DANBURY, CT- 48 wins, an MVP, a perfect record during the playoffs, and with an overtime championship clinching goal 1:32 into the extra period, the New Jersey Outlaws are the kings of the Federal Hockey League in their first year of existence by the score of 5-4. The Outlaws take the series over the Whalers 3 games to none.
It looked early on in the first period that Danbury would be extending the series to a fourth game, when the Whalers scored the first two goals of the contest 1:44 apart early in the opening period, on tallies from Andrew Willock from Greg Holt at 3:13, and Alex Goupil on a nice feed from Chris Seifert on a two on one rush at 4:57. Danbury outshot the Outlaws 7 to 1 through the first 5 minutes.
After New Jersey Head Coach Chris Firriolo called a timeout after Danbury’s second goal, New Jersey had a few golden opportunities go by the wayside on a few bouncing pucks and a few point blank 1 on 1 shots from Kevin Cooper and Travis Kauffeldt, New Jersey broke the ice on their side of the scoreboard, when Anthony Battaglia beat Whalers goaltender Peter Vetri on his backhand on an assist from Brett Liscomb at the 14:02 mark of the period to make it 2 to 1 after 1 period of play. There were no penalties in the period and each team had 11 shots.
Danbury came out the locker room determined to break the game open, and forward Adam Houli broke in on a 2 on 1 just over a minute in, and had Outlaws goaltender Dan McWhinney down and beaten stick side and rang a shot off the left post. New Jersey would take the stroke of luck and Kevin Cooper would even the score at two on assists from Lawne Snyder and Matt Puntereri at the 2:01 mark.
Forty six seconds later, with Outlaws forward Brett Liscomb in the penalty box for hooking, Danbury would retake the lead at the 2:47 mark of the middle period on a goal by Matt Moffat from Seifert and Sean O’Malley on the power play. Midway through the period, Danbury had a chance to take a 2 goal lead, when Houli rushed down the ice and split the Outlaws defense and had McWhinney beaten again, but Houli rang the right post with a forehand wrist shot and the game remained a 3-2 Danbury lead.
McWhinney came up huge on a two on none rush when the Jersey defenseman fell down and Holt set up Houli on a beautiful centering feed that McWhinney stopped with his right toe 2 minutes later. Travis Kauffeldt would then tie the score for the second time for the Outlaws with a high stick side shot that just nestled under the crossbar on Vetri on an assist from Cooper at 17:16 and that’s how the period ended, with the score tied at 3 a piece. Danbury held the edge on shots 25 to 18 after 2.
Both teams came out fighting hard for the 3rd period as each team threw shots at the opposing goaltenders with neither team able to solve the other teams netminder. Vetri would rob Liscomb on a shot and rebound shot point blank in front of the net early into the period, Chris Seifert would turn the momentum back in Danbury’s favor by firing home his 3rd goal of the playoffs from James Sanford and Goupil to give the Whalers their 3rd lead of the night at 4 to 3 at the 7:29 mark.
New Jersey kept working hard and had some excellent chances to tie the score, and they put one in the back of the net with 2:32 to go in the 3rd when Nathan Oke took a slap shot from the point that a Whalers stick caught a piece of and changed direction and fluttered into the net to tie the score. Oke received credit for the goal, with Matt Puntureri garnering the only assist.
The Outlaws swarmed the Danbury net for the better part of the last 2 minutes and nearly had the game won in regulation when forward Trevor Karasiewicz fired a blast from the left point off a long rebound and found the back of the net with 9.1 seconds left. Referee Eric Ernst called the goal off, stating that New Jersey forward Matt Miller was in the crease, Danbury caught a huge break as the teams couldn’t decide a winner in 60 minutes of great action. Danbury lead in shots 34 to 22 after 3 periods.
Both teams tried to gain the early edge in overtime, and each team had scoring chances in their offensive zones, but Puntureri would scoop up the puck in the neutral zone and hand it off to Jason Reese on a last 2 on 1 odd man rush and Reese would beat Vetri for the championship clinching goal 92 seconds into overtime to give the Outlaws their only lead of the night, which was the most important one of all, the final score 5 to 4.
Goaltender Dan McWhinney stopped 31 of 35 Danbury shots in earning the win, Vetri stopped 18 of 23 Outlaw shots in taking the loss. Seifert’s goal and 2 assists earned him the games 3rd star, Matt Puntureri’s 3 assists gave him the number 2 star, and Jason Reese’s game winning goal gave him the number 1 star of the game.
New Jersey was 0 for 3 on the power play, Danbury was 1 for 3 on the man advantage. The championship is Outlaws coach Chris Firriolo’s 1st ever championship and water dousing, Dan McWhinney was named the playoff MVP, winning all 6 games he played in, ending with a Goals Against Average of 2.50.
FHL Commissioner Don Kirnan handed off the Cup to Outlaws Captain Travis Kauffeldt setting off a wild celebration as the winners drank from the Cup in front of the Outlaws entourage that made the trip from Wayne, NJ.
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