should have been even up all the way around. This left us in a bad spot. They ended up scoring a power play goal out of it, which was disappointing. At the same time it shows character of the team that they are willing to stand up and fight for one another.”
With only thirty seconds left on the clock for overtime, Puntureri faked out the Aces and shot the winning goal. “It was quite a lucky play. The defense made an awful play and the goalie did as well. Luckily, I found a hole and swept it in there putting us in the play-offs”, said Puntureri.
The Aces had already secured a place in the play-offs. “Well obviously we didn’t get the turn out we wanted,” said Chris Holmes of the Aces, he continued, “We didn’t want to lose the last game this season, but we will see these guys next week. We hope to take a two for one and win the Eastern Professional Hockey Series.”
Brooklyn Aces and New Jersey Rockhoppers are scheduled to play again next Thursday for the Eastern Professional Hockey League Championship Series.
Ron Daguay known for his hockey hair and for this (sexy?) sasson jeans ad: