St. Francis holds off neighbor in Fed hockey
McTigue racks up five points against Hamburg
St. Francis has juggled its lines and player combinations throughout the season looking for the right fits to help get the team on track.
What the Red Raiders have been able to count on as a constant is the production from senior Tyler McTigue, one of their few returning players from the program’s Section VI private school championship team.
McTigue scored twice and assisted on all three of the team’s other goals as St. Francis held off Hamburg 5-4 in a late-morning neighborhood rivalry game Saturday (Jan. 26) at the Town of Hamburg Ice Rink.
“We battled hard. We came out flying because we’re a Hamburg school, they’re a Hamburg school, so we really wanted to beat them,” McTigue said.
“We’re trying hard and at times it’s been difficult for us this season but we’re in almost every game,” he added. “We’re a young team that’s trying the best we can...I’m trying to lead by example and have everyone follow me by scoring and getting the kids pumped up. But it’s not all about me; it’s about the team.”
His performance has put McTigue atop all Western New York scorers from the Federation’s 15 small schools with 31 points. He’s now got 16 goals and 15 assists in league play. St. Francis improved to 6-8 in the league and won consecutive games for the first time, having defeated Kenmore West 2-1 five days prior to beating Hamburg.
“I don’t know of any other player in our league that has as much skill as Tyler does,” said St. Francis assistant Tom Murphy, who stood in for the interview after head coach Craig Fattey left right after the game. “(Tyler) gets a little frustrated at times because this season we don’t have a lot of horses to go with him, but he’s been pretty patient.”
McTigue’s influence can also be seen in the play of sophomore forward Pat Roberts, who was moved up to the top line with McTigue and continued his hot play of late, as he scored two goals against Hamburg. Murphy was particularly impressed with Roberts’ second goal, coming in the third period, in which the youngster raced by a defender to the puck behind the net before tucking it behind the goalie.
“Tyler’s kind of taken (Pat) under his wing this year and setting him up nice and teaching him to play in the dangerous areas of the ice and go where you need to go to score goals,” Murphy noted. “Two-goal games are becoming the norm for Pat lately and we like that a lot.”
The St. Francis coaching staff also couldn’t help but be impressed with the goaltending of junior Tim Galley, who made 27 stops, including 11 in the third period when Hamburg was mounting a comeback and at times, putting on relentless pressure.
“Most of their scoring chances we’re right in front of the net — point blank opportunities, and this kid stopped almost everything,” Murphy said of Galley. “He played out of his mind. That’s probably the best performance I’ve seen from a goaltender this year.”
Galley had to be good because after the Red Raiders stretched their lead to 5-2, Hamburg took over. Chris Moses, another one of the top scorers among WNY small schools, scored his second of the game with 7:52 remaining in the third, and then Eric Shearer deposited a rebound to make it very interesting with 3:53 left.
St. Francis’ senior defenseman Mike Prentice scored on a two-man advantage with 9:35 remaining in the game for what turned out to be the game-winner. Bernie Lettieri and Sean Devine added assists in the win.
Also scoring for Hamburg was Colin Coppola, while Alex Peters added two assists and Austin Bishop, Brett Ross, Brendan McFall and Tyler Bellitto each added one helper. Hamburg head coach John McFall gave credit to the defensive work of Tyler Bellitto and Shearer, as well. Also, sophomore Zach Sortisio saw his first varsity action since an early-season knee injury and stopped a third period breakaway.
“We dug a hole but our coaches were glad to see them dig back out,” McFall said. “It’s a cross-town rivalry and I knew coming in it would be a good game. Galley made some great saves early on and we had a number of chances in the third and he came out, challenged and stopped us. When we were down, we showed that in order to win you battle back when things aren’t working.”
The win was big not only for bragging rights between the cross-town rivals but also because it came at the expense of a Hamburg team that has enjoyed a solid season, as it sat at 7-2-1-1, four points ahead of St. Francis, after the game.
“There’s guys on both benches that know each other and the kids know each other, so it does make it satisfying to beat Hamburg,” said Murphy, who credited McFall and his staff for the job that they do with their players. “They have guys that can produce goals and the rest of them contribute by wearing you down and maybe causing us to take cheap penalties and not be able to take advantage of our strength — we’re a skating team (that rolls four lines).”
St. Francis jumped into third place in Division III as it awaits a major test among private schools playing 15-2-1 St. Joe’s on Sunday, Feb. 3.
“St. Joe’s is a powerhouse; they’re always a powerhouse and they have a great coach (in Rich Crozier),” Murphy said. “You watch them before the game warming up and then how attentive they are when they call a timeout — they’re a machine.”
Hamburg bounced back with a 5-4 win over Williamsville South the next day and in the final contest of a three-game in as many day stretch and with first place in small school Division III on the line, the Bulldogs jumped out to a second period 4-1 lead over West Seneca West.
However, division front-runner West showed off its firepower, scoring five unanswered goals to earn a 6-4 win on Monday (Jan. 28) at the West Seneca Town Rink. West moved three points up on Hamburg and clinched the division title.
The Bulldogs remained a third seed among small schools, but still has a regular season showdown slated for Feb. 9 with Kenmore East, which can still pass them in the standings.