Clarence skates past Lockport; faces Frontier in semifinals on Monday
Top-seeded Clarence scored early and often on Saturday and rolled to a 17-1 win over overmatched Lockport in a Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation quarterfinal at the Northtown Center.
"We have one goal and that's to make it to First Niagara Center," said senior forward Mike Santa Maria, who was on the winning side of a playoff game for the first time in his three-year varsity career. "It's a great win anytime you can win in the playoffs. We prepared for them just like any other team, we didn't want to take it easy on anyone."
Santa Maria scored just 2:48 into the game and the rout was on. Clarence was up 6-0 after one period and the mercy clock was running midway through the second.
"You never take a team for granted so we came out full-steam ahead wanting to put the game away as soon as possible," said Clarence senior Brian Ruff, who enjoyed a six-point afternoon. "It was nice to have that big lead going into the second and third periods."
Things will be much tougher on Monday. The Red Devils will play Frontier at 8:30 on Monday back at the Northtown Center with a trip to the championship game on the line. Clarence swept the Falcons in the regular season, winning 3-2 on Jan. 7 and 4-1 on Jan. 31.
"That's going to be a real tough game as far as I'm concerned," Clarence coach Rich Brooks said. "They're a real good team. We won the two, but it was very tight in both games. It could go any way. We have to come out and be prepared."
It was a much different story on Saturday as the Red Devils were never challenged by the winless Lions. The list of offensive standouts for Clarence goes on and on and on for this one. In all 15 different Red Devils collected at least one point. Brian Ruff had two goals and four assists, Santa Maria added two assists to go with his hat-trick, Frank Willhauck and Matt Colichia had a pair of goals apiece and Tristan Drescher dished out three assists and Mark Armstrong and Eric Grupp each had a power-play goal and two assists.
Clarence goalie Devin Paluh wasn’t tested often but he came up big when needed, most notably late in the second when he stoned Andrew Harzewski on a breakaway. Matt Salvati played the third period in net and stopped both shots sent his way.
“We had to win the game and that’s what we came out and did,” Brooks said. “It puts us into Monday which is what we wanted to do.”