It’s on! Fed League playoffs open Friday with Aviators poised to harpoon the Whalers

It’s on! Fed League playoffs open Friday with Aviators poised to harpoon the Whalers
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Hockey history will be hammered out on the ice inside Floyd Bennett Field’s Aviator Sports Complex this weekend as the New York Aviators skate into the playoffs with their eyes fixed on snatching the Federal Hockey League’s first championship trophy and, more important, crushing their hated rivals, the Danbury Whalers.

After a slow start, the minor league hockey team fell into a winning groove and easily clinched the league’s inaugural season with a 32-13-2 record — including an unfathomable 21-game winning streak.

That streak was snapped on the last day of the season last week by, you guessed it, the Aviators’ first-round playoff rivals, the 24-18-5 Whalers.

So there’s guaranteed to be a lot of bad blood on the ice when the two teams meet at the Aviator sports complex for the start of their best-of-five series on Friday and Saturday.

Aviators Coach Robert Miller thinks the upcoming playoff matches will make it into the history books.

“We’re pretty much rivals,” said Miller, who was just named the Federal Hockey League’s Coach of the Year. “We had [the Whalers’s] number, but then they broke our streak. It’s good to be humbled a bit, but it’s never good to lose.”

Still, the Aviators will go into the playoffs taking nothing for granted. With the best in the small six-team league pitted against the worst, anything goes and anything can happen, according to team goaltender Kevin Druce.

“We’re ecstatic that we ended the season in first place, but this is a brand new season. Everything resets,” Druce, the league’s 2010-2011 season MVP, said about the playoffs. “Everyone gets a shot and everyone plays that much harder.”

Aviators Assistant Captain Matt Puntureri agreed.

“The playoffs is the only season that really matters,” he said. “No one is going to care if we won the regular season if we don’t get that trophy.”

New York Aviators against the Danbury Whalers at Aviator Sports [3159 Flatbush Ave. in Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, (718) 758-7500], March 4 at 7 pm and March 5 at 7:30 pm. Tickets $12 ($8 for seniors and children under 14). For information visit www.newyorkaviators.com.