High School Ice Hockey: Frontier’s top line chemistry pays off
Taking talent out of the equation, there’s really no substitute for chemistry between teammates.
Frontier senior Bob Piotrowicz and his linemate Nick Ortiz know each other well on and off the ice, and that was never more clear than on the game-winning goal in a 3-1 win over Orchard Park on Monday (Jan. 28).
Ortiz took the puck in his own end, raced down the right boards and once by a final defender, he knew where to send the puck and who would probably be there.
Piotrowicz found a crease in the middle of the Orchard Park zone and banged home the centering pass with 8:19 left in the game. Gavin Evancho, who centers the line, had left the puck for Ortiz back in the defensive zone and was also credited with an assist.
“I had enough momentum to blow by two of their guys and I knew Bobby is always crashing the net — he’s a great player, so I knew if I got past the one defenseman, he’d be there,” said Ortiz, whose forward line helped to start the rush up ice by being responsible back checking in its own end.
After being held somewhat in check for much of the game, the Falcons’ top scoring line came through in the nitty-gritty. Piotrowicz added an unassisted insurance goal with four minutes left in the game. It was the 27th of the season for one of the Federation’s top scorers.
“They tried to control Bobby but he always seems to find the score sheet somehow,” Frontier head coach Bob Klimowicz said. “He knows most teams are going to be doing everything they can to shut him down. They think if they shut him down, they’re going to shut our team down.
“But that winning goal was all Nick Ortiz,” he added. “We talk about players going hard to the net when you don’t have the puck. Bobby saw the lane there and Nick barreling down the ice. We need Nick creating plays like that on that line.”
For the top line, which has been together since almost the beginning of high school, it was a show of chemistry years in the making. They helped Frontier move alone into second place in large school Division I at 7-4, one point behind idle Lancaster and two up on Clarence, which has a game in-hand.
“Bobby and I have known each other since we were 5,” Ortiz said. “Me, Gavin and him have been playing hockey with each other for pretty much our high school career. It’s just the chemistry is all there. You don’t have to worry about whether or not they’re going to be in the right spot at the right time.”
Opening the scoring less than two minutes into the game was Frontier junior Tyler Gaglia on a goal assisted by Jacob Machioni and Alex Buczek. Orchard Park’s John Januszkiewicz answered in the first period with a power play goal.
The second period was scoreless as Frontier senior Cooper Soto stepped up with 11 saves, many times while fending off multiple Orchard Park forwards crashing the net. Soto finished with 22 saves.
“Orchard Park got a lot of traffic in front of Cooper,” Klimowicz said. “Something we addressed after the second period was doing a better job protecting the house. There was a couple of times where they had two or three opportunities but he shut them down. If we’re going to have a chance to win the championship this year, Cooper’s going to be an integral part of that.”
Klimowicz also was happy with the play of defenseman Matt Schifferle, who’s been one of his most consistent players this year and a tough player to match up against one-on-one, and Buczek, who saw quite a bit of ice time.
“These guys battled and nothing came easy out there today,” Klimowicz said. “Orchard Park is a good, young team.”
Frontier plays two more league games before the playoffs begin and both will have a major impact on the top four seeds in the large school bracket. The Falcons take on Clarence on Thursday (Feb. 31) and finish the season next week against Niagara-Wheatfield, the top public school from Division II, which has one less point than Frontier but with two games in-hand.
Garnering one of the top two seeds will avoid a first round quarterfinal match-up with either Orchard Park or a young but potentially upset-minded Williamsville North.
“Things are getting very tight,” Klimowicz said. “These last two league games are going to be very big for us as far as where we stand.”