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Empire's Complete Season Sweep of Suffolk

By Jersey Hitmen Staff, 02/25/04, 12:00AM EST


The Hitmen Empire squad hit the road this weekend, traveling to Long Island to take on the Suffolk Juniors. After taking the first two games of the season series at home last month the Hitmen were looking to secure the season sweep of the Juniors. After two hard fought contests the Hitmen left New York with their goal accomplished.

Saturday night featured the second one-goal game of the year between these two gritty clubs, with the Hitmen hanging on for a 3-2 victory. When the puck dropped it seemed as if there would be no question as to who would win this Western Conference matchup. Put behind the eight ball early, having to kill a five minute major, which included a full two minute five on three, the Hitmen responded in style, not allowing a single goal before turning the momentum. All told, Jersey would tally three first period markers, the first coming from Nazhir Gichibekov with the help of Colin Kirkpatrick and Jon Spada at 8:36. From there James Martello would net a shorthanded goal at 11:13, which tied the Hitmen single season record for shorthanded goals at 15. Then at 15:54 Robbie Marsanico would stretch the Hitmen lead to three with the help of Corey Leskanic and Eddie Coxe.

After an uneventful second period the Hitmen entered the third with a 3-0 advantage. However, the hard working Juniors gave everything they had to try and mount a comeback in the third period. Mike Leone got Suffolk on the board just before the midway point of the period to pull the home team within two. Then at 12:49 Michael Martino tallied on a breakaway to make it a one goal contest. However, despite a breakaway opportunity with under a minute to play Suffolk could not crack Hitmen goaltender Jordan Hulahan again and Jersey would sneak out with a 3-2 win.

Sunday’s game saw a much more composed Hitmen team arrive at the rink. And once again the Hitmen would be on the board first. Luke Rodgers completed a magnificent feed from James Martello at 6:54 of the first to put Jersey up 1-0. Rodgers’ goal would prove to be the only puck to find the back of the net in the first twenty minutes of play.

In the second period Corey Leskanic stretched the Hitmen lead to two with the help of Chris Peterson and Eddie Coxe at 11:42 of the frame. Once again the Hitmen held the only tally of the period, and headed to the locker room twenty minutes away from victory.

After surviving Suffolk’s furious comeback attempt the day before the Hitmen knew they would have to battle in final period of the weekend. Their efforts would pay dividends at 13:22 of the period. After a ferocious forechecking effort from Glenn Florczak forced a turnover in the Juniors defensive zone he found Corey Leskanic streaking through the slot and set him up the Empire team’s 16th shorthanded goal of the season, setting a single season record for Jersey. Nick Ambery would break Mike O’Maley’s shutout bid with a power play goal at 14:27, but there would be no comeback for Suffolk. Luke Rodgers’ empty net goal at 19:27 sealed the weekend and season sweep for Jersey, keeping them in the top spot in the West.