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2017 FHL Championship Preview

After a hard fought first round, the Mustangs and Huskies have once again risen to the top for a rematch of last year’s finals. Jimmy Besterci’s Huskies will look to defend their title against the top-seeded Mustangs and second year captain Sean Lyons.

The Huskies were able to close out a tough series against the Moose in four games, with all three of their wins coming after the end of regulation. After a very tight checking opening weekend that saw only four total goals in eleven periods of hockey, the Moose broke through for three tallies in game three. However, the Huskies remained strong and pulled out a game four win as Ryan Sabo batted the ball out of midair and past Jamie Zelena to send the Moose home early. Showing off their offensive depth and stout defence, the Huskies were able to come away with the victory despite not getting any points from league leading scorer Ryan Mains. Besterci commented saying, “Mains is a big game player. If he’s not showing up on the scoreboard every week, he’s doing the little things that help teams win games. He always faces the other team’s best player and somehow manages to come through in the clutch.” While that may be true, Mains will likely need to find the net a few times to help the Huskies repeat as champions.
In another four game set, the Mustangs bested the Pirates to make their second finals appearance in as many seasons, capitalizing on three points from first round pick Brian Grise and strong goaltending from rookie Chris Metzinger. While games one and two were marred by inclement weather, the Mustangs were able to battle through the conditions for a pair of wins, with Jesse Lyons notching both the first goal of the day and the game two OT winner. After a 3-1 decision for the Pirates in game three to avoid the sweep, the Mustangs bounced back to take game four 1-0, behind one of Grise’s two game winning goals. With the loss to the Huskies in last year’s championship in mind, we asked Sean Lyons what it will take to get over the hump this year. The Mustangs captain responded, “We as a team know that if we just go out there and do our jobs we have what it takes to get it done. If we all just do our jobs and take care of business, we can bring home the most praised trophy in all of sports.”

This is sure to be a physical, hard fought tilt, as these two teams know each other well, having met six times in the regular season. They played to a 3-3 split, with the Huskies winning the last matchup in week 15 in a game 5 shootout, led by a hat trick from Mains. The Huskies will undoubtedly rely on their wealth of FHL experience against the Mustang’s youth and speed in this championship rematch. Besterci is anticipating a battle saying, “You know what to expect from the Mustangs, they are a great organization and this will undoubtedly be a great series.” We’ll see how it plays out on the ice on Saturday. Now for some picks from the guys who are already home on their couches this year.

The experts have the Mustangs claiming their first cup in a 6-1 vote. Here’s the full list of predictions:

Joe Rogers: Mustangs in 5. It’s a really close matchup, but Pellegrino and Lyons are the best shutdown pair in the business right now. I think that’s what puts them over the top.

Nick Siniawski: Mustangs in four.

Andy McDonald: Mustangs in four. They have the best goalie this year.

Buddy Doyle: Mustangs in five. The better goalie is going to win it this year.

Dick Pilato: Huskies in five. Mains won’t go another series without scoring. He’ll be the difference maker.

Adam Cristallini: ‘Stangs in five.

Zack Siniawski: ‘Stangs in five.

Round 1 Playoff Results

FHL Championship: Mustangs vs. Huskies

Playoff Preview: Round 1

The regular season has come to an end, and it’s time for FHL playoff hockey! In a quick season recap: The Mustangs started out the season on fire, going 7-1 in the first 8 weeks and had breakout seasons from newcomer goalie Chris Metzinger and forward TT Simpson, who led their team with 15 points. The Moose, who lost out on first place by a single game, finished the season 6-1 after not winning a single series in February. The Moose finished with 5 players with 10 or more points to lead the FHL. The defending FHL champion Huskies got off to a tough start going 1-5, but ended the year strong winning 7 of the last 10 games. For the second season in a row Ryan Mains finished first in the league in goals and points. The Pirates had an up and down season, but hope to have a full squad come playoff time. Brothers Andy and Roy McDonald helped lead the team and can be found throughout the league leaders in all offensive categories, while sharp shooter Joey Faiello added 16 goals and 10 shootout goals. Now for our first round playoff matchups.

#1 Mustangs v. #4 Pirates

The Mustangs swept the regular season series 5-0, however 3 of those series went the distance. When asked about facing the Mustangs in the first round Roy McDonald of the Pirates had this to say, “The Mustangs are a tough team to play against starting with Sean and Jesse Lyons and Bob (Pellegrino). When you add in BG, Fetsko, Gardner, and TT they have the firepower to match ours.” Roy also added about his  team’s regular season struggles, “The Pirates had a rough season with attendance, but every week we gave whoever we played a tough matchup. I’m sure we’re not gonna be a team anyone is happy to face.” 
Although we haven’t seen a full Pirate squad much this season, you can expect the amount of skill will make up for lack of chemistry. There may not be a better offensive top 6 in the league than Campbell, Fish, Nick Siniawski, Faiello, and the McDonald brothers. The Pirates also have a solid d-core with veterans Rogers, Doyle, and Zelena, who will be asked to shut the door against a talented and speedy Mustang team. 
The Mustangs are looking to make their 2nd straight finals appearance and seem to match up well against The Pirates, with a clear edge in between the pipes. The Pirates used three different goaltenders this season and were a league low minus 32 in the goal differential department. They’ll be likely to turn to FHL veteran netminder Mark Olsavicky, while the Mustangs will rely on Chris Metzinger, who finished atop the league in total wins, goals against average, and shoot out saves. 
The Pirates may have more star power, but the Mustangs have the youth, speed, and chemistry, returning many of the players from last year’s successful inaugural season. Bob Pellegrino, who has been a part of the last two FHL championship teams (1 as goalie, 1 as defenseman) knows playing the Pirates won’t be easy, but is looking forward to it, “they’re going to be a challenge to play for sure. They’re a good team from top to bottom. We’ll need to find a way to shut them down. They are a clean, respectable organization, and it should be a fun series.” 

