AURORA -- Throughout the 2016-17 ice hockey season, Aurora Greenmen coach John Sheridan has referred to linemates Joe Capretta and Tomi Pirinen as the "dynamic duo."
The twosome did not disappoint in Aurora's 4-2 first-round victory over Parma Normandy on Feb. 9 in the Baron Cup III tournament in Brooklyn.
Capretta was instrumental on each of Aurora's goals, earning 2 goals and 2 assists, while Pirinen accounted for a pair of goals and an assist.
"Big players score big goals in big games," said Sheridan about the duo.
After the tourney opener, the Greenmen defeated Brooklyn 5-4 in overtime before losing the championship game to Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy 2-1 in overtime.
"We were a little sluggish in the first period [against Normandy], and I we came out big in the second," Sheridan said. Aurora managed a pair of second-period goals while holding Normandy scoreless on 13 shots.
"I think we were a little overconfident in the first period," said Capretta. "We came back into the locker room and re-established our game plan. When we came out in the second period, we were ready to go."
"We had a good speech in the locker room between the first and second, and that got us going," added Pirinen.
The Greenmen capitalized on a major Normandy penalty by netting a power-play goal with just over 10 minutes to play in the third period, and Pirinen and Capretta teamed up for the fourth goal with 1:59 on the clock.
That final goal was the result of stellar play by Pirinen in the neutral zone. Pirinen earned possession of a loose puck and skated into Normandy's zone, while Capretta skated through center ice, creating a 2-on-1 opportunity.
Pirinen slid the puck to Capretta for a quick shot that Normandy goaltender Alexis Ryan had little chance of stopping.
"There's no doubt about it [being the biggest goal of the season]," said Sheridan. "It's 3-2 and we're hanging on for dear life. That's what we were looking for out of Pirinen and Capretta."
Aurora's Joey Brockway stopped 43 of 45 shots.
Against No. 1 seed Brooklyn, which won the Blue South Division and went into the game with a 22-2 overall record, Pirinen and sophomore Jack Pfiffner had early goals to give the locals a 2-0 lead.
Brooklyn then netted a goal, and Joe Capretta was given a game misconduct penalty and forced to leave the contest. The Hurricanes knocked in 3 goals in the middle frame to take a 4-2 lead.
Pirinen found the net with 6 minutes to go, and freshman Patrick Murray slapped home his first career goal with five seconds to go in regulation to tie the score and send the game to sudden death.
AHS senior captain Nick Capretta knocked home a goal while falling down after a faceoff to win the overtime thriller 6 minutes into the period.
"We were definitely tired [by the overtime]," said Nick Capretta. "I saw the puck bounce off the goalie and I just dove for it and it got in."
"I told the team after the second period 'If we get that third goal before they get the fifth, we win this game,'" said Sheridan, "And that's what happened. I said create a memory, and they definitely did."
Pfiffner added 2 assists, and senior Dominic Hesmondhalgh and both Caprettas each added one. Brockway made 43 saves as the locals were outshot 47-21.
After a scoreless first period against CVCA, Pirinen got the locals on the board with an assist from senior Ian Houston, and the game remained 1-0 going into the third period.
CVCA tied it up midway through the third frame, and in overtime CVCA's Hayden Dickerson broke through to score.
Sheridan remained positive despite the tough loss. "I'm so proud of our team's effort during this tourney from start to finish," he said. "It was a great accomplishment just to make it to the championship game for the first time in history, and we gave it everything we had."
Brockway turned away 38 shots. "He was absolutely outstanding all tournament; he did more than we could have asked from him," said Sheridan.
It was the first ever Baron Cup championship for CVCA, which after starting the season 1-10-1, managed to turn its season around and win 13 of its last 17 games.
Aurora was to start district tournament play Feb. 14 against CVCA at the Kent State Ice Arena. The winner will face Walsh Jesuit on Feb. 18 at 5:15 p.m.