A Charity Game for the Ages
By Pat Luongo
Yes, it is a baseball term, but a 'double-header' can happen in hockey too. Sunday, March 5th was one of those occasions. More than 5,800 people turned up for an afternoon matinee between the American Hockey League's Bridgeport Sound Tigers and their division rival, the Norfolk Admirals. The Sound Tigers won the first game 2-1 in an overtime thriller on the strength of 40 saves by goalie Wade Dubielewicz and two power-play goals by Jeff Hamilton. The second game in the double header set up a match-up between members of the Bridgeport Fire Department and Bridgeport Police Department.
Bridgeport's Arena at Harbor Yard was electric; $2 beers were being sold, A&E Party Rentals had a blow-up slide/moon bounce set up and there was a raffle with prizes that included a hockey helmet autographed by this year's Sound Tigers, two hockey jerseys, a gift certificate to Marisa's Restaurant in Trumbull, free Sound Tiger tickets, a Trent Hunter autographed bobble head and two autographed pictures of Trumbull native and US Olympian Chris Drury.
Proceeds from the second-annual Bravest vs. Finest game went to the WICC Holiday Children's Fund, which was represented at the game by radio host Jim Buchanan.
"We play for the children because I believe that children are our future," Police Officer Brian Pisanelli said.
"We play in a bunch of games for charities that involve children with all types of illnesses, and we love helping them," Finest goalie Sean Ronan commented. Ronan and Firefighter Zoli Szabo helped organized this event.
Bravest Lieutenant Jimmy Buck agreed with the statements made by Pisanelli and Ronan. "We've played at the Arena six times now against teams from Hartford, New Haven and Danbury. It's a great honor," said Buck, who attends about 20 Sound Tiger games a year. "We love making something happen for charities."
Supporting local charities isn't the only thing the Firefighters enjoy. "I'm just happy to get off the ice in one piece," Steven Velasquez quipped.
Hockey fans that stuck around for the second game, like Debbie Lietuvninkas, enjoyed it. "The Bravest and Finest did a fine job for a good cause," she stated.
The game started directly after the Sound Tiger contest and it got off to a choppy start. Both teams had chances to score, but Firefighter Glenn Duda scored the only goal in the first period, however things got a little more interesting in the middle frame.
The Finest got on the board when Dan Sacco took a pass from Tom Minar and knotted the game at 1-1, but the Bravest quickly answered when Curt Manseau lit the lamp off of the assists from Duda and Bill Johnson to give the Firefighters a 2-1 lead. Police Officers Herbie Johnson and Pisanelli then scored to give the Finest their first lead at 3-2.
The Bravest started to dominate by scoring five unanswered goals. Velasquez started the charge with a goal off of assists by Paul Dushay and Manseau. Then, Pete Nichio scored after Elijah Riendeau gave him the puck to regain the lead at 4-3. Dushay added his own tally off of assists by Duda and Velasquez to close out the second period at 5-3. The Firemen opened up the third with another goal from Dushay. Nichio then scored his second after another Riendeau pass making it 7-3.
The rest of the game was a back-and-forth battle. The main contestants were Dushay and Police Officer Herbie Johnson. Johnson scored his second unassisted goal in the third, to cut the Bravest lead to three. Dushay completed the hat trick off of a nice pass from Manseau. Johnson completed his hat trick off of another assist from Sacco. Dushay scored an empty-netter off of a pass from Manseau for his fourth goal of the game, but Johnson matched Dushay by scoring his fourth goal.
When the dust settled, the Bravest defeated the Finest, 9-6. The win avenged their 6-5 loss to the Police last year. And, while the Firefighters won the game, it's safe to say that everyone left the Arena a winner.
Pat Luongo is a student from Darien High School who is participating in the Sound Tigers High School Journalism Program. The Preceding is his article about the charity hockey game the Sound Tigers hosted on Sunday, March 5th.
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