FHL Expert Picks:  Mustangs 3, Pirates 2

#2 Moose v. #3 Huskies

The Moose won the season series 3-2 in a string of highly competitive games, including a five game affair in the final week of the season.  The Huskies seem to have improved each week after a slow start to the year and hope to be peaking at the right time. Led offensively by probable MVP Ryan Mains (18 G, 10 A), veteran Shane Lucas (7 G, 11 A) and second year player Grant Wolf (9 G, 5 A) have also had strong seasons up front for the Huskies. On the blue line, the defending champs have opted to stick with their winning formula by returning their top pairing of Captain Jimmy Besterci and Pat Farrell. They’ll look to control the play in front of Goaltender Joey Neutrelle, who brings a wealth of experience as the FHL all-time leader in wins with 156. While Neutrelle struggled in the shootout this year, he won’t have to worry about that in the postseason, and he posted a strong 0.68 GAA in helping his team to the best goal differential in the league. Besterci weighed in saying, “Joey is a rock back there. He’s a difference maker and has stood on his head for us all season. He is a fierce competitor and is hungry for a championship.”
The Moose posted yet another strong season under Captain Zack Siniawski behind the most balanced scoring attack in the league. Forwards Adam Cristallini, Antonio Scheible, TJ Hall, Siniawski, and Tom Simpson all reached double digits in points, while franchise player Tony Bonacorso tallied 9 points despite missing much of the season. Defensively the Moose will rely on FHL veterans Dick Pilato and Steve Barron, along with newcomer Alec Italiano, and also hope to have former Commissioner John George available. When reached for comment George said, “Yanno it kills me to not be with the guys this time of year. But Zack built a strong and deep Moose team like always so I know the team will be fine. I will say this much about my availability: the only thing for sure about rockin’ Ron, is nothing is for sure.” Between the pipes, the Moose benefitted from the strong play of goaltender Jamie Zelena, posting a 0.63 GAA, and a league best 0.583 Win %.
While the Moose did a solid job containing Mains in the regular season series (just 6 points in 5 games, one being an empty net goal), they have yet to play against the Huskies second leading goal scorer in Wolf. Meanwhile, the Moose can look forward to more consistent goaltending, having played two of the regular season matchups without Zelena in net. With two well rounded teams that played well down the stretch, this should be a great battle. 

FHL Expert Picks: Huskies 3, Moose 2

FHL 2017 Playoffs

10:30 AM

#2 Moose vs. #3 Huskies

12:00 PM

#1 Mustangs vs. #4 Pirates

3 period games, 10 minute periods.

Games 1 and 2 will be played on Saturday 4/29

Games 3, 4*, and 5* (*if neccessary) will be played on 5/6

Week 16 Results

1st Star: TT Simpson
4 G, 1 A

2nd Star: B Pellegrino
1 G, 1 A

3rd Star: C Metzinger
3-1, 2 Shutouts, 3 GA

1st Star: S McKinney
3 G

2nd Star: A Toomey
 1 A, 1 SO Goal

3rd Star: T Simpson
 2 G, 3 A

Player Profile: Dick Pilato

Hello everyone and welcome to the final week of the FHL regular season! In today’s player profile, we sit down with a member of the Mighty Moose from Munhall, Dick Pilato. Dick thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us.

Any time for the FHL. It's a pleasure being part of this wonderful organization.

With one game remaining in the 2016/17 FHL season the Moose control their own destiny, with a win (or Mustangs loss) they will be this year’s President Trophy winning team. Talk about what that would mean to the Moose organization in such a competitive league. I know it’s only a league of 4, but still an impressive accomplishment and another banner to potentially hang in the rafters.

I think it means a lot. I realize that many view this as primarily a playoff league, but we're all competitive guys and want to win every week. This year in particular I think it's a honor for our guys to finish atop the league knowing that we've done so largely without the presence of our franchise player Tony Bonacorso, and had to bounce back from a tough stretch in the season where we lost four in a row.

You have always been known as a solid defensive defenseman, but this year you set a new career high in goals. Was working on your offensive game something you focused on in the off season?

I'm always trying to get better, and I do feel that my passing and stickhandling in particular have improved steadily. As far as scoring goes, I think it's just a result of getting more opportunities to shoot. I've gotten more comfortable this season with jumping up into the play and carrying the puck in myself, rather than always staying at home on the blue line.

There is always added pressure on franchise players and first round picks to help lead their teams, and you have definitely emerged as one of the best leaders on and off the ice. How do you handle that added responsibility/pressure? It must help having Zack, who will undoubtedly go down as one of the all-time greatest captains to learn from.

It's great playing for Zack, because he's got such a great handle on how to operate a successful FHL franchise, but I have no problem lending a hand. I have played on a lot of sports teams growing up, and have been named a captain on nearly all of them, so I'm very comfortable taking a leadership position. I also ran my own FHL-inspired hockey league at my own high school for a few years, so that experience taught me a lot.

