As players from Lynbrook and East Rockaway’s varsity hockey team skated off the ice for the final time last season after suffering a crushing defeat in the opening round of the High School Hockey League of Nassau County playoffs, they knew that, somehow, they would get a chance at redemption.
A year later, on Jan. 12, with many of the same players and coaches on the roster, the boys from Lynbrook and East Rockaway took home the league’s Liberty Division championship, defeating Oceanside in a best-of-three series, 2-0. The Liberty Division comprises five of the HSHLNC’s teams. The last time local players took home a championship was in 1932 when all were from Lynbrook. They joined forces with East Rockaway in 2011.
In the first game of the championship series, the Lynbrook-East Rockaway team won a dramatic overtime contest, 5-4, on a game-winning goal from senior Gerard Clayton. The deciding game proved much easier for Lynbrook-East Rockaway, as it cruised to a 7-1 victory and the division championship. Six different skaters found the back of the net in the game, and junior Justin Leone scored twice.
It was Oceanside that came back from a three-goal deficit in last season’s playoffs to knock off Lynbrook-East Rockaway, but the players and coaches on this year’s team made sure not to make the same mistakes.
“It didn’t sit well with all of our juniors, and they didn’t forget about that loss so easily,” said assistant coach Frank Leone of last year’s playoff game. “This year, given the result of last year, they were not going to be denied by [Oceanside].”
Despite losing five seniors at the end of last season, head coach Jim Laurelli was confident in his team’s chances this year. “The core of the team was still intact,” he said, “and we thought, going into this year, that if we added a few more key players, which we did, that we could really do something.”
One of the players the team added was Greg Hendrickson, a freshman at Lynbrook High School. He played a big part in the team’s offense, joining seniors Jonathan Kaszuba and Clayton on the squad’s top line.