Buffalo, NY- The Pelham Memorial Pelicans are champions of New York State’s Division II after a wild 7-6 overtime win over the Starpoint Spartans on Sunday afternoon at the LeCom Harborcenter.
For the Pelicans, who hail from Westchester County near Manhattan, it’s the second state title in school history (2017). Head coach Ed Witz was ecstatic following the win.
“You’re always looking for a storybook ending, right?” Witz said. “Our three horses – Eric Elberry, Ben Rosenberg and Lou Marcellino – have carried this team. For them to combine on the game-winning goal, it couldn’t be any better than that.”
Rosenberg, who scored the game-winning goal and whose brother Nate was on the team’s other title-winning roster, was similarly overjoyed.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Rosenberg said. “I’ve dreamed of this moment a million times – not only winning the championship, but an overtime win? It’s a once in a lifetime feeling. It’s amazing.”
At first glance the contest between these two schools was nothing out of the ordinary. Pelham got on the board initially on a goal by Marcellino early in the first period and the Spartans’ Owen Kiesman tied it a short while later. Justin Bull then gave Starpoint a 2-1 lead midway through the stanza of play after finding himself alone in the slot in front of Pelicans goaltender Zack Mallinson (who was starting in net after beginning the season on junior varsity as a forward) and lighting the lamp.
While the game did start rather inauspiciously, from the second period onwards it was clear that this championship game would become one of the best to have been staged at the Harborcenter. Less than a minute into the second period Pelham tied the score at two apiece when Griffin Evans put away a backhand off a rebound. A short while later the Pelicans grabbed the lead when Luke Green took advantage of a loose puck that was misplayed by Spartans goalie Rich Gareau.
Elbery’s shot from the left point found its way through a screen in front of Gareau to increase the Pelicans’ lead by two shortly thereafter. But the Spartans wouldn’t quit.
Almost two minutes later, a power play caused by a bench minor led to Kiesman getting his second goal of the game off a rebound. Starpoint would follow it up with scores by Bull – a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle – and Alec Kirk via a breakaway to take a one-goal lead with 31 seconds left.
With a 5-4 advantage and momentum going their way, it seemed as if Pelham would need to resign themselves to being the runner-ups. But Witz’s squad had other thoughts.
They would immediately follow up on those thoughts. Will Crotty scored off a faceoff in Starpoint’s end less than a minute into the third to tie the game and Marcellino notched his second tally of the day only two minutes later after a wrist shot beat Gareau clean on a power play.
“This game could have gone either way,” Witz said. “It wasn’t like one team was that much better – it was a dead-even game. The game wasn’t in hand at any point in time. I give my guys a lot of credit for coming back when they were down, because honestly we’re not used to being down that much.”
With a narrow 6-5 lead and time winding down, Pelham held on for dear life. But winning in regulation wasn’t in the cards, as Bull would tie the affair at six apiece – completing the hat trick off a rebound in front of Mallinson with just 2:40 to play in regulation.
Overtime beckoned, and both teams went into the extra period of play dreaming of winning a title. Fate, however, intervened, as Starpoint’s William Mainstone took a tripping penalty just 1:13 into overtime and Rosenberg sealed the deal with a power play goal.
“When we got that power play in overtime, I kind of relaxed a little bit because I know what we can do offensively,” Witz said. “You put our top five guys out there, they’re like the Showtime Lakers – they’re pretty good.”
Win the #NYSPHSAA D-2 state championship get a free shower, Pelham coach Ed Witz probably won’t complain. pic.twitter.com/gpD15HP3h1
— NYSPHSAA (@NYSPHSAA) March 13, 2022
“We were working the puck around and luckily Marcellino saw me,” Rosenberg said. “He fed it to me and I just hoped for the best. Thankfully we were able to score.”
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