As mentioned before, the Moose look to close out the season on top and extend their current 5 game winning streak. As the playoffs near, you've been finding ways to win with different lineups every week, missing key guys like Bono, Z, Cristallini, John George, Nay and even goaltender Jamie Zelena. Talk about the depth of the Moose and how veteran guys like yourself, Hall, and Simpson have helped keep the team in the win column.

Well I can't say enough about guys like TJ Hall and Tom Simpson, who have been there nearly every week and always play really hard. Tom has done a great job moving between forward and defense when needed, and TJ even stepped in net and got a win for us a few weeks ago. We have some other guys too like my brother Gino, Cam Tichon, Gabe Phillips, and Alec Italiano that have stepped into bigger roles when needed and played really well for us. We have great depth and feel comfortable using it, which only allows our top line guys to go harder.

We always like to ask about having family members as teammates, and in many cases we have had the “I would rather play against, than with” response, but I have a sense that’s different with you. Thoughts?

Definitely with because there are enough of us to fill a full forward line and defense pairing if we're all there and on the same team. There's me and Gino, the Siniawski brothers, and our cousin Brandon Paluzzi, who played a little defense for the Moose early on this year before hurting his shoulder. Although it is fun playing against them too.

In your years at the FHL, what is your favorite memory? Maybe a particular game or series?

Definitely the FHL Finals game 5 in 2014, when I won the cup as a member of the Jets. We played Games 3, 4 & 5 on the same day, and the deciding Game 5 went into I think triple overtime, maybe quadruple. Myself and Tom Simpson played defense the whole time because we were short on bodies. I came off the ice only once, and it was because my hamstring cramped up so badly I could barely move.

Ok last but not least our favorite part of the interview… quick hitter time:
Favorite (non family) FHL player: Joe Rogers
Favorite FHL team of all time: The Moose
Toughest player to play against: Faiello. I block a lot of shots and his hurt the worst.
Toughest goalie to play against: Craig Hixon
Favorite NHL player: Brent Burns
Favorite sports teams: Penguins, Steelers, Pirates, Pitt Panthers
Favorite WWE Superstar: Dean Ambrose

Dick thanks again for your time today, and all the time you’ve dedicated to the league this year with helping ref and updating the box scores each week. Best of luck to you and the Moose the rest of the way! That’s all for this week’s Player Profile. Be sure to be on the lookout for a season wrap-up and playoff previews. Thanks and god bless the FHL!

Week 15 Results

1st Star: R Mains
3 G, 1 A

2nd Star: S Lucas
3 A, 1 SO Goal

3rd Star: S Lyons
2 G

Moose def. Pirates 3-0 via forfeit

Player Profile: Chris Metzinger

Welcome to another edition of the player profile. This week’s interview we sit down with FHL rookie and the goaltender of the Mustangs Chris Metzinger, thanks for taking the time to talk with us Chris.

Let me start by asking how are you liking the FHL? 
The FHL has been really fun. To be honest, I was not expecting much from the league. I thought it was more of a league that was setup to do something on Saturdays, but when I showed up to the draft, I knew this was going to be more fun than I was expecting. Everything has been fun from the draft to the possibility of trades and now looking forward to the playoffs. I want to give Jim Besterci credit for getting me into the FHL and restarting my goaltending career for the 3rd time.

Being a rookie can be intimidating for anyone but a rookie goaltender has to be even more difficult. Talk about some of the challenges of learning the different players and teams you’ve faced.
Even though I am a rookie in the FHL, I have a ton of goaltending experience. If I can remember correctly, I believe I have been playing close to 20 years. Sean Lyons was really helpful on pointing out the people that I need to be aware of and gave me some advice. My wife thinks that I am crazy, but I like to watch other games since it helps the muscle memory on the player’s style of playing and their shots. I think this helps me to go through the process of learning new players easier and the process is more of natural reaction without thinking about it. 

Your captain Sean Lyons took a gamble on you this season not having seen you play or an in depth scouting report and now many are calling you the steal of the draft, has your play exceeded your own expectations this year and what’s it like playing with Sean in front of you?
I thought Jim Besterci was going to draft me since I played one game with him at Bills Dek Hockey, but when he drafted Joe Neutrelle, it made me nervous. (I’ll never forget that, Jim. lol) I honestly thought I was going to be drafted last and was ecstatic that Sean drafted me 28th. It made me feel like a kid again. I thought I still had it in me to be playing goalie, but I was not sure if I can play at the level to keep my team in every game since I took time off from hockey because I could not find enough people to get a team together. When I play well, my expectations grow and I want to always keep playing better, so currently I have not exceeded my expectations yet. Playing with Sean has been awesome, I can’t speak highly enough about what he does for me in the crease and blocking shots. I have never played with a person like that and it allows me to be more calm than I am normally while playing. 

Currently the Mustangs are in first place but have a big game this weekend against the Moose who are just one game behind in the standings. This will be the 5th and final time the teams play each other in the regular season, the series is tied 2-2 and tied 8-8 in overall wins. How important is this game in terms of confidence for you and the Mustangs and how important is it to be that #1 overall seed heading into playoffs?
Seeding has never really been that important to me. As long as we make the playoffs and we get into a nice rhythm. Anything happens in the playoffs and new heroes are made. Sometimes being the 1st overall seed playing the last seed the team can think it will be easy to win the first round, but I don’t think that will happen if the Mustangs clinch the 1st seed since we have a great group of guys on the team hungry to win the FHL championship. 

