High School Ice Hockey:
Friday, March 12, 1999
By Mike Costantino
The Eastern Vikings defeated the Lenape Indians 6-4 to capture the SJHSIHL varsity championship at the Coliseum on Friday night before a packed house. The Vikings were led by Mike Becker, who figured in on all the goals as he scored one goal and five assists. Mike Cianfrani contributed two goals and two assists and Eastern won their second straight league championship.
Eastern came out and controlled the play. Mike Cianfrani gave them the 1-0 lead with Becker and Joe Jurkofsky assisting. Lenape responded less than four minutes later as Jerry Reed scored to tie the game at 1-1 with Jeff Bagnoli and Jon Schnepf assisting. Eastern would score two goals in twenty-one seconds as Rob Ianni and Cianfrani would give the Vikings a 3-1 lead heading into the second period. Lenape seemed to catch a break as they went on the power play two minutes into the period, however the Vikings continued to force the issue. Not only did they keep the puck in the attack zone, Becker would score a shorthanded goal and give Eastern a 4-1 lead.
Down by three goals, the Indians could have packed it in but this team has battled all year. Bagnoli scored at the six minute mark and Lenape was within two at 4-2. When Sean Sheehan stopped Adam Levenson on a breakaway, a minute later on the ensuing rush up ice Schnepf would bring the Indians to 4-3 as Reed and Rick Salvador assisted. With momentum now wearing a Lenape uniform, Schnepf would tie the score at 4-4 with just over a minute played in the third period. The defense of the Indians was severely tested as the Vikings had a two man advantage for one-minute and fourteen seconds but failed to score.
The constant in the series was the Vikings ability to forecheck and keep Lenape pinned in their own end. They would out-shoot Lenape 40-26 for the game, and when Levenson scored with just over six minutes left in the game to make it 5-4, you had a feeling that Lenape would still come back. With two minutes left in the game, Mike Keppler made a great glove save to preserve the win. Becker closed out the scoring on a feed from Cianfrani and the 6-4 final.
Coach Pontonio, who has experienced success at every level he has coached, including four JV championships and now two straight championships in his first two years said, "Lenape played a great series and I congratulate them on a great year." We asked the coach to compare this year's series with last year, and he felt "last year we had to go to a shootout which made it more tense."
We congratulate Coach Pontonio and his assistants, Steve Rumbos and Jim Lemma and manager Deborah Phillips along with the players on achieving their goal. As this was the last game of the season, we would also like to thank Bob Schmidt, Jack Anderson and John Andrews for all their help.
Photos by Gary Finigan
©1999 South Jersey Sports Online
A Product of WOW Internet Solutions