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The NYIHSHL Championship Series Preview



With Ian Behnke, Travis Quigley and Brendan Yerkes 

It all comes down to this. On Monday February 12 at 7:45 PM, Matteo Bellise and the Bethpage Eagles will square off with Joey Braglia’s Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs at Long Beach Municipal Ice Arena for the first game of a best of three series. All three games are scheduled to take place in Long Beach.

The Bethpage Eagles were outshot 47-23 in Friday night’s 3-1 win in the semifinals over a Long Beach Marines squad that threw everything but the kitchen sink at Matteo Bellise. The Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs blanked the former defending champion Syosset Braves 4-0 in the semi’s as last year’s runner up’s punched their ticket to this years’s finals. 

The big news heading into Monday night’s game is that Marko Lisica, who leads the NYIHSHL in points per game, will be back in the lineup after missing Bethpage’s semifinal matchup against Long Beach on Friday night. I sat down with Ian Behnke and Travis Quigley as well as newcomer Brendan Yerkes to breakdown each squad before we make our final predictions for the 2023-2024 NYIHSHL Championship Series. 

Game One – Monday February 12th at 7:45 PM PM

Game Two – Wednesday February 14th at 7:45 PM

Game Three (If Needed) – Friday February 16th at 7:45 PM



The race for the #1 seed in Varsity Conference I may have gone down to the wire as the Bethpage Eagles secured one more point in the standings than the #2 seed Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs. The Eagles won 4-2 in their first meeting of the season against the Bulldogs on November 13th, 2023 before being outshot 38-22 in a 3-2 overtime loss on January 29th, 2024. In that game, Bellmore-Merrick needed a regulation win to lock up first place as they led Conference I with a +31 goal differential. Bethpage went onto to lock up the #1 seed with a 5-1 victory over the VSSL Storm. It was impressive that Bellmore-Merrick even had a chance to secure 1st place given the fact that they lost three straight games to open the season. 

The Bulldogs ability to outshoot the Eagles by such a significant margin with Lisica in the lineup is a testament to their impressive depth as well as their ability to play with pace while remaining disciplined. It’s also worth mentioning that this was the only regular season loss for the Eagles with Lisica in the lineup. 


The key difference between Bellmore-Merrick and Bethpage comes down to how these two teams score. Nine skaters tallied ten or more points for the Bulldogs during the regular season. Nick Drogan led Bellmore-Merrick with 22 points in 12 games. Nico Buglione and Jourdan Luskoff had 16 points apiece as they finished averaging one point per game. 

The Bethpage Eagles boast three of the top ten scorers from Varsity Conference I in the regular season. Stavros Likourentzls led the conference with 16 goals and 30 points over 15 games. Tyler Wodkcka finished with 10 goals, 12 assists and 22 points over 16 contests. Marko Lisica finished the season with 13 goals and 21 points in just 9 games. Nick Morolla is the fourth player on the Eagles averaging over a point per game with 7 goals, 9 assists and 16 points in 15 contests. 

The Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs ability to roll out three scoring lines has given opponents fits in both post-season games. Eleven Bellmore-Merrick skaters have lit the lamp during the playoffs and fourteen have tallied a point in the playoffs. Nico Buglione and Sean Keene are tied for the team lead in goals with two apiece 


Bulldogs blue liner Noah Zinman finished with 2 goals and 11 assists for 13 points in the regular season. Zinman has 1 goal in this year’s playoffs as does Evan Lenz. Liam Barkaus tallied two assists in an impressive performance against the Braves in the semifinals. Brandon Richardson, who has played big minutes on both the penalty kill and the power play, has one assist in the post-season. 

Eagles defenseman Jake Kelly and Justin Verdi had 3 goals apiece in the regular season. Kelly tallied 11 points in the regular season before scoring 1 goal and adding 1 assist in the playoffs. Verdi has two assists so far for the Eagles.  


Matteo Bellise has made 75 stops on 78 shots against this post-season for the Bethpage Eagles. Bellise boasts a .961% save percentage to go along with a 1.50 goals against average. Joey Braglia has made 38 saves on 40 shots faced with a .950% save percentage and a 1.00 goals against average. 

Our Final Picks  

Ian Behnke: Bethpage Eagles In 3 

Matteo Bellise has been nothing short of remarkable in the play-offs and the Eagles offense is good enough to win a title with him in net. 

Travis Quigley: Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs in 3 

The Bulldogs depth will enable them to wear down the Eagles and come away with a hard-fought victory in game 3.  

Brendan Yerkes: Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs in 3 

The Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs will do what they couldn’t last season, win the Championship series before turning their attention towards winning states. 

Jack Ziskin: Bellmore-Merrick Bulldogs in 3 

I went back and forth on this one for a while. The deciding factor for me was that the Bulldogs play with pace in all three zones while remaining disciplined. The Eagles path to victory relies on getting a majority of their scoring from their top six and Bellise playing lights out with little margin for error. Whoever scores the first goal in this series will have a chance to dictate the pace of this series and the Eagles road to a title will become that much more difficult if the Bulldogs strike first.

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