Usually in these interviews we ask about a favorite memory whether it be a playoff series or a time at the old Franklin rink but do you have any thing that sticks out from your first season that you will soon not forget?
I will never forget all those times that Sean Lyons has cleared people out of my crease. Another memory I will not forget is stopping Jim Besterci in the shootout and hearing him say nice save after stopping him. 

As always let’s wrap this up with some quick hitters….

Favorite FHL player: Sean Lyons
Toughest player to play against: Joey Faiello
Toughest player to face in shootout: Unknown for now. Need more of a sample
Favorite NHL player: Martin Brodeur
Favorite athlete: Mario Lemieux
Favorite sports teams: Pittsburgh Penguins

Week 14 Results

1st star: M Cullen
2 G (1 OT Winner)

2nd star: J Neutrelle
3-0, 2 shutouts, 1 GA, 3 SVS and 0 GA in shootout

3rd star: A Toomey
1 A

1st star: C Tichon
2 G (1 OT Winner), 1 A

2nd star: TJ Hall
3-1, 3 shutouts, 1 GA

3rd star: D Pilato
1 G (OT Winner)

Week 13 Results

1st star: A Cristallini
1 G (OT Winner)

2nd star: G Phillips
1 G (OT Winner)

3rd star:
J Zelena 3-1, 3 Shutouts, 1 GA

1st star: B Pellegrino
1 G (OT Winner), 1 A

2nd star: J Faiello
3 G, 1 A

3rd star: B Grise
2 Game Winning SO Goals

Player Profile: Jamie Zelena

Welcome to another installment of the FHL’s Player Profile. This week we had the privilege to sit down with Moose net minder and FHL photographer Jamie Zelena. Jamie thank you for making time with us during your hectic schedule.
Hello James, I’ll always have time in my schedule for you.

Jamie I’ll start off the interview by asking you the same question we asked Pirate captain Andrew McDonald in a previous player profile, the FHL has a few talented family duos in the league such as the Simpson’s, the Siniawski’s, the McDonald’s, the Lyons’ and you and your brother Mark. Do you prefer playing against him or in an ideal world would you rather him playing defense in front of you?
I much rather play against him. I think Mark’s game has evolved over the years and it has made him an offensive defenseman which usually doesn’t bode well for goalies. Furthermore, I love facing shots from defenseman so it’s a win-win.

Statistically you are having a career year with 25 total wins and a 0.66 goals against average currently both are good for 2nd in the league. What do you attribute all your success?
First of all, 2nd in the league is hardly something to hang your hat on in a four team league. If you’re not first, you’re last. Anyhow, I’ve gotta attribute my success to the guys in front of me. The Moose have some of the best defensemen along with very responsible centers. They do a lot of the work for me.

Goalies have always been described as a little off, why do you like strapping on the pads and do you have any superstitions/pre game rituals?
I like playing goalie for a lot of reasons. As Mike Emrick says, “Goalies carry the heaviest pads and the heaviest burdens.” I love the fact that I can steal a game with a few timely saves. As pre game rituals go, I put my pads on in the exact same order every game. Also, I never undo my leg straps because finding the perfect fit in your pads is almost impossible. 

The Moose love to take the game to a shootout, you lead the league in shootout saves and shots attempted. Two part question: 1) Do you enjoy facing off 1 on 1 with some of FHL’s best? 2) Are you at all concerned that your team is relying on them to much as we approach playoffs where there are no shootouts?
While I wouldn’t mind a few regulation wins every now and again, I love the shootout. I love to run my mouth while I’m out there so shootouts are an opportunity for me to get some good material on guys. And I don’t believe that we rely on the shootout too much. We have some great offensive talent on our team who will inevitably put one in the back of the net. I just focus on doing my part in keeping the other team off the scoresheet.  

Your captain Zack Siniawski is on record saying you’re the best goalie in the league and terrific guy to have in the locker room, talk about the confidence that gives you coming from the current longest tenured captain of such a storied franchise and what it’s like playing with him and other FHL greats in front of you.
I couldn’t ask for a better captain than Uncle Zack. The guy exudes leadership every Saturday. There isn’t another captain that truly cares for this league and his team as much as Zack. The fact that he puts his faith in me is inspiration enough to give it my all every week.

As an original member of the FHL, what are your thoughts on how far the league has come over the years and do you have any favorite memories from the Franklin era?
It’s amazing how far this “garage league” has come. From the days of Dave Gilson and Dan Drane destroying high schoolers to where we are now is a testament to the hard work and determination of the league’s front office. 

Let’s finish off with some quick hitters.

Favorite FHL player: Andrew McDonald
Favorite FHL team: Kings
Toughest player to play against: Joey Faiello
Toughest goalie to play against: Craig Hixon
Favorite NHL player: Sidney Crosby
Favorite athlete: Derek Jeter
Favorite sports team: New York Yankees
Favorite FHL player to photograph: Andrew McDonald/ Zak Campbell

Week 12 Results

1st Star: J Zelena
3-2, 4 Shutouts, 1 GA, 8 SVS to 2 GA in shootout

2nd Star:
A Scheible 1 G, 1 A

3rd Star:
Z Siniawski 1 G, 1 A

1st Star: G Wolfe
3 G

2nd Star: J Neutrelle
3-0, 3 Shutouts

3rd Star: R Mains
1 G, 2 A

Week 10 and 11 Box Scores

1st star: A Cristallini
1 G, 2 A

2nd star: T Simpson
1 G, 2 A

3rd star: A Scheible
1 G, 1 A

1st star: A Corsi
1 G, 3 SO Goals

2nd star: E Fetsko
2 G

3rd star: J Faiello
3 G, 1 A

- - - - -

1st star: J Faiello
1 G, 1 A, 2 SO Goals

2nd star: R Mains
3 G, 1 A, 1 SO Goal

3rd Star: R Fish
2 G

1st star: J Zelena
3-1, 3 Shutouts, 1 GA, 6 SVS to 0 GA in Shootout

2nd star: C Metzinger
1-3, 3 Shutouts, 1 GA, 4 SVS to 2 GA in Shootout

3rd star: T Simpson 1 G

Player Profile: Joe Rogers

In this week’s player profile, we sat down with longtime FHL’er and multiple time winner of the FHL Good Guy award, Joe Rogers. Thanks for taking the time to meet with us Joe.

