The University at Buffalo Wings went to the ECRHA Regionals this past weekend with only one thing in mind - to return home with 2 cups. While the expectations were high, and few outsiders expected it to happen - the Wings went out and conquered. March 2, 2008 is a day that will be forever cemented in the minds of the UB players - for it was the day that the family achieved the ECRHA glory. Over the weekend, the UB family played with a deadly combination passion and heart - a formula that carried them to victory.
-To be honest, this article will not be easy to write - as I don't think I can accurately describe what happened this weekend...
D1 Road to Victory:
Army Game - First up for the Wings in the round robin play was Army, a team that has improved significantly throughout the season, and always goes 100% on the rink. While some people may have though upset, the Wings would have none of it - scoring 6 unanswered goals in the first period - by the final buzzer the score was 11-1; the Wings had indeed brought their game to Feasterville.
Penn State- Penn is a team that has given the Wings trouble all season - they are a well disciplined team that plays hard defense and buries their chances. The game ended in a 6-6 tie, and we give credit to Penn for battling back - this game felt like a loss to the Wings.
Towson - This is the game that brought the Wings family closer than they had ever been before - it was in the locker room after this game that everyone knew we were only here for one reason- to get our cup. After a slow start, the Wings found themselves down 4-2 midway through the third period - a difference that would have been much greater if not for the dominance of Richie "The Tone" LaTona, no doubt the most valuable player on the Wings team. Slowly, the Wings climbed back into the game, Jason Franco tied the game at 4 with 42 second left in the game, and Wings bench exploded. Towson immeadiately called a timeout, and on the bench, the boys decided that as good as they felt right now- it was win that they wanted. After another clean faceoff win by Tyler Walser, Jason Franco made a great moose of a play on the boards to spring UB a 2 on 1. After sliding home the winning goal, I cannot even describe how I felt - just pure joy - not only for myself, but for my family - the guys on the bench and in the stands. This was a game where we willed ourselves to victory- never quitting and climbing back into it. As we looked at each other in the locker room - exhausted physically and mentally - we knew we were for real.
Army Quarterfinal Game: Even with their big win early in the day, the Wings knew that Army would come out hard - which they did, as they were up 2-0 after the end of the first. But, at the start of the second, the Wings went on a tear- scoring 4 straight goals to take the lead. After trading 2 more goals each, the Wings had prevailed with a 6-4 victory. Army is a team that is a class act - they always bring it on the floor and are always a threat to win.
Rutgers Semifinals Game: Only seeing Rutgers in the preseason, the Wings knew that they would need to be on their game in order to reach the finals. The Wings had another slow start, and the game was tied 1-1 after the first period; then in the second, the boys scored 6 goals - the team couldn't contain themselves, knowing that they were going to get a chance to play for the cup in only 3 hours. Again in this game, Richie LaTona played huge, keeping it tied until we found a way to bury the puck. Adam Hirsch and Jason Fraco were huge as well - getting the offensive festival started in the second period.
Towson Championship Game: The championship would be a rematch of the emotional battle from the day before - as the Wings would face off against Towson to decide who would bring home the cup. Towson is a fast, and extremelly well coached team - as they led 2-0 at the end of the first. During the break- the boys decided that they needed to calm down and play their game - but also, they NEEDED this game- for themselves, for their team, and for their captains, seniors Jay Slutsky and Steve Ostrow, who were each playing in their last ECRHA, never winning a title. Then, by the end of the second, the Wings had tied the score - setting up an epic third period - forcing each team to lay it on the line if they were to win the cup. In the third, it was all the Wings - Shaun Golden scored 2 goals within 20 second to set off a Wings explosion - as the guys on the rink, on the bench, and in the stands were all just delirious. As the buzzer went off, and the team knew that they had done it - the feeling of knowing that the family had won the cup - despite the way that so many had seemed to count them out - was just unbelieveable. Seeing all of my guys sell out and come together was just awesome.
B Road to the Cup:
Suffolk CC: In a great game, the Wings started off their round robin with a 6-5 win over Suffolk - a game that almost went the other way, but the boys buckled down and pulled it out.
Rutgers: This game was awesome - as both teams played with so much heart and emotion - as the Rutgers team was desperately trying to hand the Wings their first loss of the season. But, the boys would have none of it - holding off Rutgers for the tie.
Suffolk Semifinals: Playing the same team that they had tied the day before - the Wings made no mistake this time- going up 8-0 in the first and simply dominating. Chris Territo set the tone for the rest of the day- posting the shutout.
Penn State Championship: No doubt the best game of the season - As the Wings were down 1-0 with less that 2 minutes to go in the third, then Kevin Cook scored from the point to tie the game. As the mauled into the boards - the D1 guys in the stands went crazy, as did his teammates. As the game went into overtime, the D1 Wings in the crowd became the 5th skater on the floor - willing their teammates on the rink to finish out the game and get that second cup. When Ryan Kelly buried the winner, it was simply delirium - as the D1 team stampeded onto the rink to celebrate the the B team. It was simply awesome -for at that moment, it was not 2 teams - it was one family - who had accomplished their goal.
As the 2 teams gathered for a group picture with their 2 cups - it slowly started to set in - what we had done on that day. We had become the first school to win both titles in the same year - The B squad had completed their undefeated season - and we had become one team, one family.
I'd like to thank the league for putting up with us - and I'd like to thank our coaches, Mike Brennan and Phil Gott, who have gone a combined 40-0-5 behind the bench so far this season. The Wings teams will both be in Colorado in April - looking to hoist a new cup - because knowing that that trophy is yours feels so damn good.