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Greenmen icers advance in Baron Cup III with 4-2 win over Normandy

by JIM SMITH | CORRESPONDENT Published: February 10, 2017 10:45 AM
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BROOKLYN — Throughout the 2016-17 ice hockey season, Aurora Greenmen coach John Sheridan has referred to linemates Joe Capretta and Tomi Pirinen as the "dynamic duo."

The duo did not disappoint in Aurora's 4-2 victory over the Parma Normandy Invaders in the Greenmen's opening game of the Greater Cleveland High School Hockey League's Baron Cup III Tournament at the John M. Coyne Recreation Center in Brooklyn on Thursday evening.

With the victory, Aurora advances to play Brooklyn in a semifinal match at 3 p.m. on Saturday.

Capretta was instrumental in each of Aurora's goals, earning two goals and two assists in the contest, while Pirinen accounted for a pair of goals and an assist.

"Big players score big goals in big games," said Sheridan when discussing the play of Capretta and Pirinen.

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Throughout the game's opening period, Aurora was outplayed as the Invaders relied heavily on long breakout passes from their defensive zone in an attempt to beat Aurora's defense back into the Greenmen's defensive zone.

As a result of one of those long-range breakout efforts early in the first period, Normandy created a series of shots on Aurora goaltender Joe Brockway, the last of which found the back of the net for the night's first goal.

Normandy's Lukas George tallied that initial goal after an assist from Justin Pierzchala.

The Invaders' Jake Herchick added an unassisted goal with 6:17 remaining in the opening period for a 2-0 Normandy lead.

"We were a little sluggish in the first period, and I think in the second period we came out big," Sheridan said.

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In a complete reversal of the first period, Aurora -- behind an aggressive forecheck -- earned a pair of second-period goals while holding Normandy scoreless on 13 shots on goal.

Capretta scored a goal within the first two minutes of the middle period and assisted on a Pirinen score near the midway point of the period to tie the game at 2-2.

"I think we were a little overconfident in the first period," said Capretta. "We came back into the locker room (between the first and second periods) and re-established our game plan. When we came out in the second period we were ready to go."

"We had a good speech in the locker room between the first and second and that got us going," added Pirinen.

Heading into the final period, with the GCHSHL Blue North Division rivals tied at two goals each, Aurora benefited from a five-minute major penalty against Normandy for checking from behind. The Greenmen capitalized by netting a power-play goal with just over 10 minutes to play in the period to take a 3-2 lead.

After the teams skated back and forth for the next eight minutes -- and with Aurora struggling to get the puck out of its defensive zone at times -- Pirinen and Capretta teamed up for their team's fourth goal with 1:59 on the clock.

That final goal was the result of stellar play by Pirinen in the neutral zone. Pirinen earned possession of a loose puck and skated into Normandy's zone while Capretta skated through center ice, creating a 2-on-1 opportunity.

Pirinen slid the puck to Capretta for a quick shot that Normandy goaltender Alexis Ryan had little chance of stopping.

That goal, described by Sheridan as "the biggest goal of the season," assured the Greenmen an opportunity to advance to the Baron Cup III semifinals.

"There's no doubt about it (being the biggest goal of the season)," said Sheridan. "It's 3-2 and we're hanging on for dear life. That's what we were looking for out of Pirinen and Capretta."

Ryan earned 30 saves on the night for Normandy, while Aurora's Brockway stopped an impressive 43-of-45 shots put on net by the Invaders.

With the victory, Aurora advances to play Brooklyn in a semifinal match at 3 p.m. on Saturday.


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