High School Ice Hockey: Frontier with program-first victory over North; Hamburg wins third straight
The benchmark in Western New York Federation large school hockey has been Williamsville North.
So, Frontier knew if it wanted to reach new heights for the program, North, a state champion just two seasons ago, would need to be on its radar. In order to justify being one of the best, the Falcons would need to measure themselves against one of the best year in-and-out.
That opportunity came in only the second game of this season and finally, Frontier was able to take advantage. The Falcons beat North for the first time in 13 seasons as a Federation team, and did it in convincing fashion with a 5-1 win on Saturday (Dec. 15) at the Northtowns Center.
On a few occasions, including in last year’s regular season, Frontier came so close to achieving this feat just to fall short. North has also been the team that beat the Falcons in both of their large school finals appearances. But this time, it was Frontier that had North’s number.
“We finally got the monkey off our back,” said Frontier head coach Bob Klimowicz, who hopes to achieve a another first for Frontier by winning a Federation title. “I cannot tell you how proud I am of these guys in the locker room. This was one of the team goals the players had set for this year. Williamsville North is consistently one of the best teams in the state year in and year out. Their tradition is so strong; they expect to go to the states every year.”
Five different scorers recorded a goal, two of which came on the power play, as Frontier built a 5-0 lead after a scoreless first period. Jim Gleason, Jacob Macchioni, Gavin Evancho, Alex Buczek and Nick Ortiz all found the back of the net, while Cooper Soto made 19 saves and only lost his bid for a shutout with two minutes left in the game.
The Falcons outshot North 8-5 in the opening period, but had to wait until the second to get on the scoreboard. After Gleason’s early second period goal, Jacob Macchioni scored on a rebound with Adam Skopinski and Tyler Gaglia assisting on the goal.
Evancho scored 33 seconds into the third on a goal from Bob Piotrowicz and Ortiz. Frontier got out of its power play funk with back-to-back goals on the man advantage from Buczek and Ortiz with assists going to Mike O’Rourke, Macchioni, Evancho and Piotrowicz. North scored late on a power play goal. The Falcons outshot North 27-20.
“We are playing good disciplined hockey, staying out of the penalty box, limiting odd man rushes and providing a strong forecheck,” Klimowicz noted. “We have a lot of team speed. I stress to them all the time to use that speed. I keep reminding the players that it’s a long season so we need to make sure we don’t get too high or too low. The guys are working hard and supporting one another and that is what it’s all about.”
The Falcons are in a five game in nine-day stretch, which includes games against Niagara Falls on Dec. 17, at the Batavia Christmas Tournament on Dec. 21-22 — the opener against Timon, and then playing Dec. 23 against division rival Lancaster starting 5 p.m. at Buffalo State.
“Lancaster is a very strong team this year and I am sure at the end of the season we will be battling with them for the division championship,” noted Klimowicz, whose team plays its first home game at the Town of Hamburg Ice Arena on Wednesday, Dec. 26 at 3p.m.
Hamburg is beginning to reverse a two-year trend of play during down seasons in a twofold manner. Not only is Hamburg out to its first three-game winning streak in a number of seasons, the Bulldogs increased that streak with two impressive victories in come-from-behind fashion.
After defeating a solid Grand Island team 3-2 on Dec. 13, Hamburg defeated North Tonawanda 6-3 three days later. In both games, the opposition scored first and North Tonawanda held a 2-1 lead after the first period. After only five games, Hamburg is only one win away from matching last year’s victory total.
“We’ve been talking that our main objective at the start of the year is to learn how to win,” said Hamburg head coach John McFall, who noted that his team is also gaining the confidence to come back after trailing, which was not something it handled well the past two years.
After Grand Island jumped out to an early lead, Hamburg scored on a power play goal from Brendan McFall to even the game. Tied at 1-1 in the third, Alex Suchan, a varsity call-up who was tearing it up at the JV level, scored the go-ahead goal on a impressive individual effort. McFall then continued his hot hand, scoring his second goal of the game and fifth in three games on a 3-on-2 with linemates Colin Coppola and Brett Ross.
Grand Island did not fold, though, scoring with about 40 seconds left in the game, and then pulled its goalie and kept pressure on Hamburg until the final buzzer. Bulldogs’ junior goaltender Brendan Bartoo was able to make a number of big saves.
“Bartoo battled all game long,” coach McFall said. “Grand Island has some nice offensive players, but Brendan did not give many second chance opportunities from rebounds.”
Two days later, the Jacks held a one-goal lead after the first, but Chris Moses took over with a natural hat trick in the second staking Hamburg to a 4-2 lead. On his third goal, he blasted a picture-perfect shot from the top of the slot. Moses was kept off the scoresheet for the first time against Grand Island but dominated with his league leading sixth through eighth goals.
Hamburg got two additional goals in the third period from a couple of defenseman. Both Tyler Scull and Liam McFall pushed into the offensive zone to jam home loose pucks. Down 1-0 early, Coppola had tied the game for Hamburg.
“I think we took this team a little lightly in the beginning,” coach McFall said. “Part of our learning this year is that we need to win the games we feel we are supposed to win. This was one of those games.”
“It’s a long season, but these are the games we will look back on that helped us get off to a great start,” added McFall, whose team enters a tough stretch against Williamsville East on Dec. 22 and in non-league tournament games against strong large schools Niagara Wheatfield and Lancaster after Christmas.
Elsewhere, St. Francis earned a second win this season, playing in yet another one-goal game this season, this time ending in its favor, 5-4 in overtime over West Seneca East on Dec. 16. Nick Ferrino scored just 10 seconds into overtime on an odd-man rush, while Tyler McTigue had a goal and four assists. Pat Kinderman made 36 saves. As of Dec. 18, St. Francis was 2-6-1, five of those losses coming by one goal.