The Brooklyn Aviators are entering tonight’s playoffs high on a three-game winning streak, but even A’s coach Rob Miller admits that the scrappy squad has an uphill battle as they take on the Danbury Whalers for the coveted Commissioner’s Cup.
“Danbury has the most fans in the league, it’s hard to play there,” said Aviators coach Rob Miller, speaking about the best of three series. The Aviators will play at home tonight, but spend the weekend in Connecticut battling it out at the Danbury arena.
There will be plenty of people rooting for Brooklyn’s boys of winter at the Aviator Sports and Events Center tonight, even though the Aviators have had a rough year compared to their previous season, when they were one game away from defeating the Akwesasne Warriors to be the first to hold the Commissioner’s Cup aloft.
The A’s ended regulation play in fourth place with 25 wins and 19 losses, as well as one overtime win and five overtime losses, but, according to Miller, the team’s biggest challenge has been learning to roll with the punches amidst frequent player injuries and call-ups.
“There’s been a lot of guys in and out,” he said. “We didn’t have that going on last year. But, with the adversity we’ve had to go through, I think we’re doing a hell of a job.”
The playoffs are just a few hours away, but its already plagued with injuries: high scoring center Mat Atsoff is out with a broken orbital bone and a broken nose, while right winger Andrew Owsiak, who won Rookie of the Month in December, is laid up with a broken wrist.
“They’re top scorers for us and these games are going to be difficult,” said Miller. “But we won all three games last week without Owsiak — our guys are just going to have to play that much harder.”
Morale remains high within Brooklyn’s ragged hockey squad, despite their injuries: Brooklyn won three of their four games last week, tying the Danbury Whalers with a win and a loss and, miraculously, defeating the Federal Hockey League’s top-ranked New Jersey Outlaws twice.
“We ended the year with three very big wins,” said Miller. “They’re feeling good. We practiced all week except for Monday, so, we’re as all set as we can be.”
Miller’s hoping that starting the playoffs at home will give the team an edge they can build on throughout the three-game series.
“Tonight’s a pivotal game and the ball’s in our court,” said Miller. “Then you just have to win one on the road — I like those odds.”
The Brooklyn Aviators will return to the Aviator Sports and Events Center [3159 Flatbush Ave. in Floyd Bennett Field in Marine Park, (718) 758-7580] tonight for their first playoff game against the Danbury Whalers. The puck drops at 7:35 pm. Tickets are $12 ($10 for seniors and children under 14) For more info, visit www.Brookl
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