Garden City Wings Ice Hockey Club

Wings Middle School 2004-2005 GC News 1/28/05
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At Halfway Point, Freshman Wings Improve Steadily

It's mid-season for the Garden City Wings Freshman ice-hockey team, and the middle school players find themselves looking up at the others in their division of the Nassau County High School Hockey League. It's not where they want to be, but given the all around improvements in this team since the start of the season, it's only a matter of time before the tides change to bring a league win. In the words of head coach, Rich Peck, "We need a few pucks to go our way!"

Wings Vs Bruin: Wings center, Mike Carleo lines up a shot on the Bruins net with teammates Eric
Diller and Frankie Giammona.

The addition of sixth graders with varying experience, may make it hard for some coaches to know what to expect when one has a little bit of a younger lineup, but not for this head coach. All season long, Rich Peck, with assistant coach Joe Brown, has stressed to the entire team the importance of strong positional skating. When asked about his team's progress back in December, Coach Peck said, "I am very pleased with the improvement of each player's skills thus far. Our team systems and play in general are progressing slowly but surely. We need to make sure that we are doing the little things consistently well, so that our opponents cannot capitalize on any misplayed pucks. That has to be our goal for the second half of the season."

Pat Powers wins the face-off with Nolan McKeown ready to jump on the puck.

That expectation on the team was evident in an exhibition game against the Great Neck Bruins of the Long Island Amateur Hockey League played shortly after their coach's statements. The Freshman Wings answered back winning against the Bruins, 11-1. They dominated their opponents by demonstrating what they have been practicing time and time again. Spiros Markopoulos and Eric Diller would come away with hat tricks, while Nolan McKeown and Christian Knoch would score their first seasonal goals. The Freshman Wings however, would lose their next three league games as they were out-sized by players mistaken to be auto-license-wielding teens.

GC vs. Plainview: Captain, Tom Greco receives the puck from
Spiros Markopoulos to make the first goal.

That is not to say that the team reverted back to their early season style. In the game against Massapequa, filled with super-sized players that made Garden City goaltender, James Morra look minute, the Freshman Wings played remarkably well. James Morra, playing phenomenally, robbed the hockey-jerseyed Goliaths of a lopsided score, while facing 33 shots on goal. On the other hand, the Wings were unable to create scoring opportunities, nor capitalize offensively. What the team was looking forward to was an opponent similar in size and skills, for a first league win.

Tom White and Pat Donahue defends the zone against Plainview. Continued On Page 13A

That first league win was anticipated this past snowy Saturday in a match against Plainview. A win against Plainview would be the boost that the Freshman Wings need to set the tone for the remaining season stretch. The Wings, in full force, were brewing their own storm inside the Iceworks facility, while outside, nature was brewing its own in the form of a blizzard. The intensity was all around. On the opening face-off, the Freshman team came out playing hard with a fast paced momentum. Garden City dominated the play during the first period when team Captain and goal leader Tom Greco, assisted by Spiros Kouroupos and Spiros Markopoulos, scored the first goal. With two and a half minutes left in the period, Spiros Markopoulos, who leads in assists, scored an unassisted goal to take the Freshman Wings to a 2-0 lead.

Head Coach Rich Peck working his players, Kenny Zukas, James Morra, Christian Knoch
and Frankie Giammona during a practice.

Plainview struck back early in the first half of the second period with two goals to tie the game. Goaltender, John Bock faced seventeen shots on goal, making some exceptional saves in his stand up style, before turning the net over to James Morra. Undeterred by the tied score, Garden City relied on the hard playing toughness of Stephen Alonge, Tom White, Pat Powers, Ken Zukas, Tim Moynihan, Nolan McKeown and Pat Donahue, to keep the pressure on Plainview. Bodies flew at center-ice as Alternate Captain Mike Carleo and winger, Christian Knoch delivered several hard hits sending the puck ahead, while offensive players, Eric Diller, and Frankie Giammona continued the fore-checking to keep the play in the Plainview defensive end. With the minutes ticking down, Spiros Markopoulos makes his second goal of the game, unassisted, finessing the puck behind the Plainview goalie.

Winger, Christian Knoch in pursuit of the puck chases down his Plainview opponent.

Tom Greco scored again with a powerful slap shot eight minutes into the third period. Garden City's lead, now 4-2 with much time remaining does not hold for long. Plainview scores two goals to tie the score at 4-4. Fighting to break the tie, Plainview blasts a slap shot to the glove side of James Morra, but James serves them with an incredible glove save. The intensity thickened when in the final minute of the contest, with the play in the Garden City defensive zone, James Morra again makes the save, then prevents a rebound from finding its mark. With the clock running down the final seconds, a Plainview player managed to take his position unopposed in front of the net, scoring on a quick second rebound to break the tie with six seconds remaining. Final score: Plainview 5, Garden City 4.

Despite this latest lost and the team record, the Freshman Wings have an impressive never-say-die attitude. Continually upbeat and hard working, it is obvious that this team has a passion for the game of ice-hockey. The objectives now are to continue with their coach's philosophy, and develop as many of the players as possible in order to turn things around for the remainder of the season, and be in good position for next year. In a recent conversation with Rich Peck for an update on his team's progress, he said, "Our game has improved tremendously in the sense that the players are discovering how their positional responsibilities fit into our team systems. As each player's skills continue to improve, our goal for the second half of the season has to be to play tough defense and minimize give-aways. We are scoring enough goals that we should be able to win hockey games, but we cannot give up more than we have the capability of scoring."

A tough first half of the season it has been for the players and coaches of the Garden City Freshman Wings ice-hockey team. But, given the first rate attitude, respect, and cohesiveness of this group, the tides will soon change. One can understand why Rich Peck enjoys coaching this group of players. "My favorite aspect of this team is that, to a player, every shift is played with the spirit that the game is tied with seconds to go no matter what the scoreboard says!" ...Never say die! Go Freshman Wings!

Tom White in posession after a pass from Ken Zukas. .

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