Great game marred by ugly brawl
The West Seneca West Indians (WSW) and Kenmore East Bulldogs (KE) played a great hockey game Sunday evening in boys Federation action. The Indians prevailed 5-3, but the story of the night centered on what happened after the game instead of during it.
WSW entered the contest with a record of 1-0-1, registering seven goals in their first two games while Ken East had dropped a 2-1 OT decision to Starpoint a day earlier.
The Indians jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes. Freshman Ethan Parsons scored his first varsity goal just five minutes in. Aaron Highway and Matt Myers picked up the assists on Parsons goal.
Moments later while short-handed, Tyler Dunning’s wrist shot beat KE goaltender Anthony Kowalski to give WSW the two-goal lead.
Late in the first period while on the power play KE had a goal waved off. Ryan Hahn found himself on the Indians doorstep with the WSW goaltender down on the ice. The 5’10 defenseman roofed the puck into the Indians net but the officials disallowed the goal because the net had become dislodged. It wasn’t a popular call and the dejected Bulldogs went to their dressing room soon after for the first intermission.
In the second period senior Colin Deubell extended the Indians lead 3-0 after taking Parker Leemer’s pass and rifling the puck into the Bulldog’s goal. It looked like the rout was on for the Indians. On his next shift, Deubell was penalized for slashing, setting up a KE power play.
Although the Bulldogs failed to convert with the extra attacker, they were able to mount some pressure on the Indians. Something that KE was unable to do in the opening period. WSW’s junior goaltender Noah Sobczyk made a key save on Dan Spor’s backhand attempt. KE continued to grind and they were rewarded for their resilience. Zach Stoll put the Bulldog’s on the board with 9:43 remaining in the second, drawing assists from Frank Gengo and Aidan Bova.
KE outshot the Indians 12-4 in period two but still trailed 3-1 heading into the third. WSW started period three on the power play. During the penalty kill, KE freshman Dominic Cassillo intercepted an Indians pass along the center red line and found himself on a breakaway, after a nifty deek he had Sobczyk beat glove side but his shot went off the post.
On the same shift Cassillo had a big collision with WSW’s Highway along the boards near center. The hit left the Indians defenseman on the ice for a few moments and needed assistance getting to the player’s bench.
Even though the hit was ruled clean by the officials, it didn’t sit well with the West Seneca bench. For the next several shifts a number of minor infractions were dished out, to both sides but that did little to calm hostilities.
Confusion in the Indians zone led to a Cassillo goal, pulling the Bulldogs to within one and less than five minutes to play in regulation. But an undisciplined penalty by one of the Bulldogs put the Indians on the power play and WSW quickly capitalized with the man advantage.
It was Deubell once again, redeeming himself from an earlier penalty by scoring the Indians 4th goal of the night.
Not to be completely undone, the Bulldog’s Cassillo made it 4-3 when he scored his second goal of the game with 2:39 left.
Highway, who had been banged up earlier in the period set up an insurance goal just over a minute later. Jason Wojciechowski was credited with WSW’s 5th goal of the night, securing the win.
As the game ended and teams were going through the customary handshake line tempers flared, words were exchanged and fists went flying. The nasty episode took away from what was a very good game.
Coaches and officials quickly separated players and escorted them to their locker rooms. A number of game misconducts were assessed; it was believed to be that four players would be unavailable to play in their next Fed game.
“Our guys were a little upset with the officiating” WSW head coach Kevin Rozo said after the game. “Still, that’s no excuse. We need to be smarter, shut our mouths and focus on the game.” Rozo is right. The Indians have the make-up of what could be a very special club this season. Sobczyk made 23 saves throughout the night in goal for the Inidans.
There is no bad blood between high-school’s, no history of dirty play between teams so it was difficult to pinpoint how players became so frustrated with one another this early into the season.
WSW is a hard-working team with some very skilled players up front. They reminded me of the Kenmore West team last season. A well-coached team with two very good scoring lines, an experienced group of defenseman and dependable goaltending. But they played undisciplined hockey out of the gate. As the season went on the Blue Devils realized how good they could be if they focused on playing their game. They finished in 1st place in Division four and earned a trip to the Key Bank Center.
The Indians are strikingly similar to that Blue Devils squad. Rozo agreed. “Our goalie has been great along with our penalty kill. But we have to play a more disciplined game.”
The Bulldogs had a down year last season after winning the small school state title in 2015-16. KE struggled in 2016-17 after losing more than half of their team to graduation. With another year under their belts some of those kids are starting to show that they can play at this level. Cassillo, a ninth-grader is already making an impact.
Kowalski finished with 19 saves for the Bulldogs.
“I was real proud of how our guys battled in the 2nd and 3rd periods,” head coach Kyle Pray said. “We played a very physical team tonight and our guys did well.”
The Bulldogs are looking at a very tough schedule to start the year. They will face Starpoint again on Friday and then have Will South on Saturday.
WSW will play Kenmore West Friday and again on Monday.
45 minutes after the final horn sounded officials were still sorting out penalties. Time will tell which Bulldogs and Indians will be eligible to play.
Three Stars of the Game
First Star – Colin Deubell – WSW
Second Star – Dominic Cassillo – KE
Third Star – Noah Sobczyk – WSW