With a packed house looking on, the Bulls and Knights took to the ice at The Rinx in Hauppauge on Sunday to battle for first place in the Suffolk County High School Hockey League.
Smithtown-Hauppauge was on the verge of first place when they took their first lead of the game on a Bobby Trites goal with 1:20 left. The Bulls trailed by as many as 2 before scoring three straight in the third period to take a 4-3 lead.
Kings Park-Commack had time left, however, and with some of the league’s best scorers, anything seemed possible. The Knights pulled their goaltender with 40 seconds left. After a few failed attempts, the Knights set up the league’s leading scorer Michael Brazill, who let a slap shot go to the net.
In what seemed like slow motion, the puck bounced off goaltender Jake Citrin and right to the stick of Knight Billy Prange. With 5 seconds on the clock, Prange scored for the third time in the game to tie it up at 4.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Prange said of his hat trick goal. “We were trying to get anything we could on net and [Michael] Brazill puts a perfect shot into the goalie and I’m just left wide open with an empty net.”
The implications could not have been any bigger.
“It felt surreal scoring that goal in that big of a game for us and them,” said Prange. “Being able to spoiler against Smithtown in that environment is one of the best feelings you can ask for since all both teams want to do is beat each other.”
The odds seemed immediately stacked against the Bulls from the start, missing 7 of their 18 skaters. This team doesn’t lay down easily though, and they showed their resiliency in this game.
“We knew we’d be shorthanded going into the game with several travel conflicts,” said head coach George Zaroogian. “I asked them to give me everything they had. They were exhausted at the end and showed they gave us everything they had.”
Prange opened the scoring when he cleaned up a rebound at the front of the net giving the Knights a 1-0 lead. It wouldn’t last long as Bobby Trites scored 18 seconds later on a perfect shot into the top of the net evening the score at 1.
“It feels great to be back,” said Trites, after his second game back from injury. “I was nervous to return, but luckily I’m surrounded by great teammates, family and doctors that helped my recovery.” Trites has 2 goals and an assist in the two games he has played since being injured.
In the second period, Prange would score again, regaining the lead for the Knights, this time on a short-handed shot. The Bulls had chances to tie, but Connor McGrane played a solid game in net for Kings Park-Commack.
The third period opened with another tally for the Knights when Joseph Paratore scored his 4th goal of the season stretching the lead to 3-1. It seemed this would spell the end for Smithtown-Hauppauge. The Bulls had an answer though.
“After we were down 3-1, they learned from last game that no one was going to get down and we were going to get back into it,” said Zaroogian. “I talked about that before the game and reminded them that they have to remain mentally strong. They certainly did.”
In just over 7 minutes, Matt Dipalma, Tommy Azzara and Bobby Trites all scored to give the Bulls their first lead. “Most of the success generated from our team has been from our coaching and our ability to work as a team,” said Trites. “We are a tight knit group. We don’t succeed without each other.”
In overtime, the teams traded chances, but could not break the tie. The game ended 4-4 and each team was awarded a point, meaning the Knights held onto first place. Kings Park-Commack is now 13-3-2, 29 pts. while Smithtown-Hauppauge is 12-3-3, 27 pts.
The tie gives the Bulls the head-to-head tiebreaker in the series after they won the first meeting, meaning if the teams tie in points before the end of the season, the Bulls would be awarded the 1-seed.
There is just under a month left in the regular season before the playoffs start, and if this is what these two teams have in store, then the postseason rounds are sure to produce many thrillers.
You can watch all the action live on YouTube at LI Sports Network and follow @lisportsnetwork on Instagram for game times.