As an original member of the FHL, what are your thoughts on how far the league has come over the years? 

Man it’s crazy. To think the first time I played we had two teams running around a preschool’s playground and to see how far we’ve come, it’s really unbelievable. It’s a credit to the guys that have been playing. The longevity is because there are so many quality guys that come out to play and run things every week.

Do you have any favorite memories from the old days back at Franklin?

There’s so many. First and foremost would have to be when the Kings beat the Crosbys in the playoffs in what is, to this day, the greatest upset in league history. The place was rockin! Fences were shaking, people were screaming. It might as well have been John George VS The World that day. Secondly, was all the hitting. Crapshoot corner was a place that few people wanted to see. We used to crush each other.  Ask some of the guys that have been playing a while and they’ll tell you about some good hits, but almost all of them will point to one in particular: Dustin Hess nearly took Brian Barca’s head off when he was coming around the net one time. Those two memories stick out more than any others for me.

You’ve worn many different hats as a league member, captaining two different organizations, officiating when needed, and helping to organize this season after Commissioner George moved on. What has been your favorite role to play? 

I hate being a Captain to be honest, but I’m proud of that Whaler organization every time I see a good dump out there. I don’t mind being a leader of some sort, and talking trades is a blast, but running a franchise isn’t as easy as people think it is. I also hate reffing so those are both out. To be honest, I just like being a role player on my team. I like to be a stay at home and steady defenseman that kills penalties and never plays 4 on 4 or overtime or shoot in a shootout or plays on any type of man advantage.

Your squad, the Pirates currently sit in last place. What do you think the team needs to change moving forward?

I’d like to get a few more guys there, that’s for sure. I like the look of our roster on paper, but that’s meaningless. The guys that have been coming consistently have been fantastic. We’ve got a couple solid netminders to go to. I think we’ve got a ton of fire power, as well. We’ve got some real good finishers in Roy, Nicky Boy, and Faiello especially, and Andy can distribute with the best of them. I really like our “depth” guys that have been there as well. With the league as balanced as it is this year, every one is going to be in contention. 

We know your captain, Andy McDonald, can be a bit of a loose cannon at times. What’s it like living under the same roof as him?

Haha yea that guy is such a showman. You should see him Monday through Thursday. You can hardly get a word out of him. Get him competing in a sport, gambling, drinking, or some combination of the three and he’s out of control. He’s great though. Our personalities tend to mesh pretty well most of the time.

Do you feel any added pressure on the ice with how vocal Andy has been about being willing to move people?

No not really. I’m happy playing for the Pirates, and I trust my Captain to make the moves he needs to make. I don’t feel any pressure to do anything out of the ordinary, mainly because I don’t have the ability to do anything out of the ordinary.  I’ve been doing this for a long time and have always played the same style. I play a simple game and that’s all I’m ever going to do.

This may be off topic, but how many times would you guess you’ve seen the film “Orange County” since moving in with Andy? 

Next question.

Time to finish up with some quick hitters.

Favorite FHL player: John George
Favorite FHL team: Whalers
Toughest player to play against: Current, I’d say Jesse Lyons. His motor doesn’t stop. All-time, it’s Kortz. Nobody combined effort, physicality, and skill anywhere close to him.
Toughest goalie to play against: Current is Neutrelle. Jimmy’s the best of all time but fortunately I haven’t had to face him too much so I’d say Kwolek.

Favorite NHL player: Jordan Staal
Favorite Athlete: Kevin Owens

Favorite sports teams: Pirates, Penguins, Steelers, Jazz, Tottenham, Kyle Busch 

Week 9: Box Scores + Trade Deadline Note

1st Star: R McDonald IV
2 G, 2 A, 1 SO Goal

2nd Star: J Faiello
2 G, 1 A, 1 SO Goal

3rd Star: M Ujevich
 3-0, 4 GA, 8 SVS to 0 GA in Shootout

1st Star: R Mains
3 G, 2 A

2nd Star: J Neutrelle
3-2, 3 Shutouts, 3 GA

3rd Star:
S Lucas 1 G, 1 A

The FHL trade deadline will be 3/31 at midnight.

Player Profile: Dan Drane

Welcome to this week’s player profile interview, we had the honor of sitting down with FHL veteran and current Husky Dan Drane. Dan thank you for taking the time to talk with us today.

Thanks for having me.

Dan you’ve been in the league a long time now, you’ve taken on many different roles playing both forward and defensive positions, had a successful career as a “backup” goaltender, and even took a year off to be a full time referee. What has been your favorite role to play in the league and how much has the league evolved since the days at the old Franklin court? 

