East Williston fought off elimination and a late push from Oceanside in Game 2 of the High School Hockey League of Nassau County Liberty Finals Wednesday in Bethpage, winning 5-4 to tie the series and force a deciding Game 3 on Feb. 26.
Justin Breslin scored twice and goalie Graham Turk made one clutch save after another as the Wildcats pulled out a win to keep its hopes of winning back-to-back Liberty Titles alive.
"It's huge to get this win," defenseman Jake Levy said. "We want to win a Nassau County championship."
East Williston took a 1-0 lead in the first as Ryan Pfingst skated past the defense up the right side and slid the puck through the legs of Oceanside goalie Dominick Lamano. Although Oceanside controlled the puck for most of the period and had plenty of scoring chances, Turk was outstanding in net and kept the Sailors scoreless through the opening period.
"They move the puck well and they had a lot of possession in our zone, so it's hard with the way they can get the puck in from the point and set screens in front but I try to fight through it," Turk said.
Both offenses came alive in the second period, starting with a three-goal onslaught by East Williston that gave the Wildcats a 4-0 lead. Breslin and Lucas Blumenfeld scored within the first two minutes of the period, and Breslin added a goal with 7:07 left by stopping a puck in front of the net and going to his backhand to beat Lamano.
Oceanside responded just 15 seconds later, as Mike Jennings finished a one-timer right on top of the crease off a pass from Andrew Green to make it 4-1. One minute later, the Sailors cut the deficit to 4-2 on Joe Mitchell's wrister from the left circle. Oceanside, though, took four penalties in the last half of the period and was not able to build on its momentum.
Oceanside coach Bill Clark, in the midst of killing off penalties, said to his team on the bench, "We're killing ourselves out there. We got two quick ones and have nothing else to show for it. We've got to use our heads."
In the third, Matthew Bernot scored the Wildcats' final goal early in the period to give his team a 5-2 lead.
Oceanside's Nick Lalli and Doug DiDominica pulled the Sailors within one, but Turk's crucial saves on the penalty kill and in the final minutes were enough to force a third game.
"I tried to get my angles right and stay at the top of the crease," Turk said. "They were keeping the pressure on and waiting on the back door. I tried to be aggressive but it was a tough game."
After losing the first game of the series, 6-4, Breslin said the Wildcats had a better approach in Game 2, and are excited for the chance to play for a title.
"We had our jump back in our step today," Breslin said. "We're playing a lot better. There was a lot more open ice today and we took advantage of it."