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1989 Midget "B" National Champions

The Nassau County Lions were losing, 5-3, with 3 minutes and 30 seconds left in the championship game for the national title, in Omaha, Neb.

Their opponent , St. Claire Shores, Mich., a team that suffered a 5-2 loss to the Lions in the third game of the tournament, could smell the championship.  All of the pre-game preparations Lions had taken were going to be wasted.

They are a very superstitious bunch.  They dress the same and file out of the lockeroom in the same order before every game.

Winger Bob Terry will sit in a trance before a game with a shamrock placed on a green rag that is balanced on the top of his head.  Then after the team completed their pregame warm-up on the ice, Terry will go back into the lockeroom to get his water bottle.

The coach, Frank Hillman, made sure that he wore the same sequence of clothing in Omaha as he did in the five games it took to win the state championship.

And at least one parent joins in on the shenanigans.  Defenseman Brian Quinn’s mother took a bite of a Baby Ruth bar after each goal the Lions recorded during the tournament.  But the Lions came back.  They scored two goals in less than a minute to tie the game at 5-5.

St. Claire Shores, Mich. Took a, 6-5 lead after scoring on a powerplay goal with only 2 minutes and 35 seconds left and only 7 seconds into the Lions’ penalty.  It looked like the Lions were finished.  Their long season which included 50 wins, only six losses, a 24-0 Long Island Hockey League record and New York State Championship, was near its conclusion.

But the Lions did not quit.  With 33 seconds left the Lions co-captain and leading scorer, Keith Merkler, tied the game at 6-6 and extended the Lions season for five more minutes.

In the overtime session the Lions’ most unlikely goal scorer, Brendan Duffy, scored the game and championship clinching goal.

The celebration that occurred on the ice would have reminded every American of the celebration that the 1980 United States Olympic ice hockey championship team and after they defeated the Soviet Union.

Hillman said, “It was just like what you would see after  any championship victory.  The kids were jumping all over each other.”

To get to the title game the Lions defeated Omaha, 2-1, Portland, Ore., 5-2 St. Claire Shores, 5-2, and Edgewood, RI, 2-0 in a semifinal contest.

“It was the defense that won the tournament for us,” Hillman said.

Hillman was forced to use 4 defensemen in the third, fourth, and championship game because defenseman Michael Bernich injured himself in the second game.

It was Duffy who scored the game winning goal against Edgewood, too.  “He played well,” Hillamn said.  “He is a physical player who played very tough for us.”

Before the game, Hillman did not say much to his team.  “I just told them to play the way they did throughout.  They are a self motivated team.  Merkler and Body get them going,’ Hillman said.

The Lions celebrated their championship victory with a pool party at the hotel they stayed in during the weekend.  “We did quite a bit of celebrating after the game.  We had a pool party in the hotel.  The kids threw their parents in the pool,” Hillman said.

 

Lynbrook USA April 20, 1989