It seemed like one of those cheesy movie scripts that would sooner hit the bottom of a trash can than head into production. But, like most of the hard-to-believe triumphs in sports, this really happened.
It was the Outlaws' first year in the Federal Hockey League, and, yes, the team's initial season was capped with a league championship. But where the story took an unbelievable turn was the first-year franchise racking up 48 wins against 10 losses, and its ensuing romp through the playoffs that had the team sweep its way to the Commissioner's Cup. It was overcoming a one-goal deficit twice in the championship game, and overcoming Danbury's offense which outshot the Outlaws, 34-22, in regulation.
The only aspect of the story that might not have been fitting in the land of the movies and happy endings, unless it was the script for Major League, was the franchise then being sent away from its New Jersey base to pursue a different city to call home.
"Last year we were an expansion team and right out of the gate we said we wanted to win a championship," Outlaws coach and president Chris Firriolo said. "We brought some really good players in and probably had a double-A caliber team in a single-A league."
Now, the Outlaws embark on their first season representing Williamsport with hopes just as high as when the program started in Wayne, NJ.
The Outlaws open the season this Wednesday at 7 p.m. vs. the Dayton Demonz at the Airmen Pond at Bowman Field.
"Repeating is always hard, but I'd be lying if I said we want anything other than to win the championship again," Firriolo said. "We feel like we have the player personnel to be that successful and to try and defend that championship."
Bringing in the right personnel started with bulking up the offensive attack with the Southern Professional Hockey League's all-time leading scorer, Rob Sich.
Sich, who scored 63 goals in a record setting 2009-10 season in the SPHL, was named player of the year twice in the SPHL, scoring 259 goals in 245 appearances. Sich was so good over his six-year stretch in the SPHL that he beat his own record of 46 goals, which was set in the 2006-07 season, with his 63-goal year.
Sich, a longtime teammate of Outlaw captain Trevor Karaslewicz, should have little problem finding a home with the Outlaws. As Karaslewicz described it he's a passer and Sich is a scorer.
"I've played with Rob for four or five years now," Karaslewicz said. "I've been on the same line with him for a while and he's a scorer and I'm a passer. He can score goals and it's unbelievable how he does it."
The Outlaws also added depth to their defensive units by signing Dan McNeill, a five-year veteran with time in the SPHL, and Tyler Matheson, who posted 98 penalty minutes in 64 games in the Central Hockey League.
"We had a handful of guys leave, but we feel the players we brought in are just as good if not better," Firriolo said. "We have a good core of guys who want to be here."
"The key to winning a championship is being deep," McNeill said. "All the guys have to know their roles and once that happens, and everybody gets along, things just kind of fall into place."
The team also signed Chris Leveille and Paul Dagostino to help add extra depth to the frontline and defense, respectively.
"We brought back some pretty good leaders in Trevor Karaslewicz and Nate Oke," Firriolo said. "They are guys who have played at this level and know what it's like to win. We went out and got Rob Sich and got Chris Leveille. We then went out and solidified the blue line."
Solidifying the blue meant signing players like McNeill and Paul Dagostino, who played his first professional season last year with the Mississippi Riverkings.
Dagostino played in 43 games during his rookie campaign, totaling two goals with seven assists.
The Outlaws also retained their emotional leader from their championship season, bringing back captain Karaslewicz. In the team's first season, Karaslewicz scored 12 goals with 22 assists in 22 appearances.
"The coach and I have a great relationship," Karaslewicz said. "He started putting together a good team and I wanted to be part of it."
Oke is another piece that will be key if the Outlaws plan on repeating their success from a season ago. One of the team's leading defensemen in last year's championship run, Oke tallied 14 goals to go with 31 assists in 43 appearances.
As an added attraction for the team, the Outlaws will become the first professional hockey club to play an entire season of home games outside.
"Since the Winter Classic was done everybody wants to be part of it," Karaslewicz said. "This is like a mini version of the NHL's game. Everybody is excited about it."
"We feel really confident and think Wednesday night is going to be a lot of fun," Firriolo said.