The New York Aviators now find themselves in unfamiliar territory — with their backs to the wall.
The best team in the Federal Hockey League suffered bitter back-to-back defeats in the first two games in the best-of-five championship series against the Akwesasne Warriors this weekend before hundreds of dumbfounded fans.
“This is bad,” bemoaned season ticket holder Danny Murphy as he left the Aviator Sports Complex in Floyd Bennett Field on Sunday evening, after watching the icemen from Ontario take a commanding series lead in a come-from-behind, 6–4 win. “For the second night, they got soft in the third period and end up losing.”
Some fans are already planning funeral services for the scrappy New York team, which clinched the league’s inaugural season with a 32-13 record — including an unfathomable 21-game winning streak.
“This could be it,” predicted Mill Basin resident Gary Farver. “It doesn’t look like they’re going to do it.”
The Aviators started off strong against the Warriors, but ended up giving both games away, losing 4-3 on Saturday night before the embarrassing defeat on Sunday.
The Aviators dominated the ice during the early part of Saturday’s match, ending the first period with a 3-1 lead. But the Warriors went on the warpath, scoring three unanswered goals for the win.
Sunday was a repeat of Saturday’s game, just uglier: Aviator Jesse Felton scored in the first and second periods, giving his squad a comfortable 2-0 lead. But the Warriors hijacked the third period, scoring two goals within a minute and three more goals within two minutes of play.
The Aviators scrambled for footing, scoring during a third period power play and snapping in the last goal of the night with 33 seconds remaining, but by then their fate had been sealed.
“We blew the leads we had on both these games, no question,” said Aviators Coach Robert Miller. “We only played 40 minutes, not 60.”
The playoff series for the still-unnamed, though enormously coveted, Federal League trophy now heads to Canada.
“It’s do or die time now,” Miller said. “We have to put in our best effort.”
Game 3 and 4 will be at Akwesasne on March 25 and March 26, at 7:05 pm and can be watched live on the FHL Sports Network at www.livesportsvideo.com. Game 5, if necessary, will be back at Aviator Sports [3159 Flatbush Ave. in Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, (718) 758-7500]. The date and time of the final match has not been scheduled. For information, visit www.newyorkaviators.com.