HAUPPAUGE, NY -- With the game tied at 2-2 in the third period, Smithtown/Hauppauge’s Joseph Rubino blocked a Connetquot/Sayville shot from the blue line into the neutral zone with just the opposing goaltender staring at him from the other side of the ice.
Rubino, the Bulls’ third line center, chased it down and streaked down the left side of the ice with two T-Birds defenders on his back and fired a shot towards the net.
Next thing you knew, the Smithtown/Hauppauge crowd erupted.
Rubino’s shot slipped by Connetquot/Sayvile goaltender Trevor Von Kampen and into the back of the net which proved to be the game-winning goal as the Bulls defeated the T-Birds, 4-2 to win the team’s first Suffolk County High School Hockey League championship since 2000-2001.
The Bulls swept the best-of-three series 2-0.
Granice had lots of praise for the unlikely hero Rubino, who scored his seventh goal of the season.
“Joey is a one of a kind player. He plays with everything,” Granice said. “He may not be the most skilled player but he uses every bit of his body. He’s a senior so I’m really going to miss him next year.”
The Bulls coach benefited from four different goal scorers on the night, and seven different players made its way on the scoresheet.
“These kids battled all year long,” Smithtown/Hauppauge head coach Vincent Granice said following the game. “They played a tremendous game, starting with the goaltender all the way down. Every kid contributed tonight.”
Granice’s goaltender Thomas Drapala, just like in Game 1 of the final series, came up big when big spots were needed.
With the game even at 1-1 in the second period and the T-Birds buzzing in the Smithtown/Hauppauge zone, Drapala blockered away a Tyler Rafice backhand attempt which deflected off the crossbar and bounced across the goal line before the Bulls defense could clear any imminent danger away. What looked like a goal was waived off at the goal line by the referee to keep the Bulls even.
Just a minute later, Drapala denied Connetquot/Sayville forward Casey O’Leary on a breakaway to hold the fort even at one and kept the Bulls alive.
Following the game, Drapala, a senior and the star of Game 1, said that he wanted the county title more than anything.
“I’m feeling amazing. I don’t think the feeling has hit yet,” Drapala said. “This whole series, I don’t know, I told myself that this is it and I wanted it more than anything. So I went out there and did it.”
Things didn’t look so rosy from the get-go for Smithtown/Hauppauge however as the T-Birds, just like Game 1, would get on the board first.
Just 4:48 into the first period, PJ DiMartino nabbed a loose puck at the Bulls blue line and cut through the defense, roofing a backhander over a stretched out Drapala to give Connetquot/Sayville its second straight first goal of the game.
The T-Birds would take the lead into the first intermission, but the Bulls, just like Game 1 would answer right back with an equalizer thanks to the efforts of team captain Brian Masi and the Bulls powerplay.
Just a minute and a half into the second period, Masi fired a wrist shot that was blockered away by Von Kampen and directed to the corner. Masi chased down the rebound himself and found Michael Gioia streaking towards the front of the net, who slid Masi’s pass past an unsuspecting T-Birds netminder to tie the game at one apiece.
It was the Bulls fifth power play goal of the short series.
Shortly after Drapala’s flurry of aforementioned saves, series MVP Thomas Dunn notched his fifth goal of the playoffs and fifth point of the finals with a glove-side wrist shot past Von Kampen for the 2-1 lead.
Drapala couldn’t say enough about his teammate, who along with the Game 2 goal had four assists earlier in the series.
“Dunn was unbelievable. His speed is unreal,” Drapala said. “He knows what to do with the puck and has great hands. He’s just an unbelievable player overall.”
His coach echoed the same sentiments.
“He’s a tremendous hockey player,” coach Granice said. “He came up big all year, and a great two-way player. He played his heart out.”
The T-Birds evened things up at the end of the second-period as Corey Vadala fired a laser from the left point past Drapala to tie the game at 2-2 with just 14.5 seconds left in the middle frame.
However, the momentum wouldn’t last as Rubino would put the Bulls up for good with the game-winning goal, followed by an insurance marker by Jonathan Gianchetta with 5:11 remaining to ice things for the Bulls to crown Smithtown/Hauppauge the 2011-12 SCHSHL champions.
For two teams that have been so evenly matched up throughout the 2011-12 season, Smithtown/Hauppauge Coach Granice knew it was going to be a fight to the finish.
“I knew it was going to be a close series, and each game was,” Granice said. “(Connetquot/Sayville coach) Bruce (Kollmar) has a tough team there. They’re a very good team with a high-powered offense. We knew we had to slow them down.
Slow them down they did. And for that, the Bulls can call themselves champions.