Your right, I do feel like I’ve done a bit of everything.  I have to admit that I do enjoy aspects of everything I’ve done, but my 2 favorites have been getting the opportunity to referee FHL games is still enjoyable.  That said, it can be quite frustrating as a referee to deal with the near constant complaining.  I get it, we miss things, and we don’t miss calls on purpose…. Also, I really enjoyed last year as a stand in goalie.  I was far from good, but there was something fun about it.

Although you’ve come close a few times including a very emotional championship series vs. the Crosby’s you’ve never won the FHL cup – the Huskies currently sit at 3rd place but have won 3 of the last 4 games, do you see this team as it stands as a serious contender to win it all this year? Vegas currently has them at a 25% chance to win it all and virtually a guarantee at making the playoffs.

Our team truly is solid.  We have 2 great centers, in Ryan Mains, and Shane Lucas, do everything guys who are constantly in motion and finding themselves in the right places.  Grant is one of the best natural playmakers that I’ve seen in a few years.  His instincts and his quick release shot can be devastating.  Finally, Joey Neutrelle has been on fire over the last several weeks.  He seems to be playing with a confidence that he will not be scored on, it’s easy to play in front of a guy like that.  In short, I like our chances, and I’ll take these guys with me as far as the road leads.

I’m sure over the years you have had some memorable moments in the FHL, any moment in particular that sticks out to you? Maybe a team or player you played with? 

There are so many great memories, that it’s hard to pin down to just one.  All of the physicality at the original dek was fun. Whether it was guys going over the fence behind the goal, or diving headfirst into the building were just exciting to be a part of.  I’ve played with some great players, but probably none more special to me personally than Bill Seaman.  Day in, day out, Bill was probably the best overall defender this league has seen.  And to perform at this age, it was cool to see.  I know that my body won’t let me play into my old age, as he did, but it’s a goal.

A few years back you won the good guy of the year award, your always seen on the bench coaching and talking up your team – is that leadership something that has come with your years of experience and how do you get your voice to be heard on a very vocal Husky team?
I’ve played team sports my whole life, and I appreciate that each person has a role, whether it’s as a top line player, or the 7th defenseman.  I try to be whatever the team needs me to be, I feel like I’ve never said no when a team needed me to do something.  I realize that I’m in the twilight of my career, and as such, I need to take a different role.  I just try to lead by example.  Some guys, you can yell at, some guys you need to reinforce the positives after each shift.  The key to being heard is to know your audience, and most importantly to be specific.  Talk about one thing at a time, and the information becomes digestible.

Final question, this is the final year of your contract you’re on ice game has shown no signs of slowing down, what does the future hold for Dan Drane?

I’ll keep going as long as someone keeps drafting me.  When the game has completely passed me by, I hope that the league will allow me to serve in some capacity, as a Referee, or some other role that is yet to be defined.  I enjoy the competition and whatever it takes for me to stay around the game, I’m willing to do.

Quick Hitters:
Favorite FHL player of all time: Bill Seaman
Favorite FHL team of all time: The Jets, with Zac Campbell, Barca (on skates), and Mark Fetsko (on skates).  They were a force.
Toughest player to play against: Tom Simpson hands down.
Toughest goalie to play against: Dave Kwolek
Favorite NHL Player: Ulf Samuelson
Favorite Sports team: Ohio State Football

Thanks for the opportunity to tell my story, and most importantly, thanks to every person who has been a part of the FHL, you made, and continue to make this a great experience for all of us.  God Bless the FHL.

Huskies, Mustangs complete trade

Week 8 Box Scores

1st Star: C Metzinger
3-0, 3 Shutouts, 3 SVS to 0 GA in SO
2nd Star:
E Fetsko 1 G, 2 Shootout Goals

3rd Star:
J Zelena 0-3, 2 Shutouts, 1 GA

1st Star:
G Wolfe 1 G (OT Winner), 1 A

2nd Star:
J Neutrelle 3-2, 2 Shutouts, 3 GA, 3 SVS to 0 GA in SO

3rd Star:
M Olsavicky 2-3, 3 Shutouts, 3 GA, 2 SVS to 1 GA in SO

Player Profile: Zack Siniawski

In this week’s player profile, we finished out our captains series with,Moose headman Zack Siniawski. Thanks for taking the time to meet with us Z. 

 It’s an honor to be here. 

 First off, with former commissioner John George having retired his Crosbys, the Moose are now the longest tenured organization in the FHL, and you are the longest tenured captain. Do you feel that being the most experienced captain gives you an edge? 

 Ya know, coming into this year, the other 3 captains totaled more than 20 combined years of FHL experience... So I don't know that it's much of an advantage being the longest tenured team, however it is something that I am proud of. Over the years it has been a thrill to watch so many FHL members grow as hockey players and as young men. The skill gap has closed since our great league's genesis and it's not because of lack of top-tier talent, but the rest of the league has caught up. Hockey is alive and well in Munhall. 

 The Moose always seem to be one of the “heaviest” teams in the league, and this year is no exception. Have you found it difficult to maintain a physical style in the midst of the league office abolishing hitting? 

 Yeah, ya know, over the years we do tend to come away with bigger bodied teams. Eliminating hitting was and is right for the league but there are plenty of ways to gain an advantage physically without hitting... whether it is gaining position in front of the net or owning possession by boxing out... winning loose puck battles, tying guys up defensively. It doesn't take much watching a Saturday game to see that there is a healthy amount of physicality. 

 This offseason the Moose lost their longtime franchise player Jason Kortz to retirement, but were able to replace him with another all-time-great in Tony Bonacorso. While they are both tremendous talents, their playing styles are very different. How do you think that transition has gone thus far?

