The Great Neck Bruins Bantams ice hockey team arrived at the St. Patrick’s Day tournament in Hershey, Pa. looking to build on a strong season. The weekend ended with the Bruins winning two shut-out games over Aviator and Brewster of the LIAHL.
The opening game against the Ashburn, VA Selects team was a back and forth shootout for two periods with Mitch Gellert playing solid in goal for Great Neck, keeping the opponents scoreless into the third period. Then teammate Sam Levitan blasted a Dan Harchut face-off pass to score a short-handed goal to break the tie and take the lead. Unfortunately, Great Neck could not manage to hold off the Selects power play, which evened the score about 45 seconds later. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.
In game two against a tough Atlantic City Sharks team it was clear that Great Neck were finding opportunities after the low scoring first game. Mitch Gellert turned in another stellar performance in goal and goals scored by Co-Captain Justin Chavez and Christopher Byrne put the Bantams ahead 2-0. But, the Bruins soon took too many penalties which limited their scoring opportunities and allowed the Sharks to climb back into the game to secure a 2-2 tie.
Great Neck came to game three determined to play well enough to earn enough points to advance to the final tournament bracket and finish the season strong. However, the Bruins quickly fell behind a fast, strong and large Binghamton squad 3-0. Justin Chavez and Great Neck’s own, Ethan Zeltser, had enough. They took charge and returned the favor by scoring three successive goals, cutting the lead to one with only minutes to play in the second period. This turned the momentum in the Bruins favor. Period three became a back and forth affair with Gellert making numerous saves with some dazzling stops that clearly demoralized the opposition. Unfortunately, a major penalty to Great Neck forced a shift in the player deployment and set the stage for a devastating 3-0 run by Binghamton.
Despite the setback in game three however, the Bruins were seeded in the Final bracket based on overall points in their division and the only thing standing in their way of the Gold Cup was a solid group of players from the Montclair Blues. Unfortunately for the Blues, the Bantams were ready to go from the drop of the puck. Chase Friedman and Christopher Byrne combined to strike the first blow. Justin Chavez and Joseph Contino each scored to add to the lead and Great Neck led 3-1 after the first period. In the second period John McNeely and Cullen O’Hara scored on a nifty pass play. Great Neck now led 4-1.
Having had leads and coming close to winning in all three third periods earlier in the tournament, the Bruins were determined not to let up in this match. Ethan Zeltser made sure of that when he took a pass from Christopher Byrne and neatly back-handed a shot over the Montclair goalie’s glove to make the score 5-1 and secure an insurmountable lead for Great Neck.
The Gold Cup belonged to the Bruins and a long season ended on an appropriately high note.
While many of the players from this team are returning next season, there will be tryouts for open positions on Tuesday, April 21 and 28 from 5:45 to 6:45 p.m. and Thursday, April 23 from 6:45 to 7:45 p.m. at the Andrew Stergiopoulos Ice Rink in Great Neck. For further information contact Fred Ondris at email@example.com or 516-487-2976.