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Bulls win second SCHSHL championship behind co-MVPs
Tom DeRosa knows the feeling of getting to the finals and not winning it all. It happened last season for the Smithtown-Hauppauge goaltender.
So when it was time to get ready for his senior season this year, DeRosa decided to take on more of a leadership role and help the younger guys.
“You don’t realize how long of a season it is,” said DeRosa, who was named an assistant captain. “If we’re going to make this run, I made it a point to everyone that I’ve been a guy who has already been there and knew what it took.”
DeRosa put the Bulls on his back and delivered when it mattered most, starting in net for both of Smithtown-Hauppauge’s two championship game wins over St. John the Baptist this past week.
The Bulls (20-3-0-1) captured their second Suffolk County High School Hockey League title in three years with a 6-2 victory over the Cougars in Game 2 last Wednesday at The Rinx in Hauppauge.
In Game 1 on Monday, Smithtown-Hauppauge came from behind to win 4-3.
“For me especially, it was exciting,” said DeRosa, who was named co-MVP with teammate Nick Lupo. “I wasn’t on the team as a sophomore because I was playing travel hockey and last season left a bitter taste. To come out this year and win the whole thing, it was really great.”
DeRosa went 16-3-1 overall and won all four playoff games, but he didn’t do it alone. Lupo, the team’s leading goal scorer with 27 goals and 16 assists, had five goals and four assists in the postseason.
In the finals, Lupo scored the Bulls’ third goal and assisted Anthony Zyller on the sixth goal in Smithtown-Hauppauge’s Game 2 win.
“I know that when we work as a team, it’s hard to stop us,” Lupo said. “We had an incredible season. When we’re playing our game, there’s nobody that could beat us. I know when I wasn’t there, everyone stepped up.”
Lupo is referring to his absence in Game 1. Five minutes into the second period, with the Bulls trailing 1-0, Lupo scored to tie it at one, but not without some serious concern.
On the ensuing celebration, Lupo heard his right shoulder pop and had to miss the remainder of the game. He did return for Game 2.
“I’ve had a lot of problems with this shoulder,” said Lupo, who suffered a torn labrum last season that forced him to miss the final five games and the postseason last season. He played in every game this season, except for a few do to travel hockey. “At first, it’s pretty excruciating to go through and I was upset that there was a possibility that I was going to miss the rest of the series. I was still confident.”
Smithtown-Hauppauge was still confident as well, especially when Zyller scored the game-winner in Game 1. Zyller had seven points in the four playoff games, while Devin Jenny had a goal and five assists combined in the finals.
St. John the Baptist coach Thomas Fuccillo felt Game 1 was the one to be had.
“Truthfully, the first game, we outplayed them,” Fuccillo said. “We took our foot off the gas in the last five minutes and they capitalized on our mistakes. I think we got lazy and they made us pay.”
To Fuccillo, the Cougars, which finished 18-4-2, didn’t execute their game plan as well as it had in the regular season, when St. John the Baptist won both meetings.
“We knew from the previous two games that we over forechecked and were overaggressive,” Smithtown-Hauppauge coach Vincent Granice said. “This time, we took away the neutral zone and that stymied them. I believe that’s what slowed it down.”
DeRosa had everything slowed down right from the start.
“It was all about taking it one game at a time,” DeRosa said. “It’s so cliché, but it’s so true. We didn’t ever look ahead in the schedule. Knowing that our end goal is the county final, but you can’t get there unless you win the one in front of you.”