The 4-time defending Super Bowl Bye Week Invitational Champs Leominster Blackhawks found themselves in a very familiar place on Sunday afternoon at the Yellow Breeches Sports Center in Harrisburg, Pa. The Blackhawks faced off against the Pittsburgh Gods in a rematch of the Cool Hockey Events North American Championships where the Blackhawks defeated the Gods 2-1 in overtime last March.
The path to the finals was not easy for either team. The #1 seed Blackhawks defeated #8 seed Pittsburgh Stars N Snipes 4-0 in the quarterfinals and the #4 seed South Jersey Supreme 7-4 in their semi final matchup.
The Gods, entering Sunday as the #7 seed, defeated the #2 seed Boston Saints in the quarterfinals 3-2 and the #3 seed Leominster Americans 1-0 in the semi final matchup to set the stage for the finals.
The finals featured two of the top goaltenders and offensive players in the US. The Blackhawks Jason Rocha and the Gods Jon Rethage played outstanding, controlling rebounds and cutting off shooting angles while Bobby Housser and Steve Gregory led the offensive attacks for their respective teams all tournament long.
The beginning period was scoreless until Steve Gregory of the Pittsburgh Gods scored the game’s first goal with about 1:30 left in the first period. A text book give and go between Roy Duttine and Gregory was executed perfectly drawing the defender to Duttine who gave to ball back to Gregory who blasted a slap shot from the top middle of the right circle beating Blackhawks goaltender Jason Rocha short side high.
The second period was physical and scoring chances for both teams were plentiful. The Gods held the 1-0 lead into the third period by playing an extremely tight defensive game clogging the passing lanes and blocking shots. Steve Gregory and Bobby Housser continued to lead their respective teams creating plays at each end of the rink. Andrew Hildreth made his presence felt with stellar defensive play and several bombs from the point answered by Jonathan Rethage.
The last five minutes of the 3rd period were action packed with both goalies coming up with key saves to keep it a one-goal game. The Blackhawks relentless pressure gained them a power play with just under five minutes to go. Andrew Hildreth and Bobby Housser continued to blast shots from the point while The Gods continued their extremely tight defensive play, keeping the shots to the offside and clogging the shooting lanes. Rethage did not yield many rebounds and continued his outstanding play.
Rocha was off at the minute mark to give the Blackhawks the extra attacker. Jonathan Rethage stopped everything the Blackhawks could throw at him. The Gods were able to put the game away with an empty net goal with just a few seconds remaining to complete the shutout victory.
Tournament organizer George Tarantino handed out individual awards to:
MVP: Jonathan Rethage – Pittsburgh Gods
MVD: Antonio Fortunato – Leominster Blackhawks
MVG: Jonathan Rethage – Pittsburgh Gods
All Tournament Team:
Justin Dunnivan – GPDC Arsenal
Coby Sweat – Buffalo Fusion
Denny Schlegel – Buffalo Fusion
Ricky Mastropietro – Boston Saints
Jonathan Ruiz – SJ Supreme
Eric Zimmerman – SJ Supreme
Joe Trapani – SJ Supreme
Korey Wilson – Leominster Americans
Brandon Jones – Leominster Americans
Josh Barbas – Leominster Americans
Tyler Caba – Phoenixville Graffix
Josh Merchant – Leominster Blackhawks
Bobby Housser – Leominster Blackhawks
Steve Gregory – Pittsburgh Gods
Aaron Hahne – Pittsburgh Gods
Andrew Hildreth – Leominster Blackhawks
Luke Jones – Boston Saints
Antonio Fortunato – Leominster Blackhawks
Rick Zimmick – Pittsburgh Gods
Dave Molitierno – Pittsburgh Gods
Michael Zambon – SJ Supreme
Jonathan Rethage – Pittsburgh Gods