 Well there’s no replacing a Jason Kortz. His combination of talent, work ethic, and compete level only come along once in a generation…. That said, now we’re lucky enough to have yet another generational talent in Tony Bonacorso. He has the ability to score from anywhere on the ice and creates so much room for his linemates. Bono has picked up our system so quickly and is always in the right spot, both defensively and in the offensive zone. Toner has the compete level and want-to that we look for in our scouting and player development. I think the transition has been great. 

This season you have taken on the responsibility of heading the league’s officiating office along with Mustangs captain Sean Lyons. Many people around the league have voiced concerns over you holding this position, due to your penchant for trying to buy calls. Do you feel any pressure to change the way you play your game?

 Many people around the league huh? Care to name any names? (chuckling…) No but, uhhh… whatever it takes to win, eh?.. I do want to thank Sean for doing a tremendous job in reffing almost every week. But uhh, yeah, ya know, there are times where you take a hit from behind or a high stick and want to make sure the referees know it, so I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been emphatic a few times - maybe because I’m half Italian (chuckling)… Every team has guys that lobby for calls. But there is a big difference between buying a call where a foul existed and acting out a phantom penalty. The second you get caught faking a high stick or something else phantom, you lose some credibility with the league and the refereeing committee especially. 

 Alright, last one. Your netminder Jamie Zelena has had a strong start to his contract year, and he hasn’t been shy about wanting a big payday. Are there any talks of an extension going on, or could he be available at the deadline as a high-priced postseason rental? 

 Well, first off I want to let Moose fans around the world know that we are committed to bringing home Lord Franklin’s Cup this year so there will be no renting of players. Just as we have in the past, we will spend to the cap. That said, Jamer has been the biggest reason we have been able to jump out to a strong start and our organization thinks he gives us the best chance to win now and in the future. We think he is the best goalie in the league and a fantastic locker room guy. Thankfully, with the latest CBA I don’t have to worry about contract negotiations until June. I’ll reserve any other compliments until after that. 

 Ok, now just some quick hitters to finish up: 
 Favorite FHL player: Buddy Doyle 
Favorite FHL team: I mean, come on. The Mighty Moose of Munhall 
Toughest player to play against: Tom Simpson 
Toughest goalie to play against: Jamie Zelena Favorite 
NHL player: Sidney Crosby Favorite sports teams: Pens, Steelers, Pirates, Panthers

Week 7 Box Scores

1st Star: Jesse Lyons
1 G, 3 A

2nd Star: Bob Pellegrino
 1 G, 1 A
3rd Star: Jimmy Phillips
1 G, 1 A

1st Star: Shane Lucas
1 G, 1 A
2nd Star: Ryan Mains
1 G
3rd Star: Joey Neutrelle
3-0, 3 Shutouts

Player Profile: Andrew McDonald

In this week’s player profile we had the privilege to sit down with Pirates captain Andrew “Amac” McDonald, Andy thanks for taking the time in your busy schedule to talk with us.

As always, thanks for having me. 

Let’s jump right in to it, this is your first season back as a captain after being selected first overall in 2014-15 by the Jukes and franchised last season by the Tigers, what if anything did you miss about being a captain? 

The main thing was trading - its always fun making moves to hopefully better your team. Another thing I missed the most was starting the team with me. I get to pick who plays with me, around me, and on my team. Other than that, being a captain is a stressful job - you have to make sure you have a goalie showing up, and enough players to field a team each week. 

The Pirates are off to a slow start this season currently sitting in 3rd place with a 2-4 record and a -9 goal differential, you’ve been overheard telling your players to “keep your phones on” has there been any thought of a shake up or is it something you think can be resolved as the season moves along?

I know the Pirates have the talent to win ballgames. Losing is frustrating. Any time we lose there are thoughts of what would make this trade better. My team knows whats expected of them, and if they don't meet standards, they're gone. They know that. So to answer your question - its up to the players currently on the roster whether or not there will be a shakeup in Pirate City. 

Talk about your team’s offense, if you look at the league leaders in goals, assists, and points it’s almost all Pirates.

We're the best offensive team in the league today, hands down. Some have called us the "Golden State Warriors of the FHL", where we try to outscore teams. The league leaders page on the website doesn't lie. This team has a well mixed group of passers, shooters, and talent. 

The FHL has a few talented family duos in the league such as Tom/TT Simpson, Nick/Zack Siniawski, and Jamie/Mark Zelena to name a few, tell us what it’s like to have your brother Roy on the same team as you. Do your prefer playing against him or together?

I prefer playing against him, because he is a lazy hockey player. I consider coaching him a challenge - sometimes he needs a fire to be lit to motivate him to use his legs. Just ask former Bulls captain, Shane Lucas. He saw it first hand for multiple seasons. Sure, he's a great hockey player and that's shown with 5 goals and 7 assists, but I'll take some of the credit on that - I make him look a lot better than he is, and that's been happening for 26 years now.

It’s hard to believe but the FHL has been around for 11 incredible seasons and you’ve represented many teams along the way, is there a particular memory that stand out to you during this time? 

I was coming down the right wing on what seemed to be a 2 on 2 rush. I look up, see my brother, Roy, stepping up on defense to try to stop me. In stunning fashion, I deke and put the ball between his legs, glide right by him, and go top shelf glove side on the goalie. Probably the best feeling I've had playing hockey. I'd take a dogging and looking good over a win any day of the week, especially on my brother. 

