On a night dedicated to local heroes, it was only fitting that it took last-minute heroics for the Killer Bees to overcome an early 0-2 deficit and emerge victorious over the Lone Star Brahmas. Heroics provided by RGV’s Rob Marsanico as he scored his second goal of the season after 60 minutes of regulation, five minutes of sudden-death overtime and five rounds of head-to-head shoot-out action failed to decide the outcome of the game. Marsanico’s clutch shot gave the Bees a 3-2 victory and allowed RGV to improve its record to 19-10-7 and move into a third place tie in the North American Hockey League’s (NAHL) South division.
After the game, the 17-year old Allendale New Jersey native explained the scenario in which he scored one of the biggest goals of his young career.
“When the score is tied after the five-minute sudden-death period like ours was, there’s a shoot-out in which each team gets five shooters,” explained Marsanico. “Since both teams scored one goal in the shoot-out we remained tied so went to a one-on-one shoot-out that would end when one team scored and the other didn’t. Their first shooter missed his shot and I made mine so we won.”
The Bees began their comeback Saturday with 1:47 to go in the second period when Sean Mostrom scored his third goal of the season with assists from Brenden Dunning and Dylan Abood. RGV’s scoring leader Ben Greiner then evened up the score at 2-2 when he made his 14th goal of the season 5:09 into the third period with assists from Aleksi Luhtalampi and J.B. Baker.
Mostrom later scored another goal during the five player shoot-out but it was cancelled out when the Brahmas’ Liam Stirtzinger snuck one past the Bees’ goaltender on their fifth and final attempt of the shoot-out. Overall RGV took 30 shots on goal compared to 17 by the Brahmas.
“This team moved from Wenatchee Washington,” explained Bees head coach Joe Coombs. “It was a very successful, top five organization in Wenatchee. They had very successful teams and we like to think that we’ll be carrying that tradition on here. Bill Stewart, our president, wants a winning program and he is willing to support the team and the staff to do that. That’s one of the things that drew me here.”
The NAHL’s 60 game regular season runs from mid-September through the end of March. Four teams from each of the four divisions will qualify for the playoffs and will continue to play until a champion has been crowned in May.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start this season,” explained Coombs. “It took us a while to find our groove there in September but we continued to get better and better. We even had a run in which we won eight or nine out of 10 which put us up there with the other top teams in the division.”
He added, “We’re only five points out of first place right now so despite our slow start we’re on track to making the playoffs.”
Currently celebrating its 38th season, the NAHL is the oldest and one of the largest USA Hockey-sanctioned junior circuits in the nation. With 24 teams representing some of the nation’s emerging hockey markets, as well as traditional hot beds in 11 states, it is one of only two leagues in the United States which implements the non-pay-to-play model.
As a result NAHL players are preparing for collegiate hockey with the ultimate goal being an opportunity to play for a Division 1 school.
“There’s no minimum age to play in this league but it’s mostly 18, 19 and 20-year olds. Ten of our kids are 19 and eight more are 20 so we are one of the older teams in the league,” explained Coombs.
While several of the Killer Bees are taking high school courses online, two chose to attend a local high school. Rob Marsanico and Luke Bafia both recently attended and graduated from Sharyland High.
“Robbie and I attended Sharyland High School as seniors this year,” shared Bafia. We graduated mid-term in December. We’d attend classes for three periods each day from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Then we’d come straight to the rink to practice at 1:30. So it was pretty much right out of school to the rink, into our gear and onto the ice.”
After their current five-game road trip, the Bees will return to State Farm Arena for a seven-game home stand Jan. 24 through Feb. 15. Single game tickets range in price from $14 – $20 with discounts available for kids, seniors, military personnel and groups of 10 or more. Tickets can be purchased by visiting the Killer Bees website at www.killerbeeshockey.com.