Heartbreaker! Aviators crash and burn in playoff nail-biter

Aviators left-winger Steve Koich tries to sneak past Whaler Adam Blanchette during Brooklyn’s 4-2 victory over Connecticut.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

This one was a heartbreaker.

The Brooklyn Aviators fell to the Danbury Whalers 5–4 at the Hangar on Friday, losing their first playoff game in an overtime nail-biter.

The match was both tragic and riveting for A’s fans, who watched Brooklyn’s boys of winter outplay and outshoot the Whalers — then lose the team’s only home game in the best of three series.

Aviators coach Rob Miller said the A’s ruled the ice all night, but couldn’t keep the charging Whalers at bay in the additional set.

“We outplayed them pretty much the whole game,” Miller explained “[Our goalie Jo] St Pierre made a mistake at the end and, unfortunately, that’s all it takes.”

Longtime fans agreed that the Aviators did their best this season, even though they finished in fourth place — a far cry from the 21 game winning streak the team celebrated a year earlier.

“Between this season and the last, their level of play is about the same,” said A’s fan Adam Ocharsky. “It used to be that they would win every time, but the other teams have really improved.”

The Whalers came out of the box like an orca on a feeding frenzy on Friday night, scoring three unanswered goals late in the first period.

Brooklyn ace forward Jesse Felten managed to get his team on the board in second period, giving them enough confidence to secure a 4–3 lead at the start of the third period with three surprising back-to-back goals that sent fans into a frenzy.

But the Whalers still had plenty of fight left and managed to tie the game with an unbelievable last minute goal three seconds before the final buzzer.

It was a long overtime for fans on both sides, but the puck eventually landed in Brooklyn’s net after a heart-crushing shot from Whaler Andrew Willock at the 13:40 mark, giving Danbury the advantage as both teams finish the series in Connecticut.

“Danbury has the most fans in the league, it’s hard to play there,” said Miller, knowing that the A’s will have to beat the Whalers twice at the Danbury Ice Arena if they want to move to the next playoff round — and get their padded gloves on the coveted Commissioner’s Cup.

Friday may have been the A’s last home game until the fall, but, judging from the cheers coming from the stands, one could tell that the fans will be back next season.

“I’ll be back next year,” said Brooklyn fan Jake Andrew. “I’ll be back every year.”

The Brooklyn Aviators will be in Connecticut, but one can still watch the game at the Aviator Sports and Events Center [3159 Flatbush Ave. in Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, (718) 758-7580] tonight at a playoff viewing party. The puck drops at 7:35 pm. For more info, visit www.BrooklynAviators.com.

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