On Wednesday evening, CIRIUS Fitness Ice Hockey arrived at Jersey Shore Ice Arena with one goal in mind, to win their first championship. The hype prior to game time was at an all-time high, and for the players, the anticipation leading up to the game was almost unbearable.
CIRIUS Fitness made a few changes to their normal strategy before the game. Will Hanley orchestrated some key adjustments to generate a high energy lineup and spark some chemistry on both sides of the ice. Brendan Keelen and Mike Nill were set as a pair on offense, while George Noble and Joe Cirincione were set as the second pair. Dave Keelen, Scott Dinella, and Will Hanley would then cycle through as the third man on each line. The concept was designed to keep consistent lines while offering fresh legs for each shift change. Another key adjustment was sending Chris Johnson back to defense to join the Fischer brothers and Ryan Nolan. As usual, Andrew Rammairone started between the pipes.
Shortly after the puck dropped, CIRIUS did not get the start they wanted. Within the first two minutes, the team found themselves killing a 5-3 after Joe Cirincione and Will Hanley were each called for stick penalties. While this could have been a major momentum swing right out of the gate, the special teams unit successfully killed off both penalties. Only a few minutes later, George Noble put the first tally on the board for CIRIUS. With five minutes remaining in the first period, Shaughnessy took a roughing penalty which gave CIRIUS their first power play of the game. After failing to score, CIRIUS took their one goal lead into the first intermission.
The second period got a bit chippier as the game grew more intense. Eric Fischer was called for interference within the first minute and a half. Another strong effort by the penalty kill unit resulted in CIRIUS maintaining its one goal lead. Shaughnessy found themselves in the penalty box for almost four minutes but CIRIUS was unable to capitalize. However, six seconds after a 5-on-3 power play concluded, Mike Nill, scored to put the team up by two goals. Less than two minutes later, with 3:12 remaining in the period, Joe Cirincione put the team up by three with a goal from the slot. The three goal lead was cut to two after Shaughnessy scored their first goal of the game with under a minute left in the second period.
During the intermission, many of the team members spoke up motivate the group. Goalie Andrew Rammairone stressed the importance of playing tight defensively. Brendan Keelen and George Noble spoke up about the offensive game and keeping a third guy high in the zone to back-check when needed. CIRIUS spoke words of encouragement to ensure the two goal lead would not slip away. It was a crucial moment in the game and the team was confident they could avoid a Shaughnessy comeback attempt, similar to Games 1 and 2.
The third period started and the team went right back to its game plan. They chipped pucks into the zone and chased after them. Rammairone, as he had been all game, was solid in goal and stopped every shot that came his way. Then, with 6:56 remaining in the final period, CIRIUS’ hard work paid off. Scott Dinella, new to the team this season, scored perhaps one of the biggest goals in team history. As the puck hovered around the front of the opposing goaltender, Dinella sought it out and bashed it into the back of the net. The bench erupted in pure elation as Dinella’s arms shot up into the air to celebrate. The score was now 4-1 with half a period remaining in the game.
Shaughnessy made a effort to come back and finally managed to put another tally on the board with 3:34 remaining in the game. CIRIUS called a timeout to have one last discussion. The team huddled close and fired off thoughts and insights about how to secure the victory. They split for the last time of the season and went right back to work. Critical seconds continued to tick off the clock. CIRIUS continued to clear the puck from their zone and force Shaughnessy to go chasing after it. Then, with two minutes left in the game, the Shaughnessy netminder was replaced with an extra skater.
After battling through for a minute and a half, Joe Cirincione forced the puck in the offensive zone. Shaughnessy defenders attempted to shoot it around the boards to clear the zone but he kept the puck in once more. As a defender closed in, Cirincione flipped the puck to Will Hanley who finished off the victory by scoring the fifth and final goal of the game.
The win sealed CIRIUS Fitness Ice Hockey’s first ever Championship. The team celebrated on the ice and then back in the locker room. In the end, the Championship is a true testament to how far the team has come after ending 2014 in disappointment. New blood in the locker room and a new attitude on the ice brought forth the most successful season as a unit. Andrew Rammairone was instrumental in the team’s success after an incredible rookie season. Scott Dinella’s Championship goal was a stroke of excellence which gave CIRIUS the cushion they needed to secure the win. Their additions to the usual suspects on the ice made this season what it was…the best in the league.
The group will enjoy a well-deserved break as they recover in preparation for the summer season at the Jersey Shore Ice Arena.
2015 PLAYER STATS
2 – Chris Johnson
4 - George Fischer
5 – Joe Cirincione “A”
13 – Rob Susca "A"
19 – Brendan Keelen “C”
20 – Keith Meyers
21 – Dave Keelen
27 – Mike Pavlou
31 – Jay Moye - G
35 - Andrew Rammairone - G
42 – Eric Fischer
50 – Will Hanley “A”
52 – Scott Dinella
82 – Ryan Nolan
88 - Mike Nill
98 – George Noble