By Patrick Ramsdale/USPHL.com
All games at Aviator Sports and Events Center
New York Aviators (1) vs. P.A.L. Junior Islanders (8)
Friday, March 3 at 7:30 p.m. EST
Saturday, March 4 at 8:30 p.m. EST
Sunday, March 3 at 4:00 p.m. EST (if necessary)
The New York Aviators will host the P.A.L. Junior Islanders at the Aviator Sports and Event Center starting on Friday for a best-of three series. P.A.L. will look to make a statement against the Aviators, who finished the year as the regular season champion. New York has historically been one of the Atlantic’s most consistent teams, finishing in the top two in their division four of the last five years.
Aviators head coach Mike Stanaway led the Aviators to a 38-5-1 record. After losing three straight games to the Rockets Hockey Club and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Knights in late October, the Aviators rattled off a league 19-game winning streak.
The Aviators point production throughout the lineup helped lead them to team to the leagues fifth best goal differential of +147. New York ended the regular season with 13 players posting at least 20 points. Six Aviators finished the year averaging over a point per game.
“I feel that we are a very deep and balanced team,” Stanawaysaid. “We are very strong at every position.”
Mathias Rakell (‘02/Stockholm, Sweden) was a standourperformer in the USPHL this season, finishing fourth in scoring with 102 points. He found the scoresheet in all but five contests, while registering multiple points in 27 games.
Michael Marino (‘02/Staten Island, N.Y.) has been the go-to goalie for New York. He ended the year with a .934 save-percentage and a 16-3-1 record. Blake Hazleton (‘02/Lake Orion, Mi.) also got the nod this year, going 10-0 with a 2.07 goals against average.
Even though the Aviators had plenty of success in the regular season, Stanaway knows the team will have to dig deeper in the playoffs.
“We have had a tremendous Regular Season but to be able to achieve our goals, we have to look at ourselves,” Stanaway said.“We have to be the harder working team in order to win.”
P.A.L. enters the series looking for revenge, after the Aviators swept the season series. Although the Junior Islanders season may not have panned out as planned, they have proven to be a team that gives everything they have until the final whistle.
“P.A.L. is going to compete hard and we have to be ready for a strong push from that team,” Stanaway said. “They are a very good organization and I expect to get their very best.”
The Junior Islanders scoring has been led by the duo of Quinn Murray (‘04/Rockville Centre, N.Y.) and Anthony Vernillo (‘04/Smithton, N.Y.), who combined for 69 points this season.
Quillon Bowman (‘02/Beaverton, Ore.) has manned the cage for P.A.L. much of this season. Bowman ended the regular season third among all USPHL netminders in saves with 1,184 in 32 games.
P.A.L. is one of the Premier’s cleanest teams, finishing in the bottom third in penalty minutes. It will need to continue to play clean as New York enters the series with the USPHL’s 11th best powerplay (25.8%).
Even with the Aviators success against the Junior Islanders in the regular season, Stanaway knows that no team can be overlooked come playoff time.
“It is playoff hockey, so nothing is going to come easy. Throw the regular season records out the window.”