The Long Island Fireants minor team have high aspirations for the 2016-2017 season. “We got put in our place when seeded in Tier II”, Captain George Ugalde said before the season. “We have yet to win a playoff series, so this definitely motivated us!” After being placed in Tier II playoffs last year, and losing in 2 games, the team knew that moves had to be made in order for the team to be successful. The team worked hard in the offseason, heavily recruiting to make a run at the Tier II title, picking up new players Matt Metz, Nick Vitale, Dan Duminico, Cory Triola and Joseph Simon. “Last time I was in Las Vegas I met a midget and we became friends” Simon energetically yelled when he was told that the AIHL finals were in Vegas. But to get there, they had an entire division to contest with.
The team traveled to PA to play 6 games, with the first being against the Philadelphia Liberty. “I went to high school with a lot of these guys”, Nick DiMassi said of the team. “One of them broke into my locker once and stole all of my graham crackers. I always eat graham crackers in the morning, and that was not very nice.” So how would the team start out? Frank Etrasco started the game and the 2016 season scoring his first of the year a little over 4 minutes into the game, which would prove to be the only goal of the first period. “This period was a monumental occasion”, Chris Bracken said between periods, as the team was not arguing with each other. This lead proved to be short lived, as the Liberty tied the game up 6 minutes into the second period. “The guy showed me a ravioli, and I froze” goaltender Mitch West said of the goal. Cory Triola would score his first goal as a Fireant to take the lead just seconds later. The game proved to go back and forth, as the Liberty scored less than a minute later. Chris Bracken would score at the 10-minute mark to re-take the lead. Bracken appeared to be the hero, but much like all superhero’s, things go wrong. The Liberty would tie the game up a minute later, and with one-minute left in the game Bracken would take a roughing penalty. “I really did not agree with the call”, Bracken said of the penalty. “The other guy was a goon and very shady, and we were just playing pop goes the weasel!” The Liberty would score on the ensuing power play to take the lead and eventually win the game.
With the first game ending like it did, the team had a lot of pent-up anger. “We literally wanted to yell at anyone, even a baby!” Nick Vitale said after the game. After a loss like that, the team was looking to unleash the fury, and along came the New Jersey Grizzlies. Matt Metz opened up Game 2, scoring his first as a Fireant at the 4:37 mark of period 1. The team would not look back from there, scoring 7 in the first period, with Metz scoring his second, and goals from Vitale (2), Ninivaggi (1), Triola (1), and Allagio (1). The Fireants would take care of business in the second period, scoring 5 more goals to win 12-0. Vitale and Metz would each have a hatrick, Triola would score his second of the game, and Bracken and Etrasco would add goals. Mitch would not be mesmerized by ravioli’s in this game, as he would post his first shut-out and win of the season. “I had ravs after the game, much better than seeing them during the game!”
Next up- the rivals from Long Island- Empire State Legends. With the 495ers not having any minor teams, the Legends were the primary beneficiaries of an abundance of open players, and took advantage of it, having a total of four teams. “If I saw Rich in the streets, I would steal his ice cream cone right out of his hands!” Ninivaggi said of the rival owner. It is worth noting that Ninivaggi has a picture of Rich as his screen saver at work. The Legends would win the first period, taking a 2-1 lead. The Fireants lone goal in the first was from Alaggio. One of the Legend’s goals was a power play goal coming late in the first off of a penalty from DiMassi. “The guy touched my stick. YOU DO NOT TOUCH MY STICK!!” DiMassi said of the call. The second period would mirror the first period, with the Legends scoring 2 more goals, winning 4-2, with Ninivaggi scoring the lone Fireant goal in the second period. Dan Duminico made his Fireants debut stopping 15 of 19 shots in the loss. The team started 1-2, with 3 games left to play. “There is plenty of time, long season, and 3 games left to play today!” Metz yelled in the locker room. Would Metz turn the tide?
Game 4 would be against the New Jersey Alliance. Following suit with the last loss, the Fireants came out flying, taking a first period lead 5-2 with goals from Ninivaggi (2), Bracken, Alaggio and Metz. The Fireants would again take care of business, scoring 6 goals in the second period to win game 4 11-2 behind goals from Metz, Alaggio (2), Vitale (2) and Etrasco. Duminico would again start, and earn his first win as a Fireant. “This means a lot for me”, Duminico said of the win. “I have seen many before me, including watching my long-time idol Mitch West. I can now die a happy man!”
So how would game 5 go? Loss, win, loss, win, GAME 5?? The team played DiMassi’s high school buddies, the Liberty, for another rematch, after losing game 1. Vitale opened things up with a goal, followed by a goal from DiMassi, but this would be all the Fireants could produce, as they lose game 5 9-2 in a game full of penalties. Joseph Simon would get his first action as a Fireant, and like the previous 2 goalies, he would lose his first game. “I was overly excited, we all were coming off that win” Simon said of the game, as he stopped 23 of 32 shots. He would get redemption, as game 6 against the Legends. This game opened op with Alaggio setting the tone, scoring less than 2 minutes into the game. The Fireants would end the first period up 3-1 with additional scoring from Metz and Bracken. Vitale would open up the second period, re-energizing the Fireants, followed by Triola, and Metz, concluding a 6-3 win for the Fireants, evening up the weekend at 3-3. Simon would get his first win as a Fireant, stopping 23 of 26 shots.
The Long Island Fireants continue their season Saturday January 21, traveling back to PA to play the Delco Demons for a 4-game set.