Written by Hal Bock Friday, 15 March 2013 00:00
They came together by necessity after graduation stripped of their respective rosters; hockey players from neighboring Long Island communities who were dedicated to their sport but without enough players for a team.
And so they formed the East Williston-Jericho high school club team and created an experience none of them will ever forget. The merged team won the Nassau County championship with a perfect 18-0 season and reached the final round of the New York State Large School Division Championships in Jamestown, N.Y.
As the merged players got more comfortable together, East Williston-Jericho swept to the title in the Nassau County High School Hockey League’s Michelino Division and the county title. The State Championship tournament began with a three-game preliminary round. Win two games there and the team advances to the single elimination semifinals and then the state championship game.
East Williston-Jericho won its state opener 5-2 against a local team called Starpoint with Matt Bernot scoring three goals and Adam Fox and Justin Breslin adding one each. Goalie Graham Turk, the coach’s son, made 32 saves.
After tying its second game as Bernot and Cole Pergament scored goals, East Williston-Jericho advanced to the finals of the large school New York State Championships with a thrilling 7-6 victory in the final preliminary round game. Bernot and Andrew Fox both contributed three goals and it was Fox’s goal with 20 seconds left that was the game-winner.
Then Turk’s team ran out of luck. East Williston-Jericho hit four posts in a 5-2 loss to Canisius, ending its dream with the only loss all season. Bernot finished the tournament with 10 goals while Andrew Fox scored five and Adam Fox had two. Turk won two games and tied another in four tournament starts in goal.
“It was a tough one but a great experience,’’ coach Jon Turk said. “They’re a great group of kids and they went on a great run. It’s been a dream season but you never want to say we’re satisfied until it’s over. We’ve never won States. In the last five years, East Williston has won two county championships and reached the state semifinals. It’s a good way to go out for this group.’’
A year ago, Turk’s team reached the semifinals before losing to Oceanside. “Our goal right from the start was to win the state championship,’’ the coach said.
Reconstructed from the remains of two programs, East Williston-Jericho made it back to the final round last weekend before losing for the first time all season. It ended a remarkable season for the team Turk pieced together, a team that filled a thirst for hockey while the National Hockey League was shut down by a lockout well into January.
“It was great for us,’’ Turk said, “Every one became interested in high school hockey. Most of the high school hockey on Long Island is club hockey. The league is not run by the schools but the schools are supportive of the program.’’
Turk pieced together a roster split almost evenly between the two school districts. East Williston-Jericho took the Oyster Bay Cup en route to its perfect season.
The team struggled for a while during the season, However, turning point came when East Williston-Jericho scored three goals in five minutes of the third period to wipe out a 4-2 deficit and defeat Bellmore-Merrick 5-4. In the single elimination Nassau County playoff semifinals against the same squad from Bellmore-Merrick, East Williston-Jericho had an easier time, winning 5-0.