You have had the honor of hoisting the cup one time in your very successful career, how hungry are you for a second one and is there added pressure on you to get another one?

I'd rather win FHL MVP.

Time for some quick hitters:
Favorite FHL player: Andrew McDonald 

Favorite FHL team: I dislike them all. Even my own.

Toughest player to play against: Nick Siniawski

Toughest goalie to play against: Jamie Zelena, its pretty tough to play against a guy knowing he is going to swing his stick at me when I score on him. 

Favorite NHL player: Tom Kuhnhackl

Favorite sports teams: NBA: Kings;
EPL: Tottenham Hotspur;
MLB: Pirates;
NHL: Penguins;
WWE: Enzo and Big Cass

Favorite FHL photographer: Jamie Zelena is the best in the business.

Week 6 Box Scores

Mustangs defeat Huskies 3-1

1st Star: Brian Grise
2 Goals

2nd Star: Chris Metzinger
3-1, 1 Goal Against, 3 Shutouts

3rd Star: Jeff Gardner
1 Assist

1st Star: Joey Faiello
3 Goals, 1 Shootout Goal

2nd Star: Andy McDonald
2 Goals

3rd Star: Roy McDonald IV
1 Goal, 1 Assist, 1 Shootout Goal

Player Profile: Jimmy Besterci

In this week’s player profile, we sat down with Huskies captain Jimmy Besterci. Congratulations on winning the 2015-2016 FHL Championship Jimmy, and thanks for taking the time to speak with us.

Thank you so much for having me this week and man it feels good hearing those words, great group of guys last year.

Your title defense this year got off to a rough start. Are you looking to make some changes early on, or do you think your first win last week is a better reflection of this year’s squad?

Obviously we want to make last week's performance the standard not the exception (Mike Tomlin voice). But in all seriousness it has been a frustrating start to the season we already matched our loss total from last season after 4 games and that does make you as a captain start to question things but I think the main issue has been getting everyone together for a few weeks in a row so we can establish good chemistry and I think we started to find it last week with the Bulls line (Shane, Grant, and Steve). Plus the teams out there are so deep this year there is no easy win but I am confident that the Huskies will start playing like last year and be ready to make a deep playoff run.

You’ve always been known as a captain who is willing to move pieces around. Why have you adopted such an aggressive approach in the trade market?

Sometimes i’ve been overly aggressive and it’s cost me but I do believe in always looking to make the team better and if there are guys out there that I think can help us i’ll try to make a deal. Last year we brought in Mitch, Sabo, and Bob Pellegrino and they were difference makers.

Once again you’re the first team to have new threads for this year since you obviously take great pride in your squad's appearance, is there a deeper team philosophy behind that, or is it just about looking good?

I wouldn’t say it’s a team philosophy or has any deeper meaning, we are just lucky to have such a great sponsor who has been really great to us and the league dating back to the Whalers and Ducks era. I do like switching things up every season though this being my 3rd season as captain and we’ve had 4 different jerseys. I guess that’s one of the fun things you can do as a captain plus the guys seem to appreciate them.

Before your tenure as an FHL captain, you were a top flight goaltender in the FHL for years. Do you think that experience helps you in evaluating goalies to draft, and do you ever miss being back between the pipes yourself?
I certainly miss being between the pipes and yes it sure does help with evaluating the goaltending position, I think Joey from his arrival in the league has been poised to be an FHL all time great and he is a guy we have complete confidence in, now we just gotta get him some offensive support so it takes the pressure off him. It’s nice as well because he’s not always demanding big money like Jamie Zelena is. The FHL has always had some solid goaltending going beyond the starters there are plenty of guys out there that can and have stepped in the net in the past and showed potential.

You were able to retain Ryan Mains from last year’s title team by moving up in the franchise draft, and he seems to have taken more of a leadership role on the ice this year. How do you feel about his development as a player and as a voice in the locker room?

I was thrilled beyond words to be able to move up and get Mains, the negotiations between Z and myself went on for days. Mains is such a passionate guy that hates to lose and I think the whole league knows how vocal he is. You have to have thick skin to play with him it doesn’t matter if you play a few shifts a game or you're the captain if he thinks you did something wrong he will let you know about it. That’s his game though and when the reigning regular season/playoff MVP tells you something you tend to listen. I think having a veteran leader like Shane Lucas on the team will only help him grow as a player and leader. I have no doubt one day Mains will be a captain in this league and will be looked at as one of the best to ever have played.

Alright Jimmy, time for some quick hitters.
Favorite FHL player: Blue line partner for the last few seasons, Pat Farrell.
Favorite FHL team: The Moose organization
Toughest player to play against: Sean Lyons
Toughest goalie to play against: Joey Neutrelle, glad he’s a Husky
Favorite NHL Player: Braden Holtby
Favorite Sports team: NHL - Penguins, NFL - Steelers, College - Uconn Huskies & Oregon Ducks.

Week 5 Box Scores

Huskies def. Pirates 3-0

1st Star: Grant Wolfe 
3 G, 1 A

2nd Star: Joey Neutrelle 
3-0, 1 GA, 2 Shutouts

3rd Star: Sean McKinney 
2 G

Moose def. Mustangs 3-1

1st Star: Jamie Zelena 
3-1, 1 GA, 3 Shutouts, 11 for 13 in shootouts

2nd Star: Chris Metzinger 
1-2, 1 GA, 3 Shutouts, 9 for 13 in shootouts

3rd Star: Adam Cristallini 
1 G, 2 Shootout Goals