Aviators best Whalers to make it to the finals!

Aviators best Whalers to make it to the finals!
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Next stop: Brooklyn hockey history.

The New York Aviators secured their seat in the Federal Hockey League’s playoff finals on Sunday afternoon by besting their rivals the Danbury Whalers in a 4-3 overtime squeaker — a victorious end to a nerve-wracking best-of-five series.

The Aviators’s last hurdle before raising the coveted, still unnamed, Federal League championship trophy will be a best-of-five series against the Akwesasne Warriors (30-17) — hockey hatchet men who’ve cut their skates on the St. Lawrence River between New York and Canada and are second best in the league. The first two games of the final matchup will be on Friday and Saturday night at Floyd Bennett Field’s Aviator Sports Arena.

In the decisive fifth game, Aviator Christopher Holmes scored the first goal of the afternoon after nine minutes of play.

The Whalers evened everything up quickly, paving the way for a nail-biting second period. Aviator Matthew Puntureri managed to score off Danbury’s amped-up defense, but the 24-23 Whalers quickly doubled up with back-to-back goals, giving them the lead when the buzzer sounded.

But the 32-15 Aviators weren’t about to call it quits: Nick Grove tied it up in the middle of the third period — and Puntureri knocked in the winning goal in sudden death overtime.

Sunday’s victory capped a grueling weekend for the two teams.

The Aviators and Whalers were even when they met at the Danbury Ice Arena, but the Whalers took a commanding 2-1 lead with a 3-2 victory in a sudden death thriller — where the winning goal actually bounced off of Aviator Warren Galloway before sailing into the net.

Saturday’s game was quite different: the Aviators showed no prisoners as they beached the Whalers 7-0, assuring Sunday’s final slug fest.

New York Aviators vs. the Akwesasne Warriors at Aviator Sports [3159 Flatbush Ave. in Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, (718) 758-7500] March 19 at 7:35 pm and March 20 at 5 pm. Tickets $12 ($8 for seniors and children under 14). For information visit www.newyorkaviators.com.

Casey Mignone is an Aviators heartthrob.
Photo by Steve Solomonson