Now that the boys Federation Hockey regular season has ended it’s time to start previewing the playoff’s in each of the three divisions; Private, Small and Large Schools.
Both the Catholic and Small School divisions begin on Thursday while the Large School division will kick things off on Friday. All Fed teams qualified for the post season with Canisius, Williamsville North and West Seneca East (WSE) each earning the top seeds in their respective divisions. Canisius, WSE and Grand Island will have first round bye’s.
FEB 15 – 6:45PMSt. Francis (4)St. Mary’s (5)
FEB 19 – 6pmCanisius (1)St Francis/St Mary’s Winner
FEB 19 – 8:15pmSt. Joe’s (2)Timon (3)
FEB 27 – 8:30pmCAN/STF/STM WinnerSTJ/TIM Winner
Canisius locked down the No. 1 seed over a week ago and finished up a perfect 4-0-0. They are currently riding a four game winning streak. In their last two private school match-up’s they posted a 5-0 shutout over Timon and defeated rivals St. Joe’s 4-2.
Goaltenders Alex Sabuda and Noah Spiesz have both played well down the stretch. Offensively, they will lean on Matt Kreuzer to continue scoring big goals for them. Cole Beiter and Logan Gare have had exceptional seasons.
Early this season Coach Sam Belsito said his team was young but full of energy and have bought into the system. Two key ingredients for a successful season. Having captured the top seed in their respective division, it is safe to assume the Crusaders have exceeded his expectations.
As we enter the post-season things Canisius is playing with a lot of confidence. Going back to their first game against the Marauders, Canisius lost 4-0. The first two periods were pretty tight before the Crusaders found themselves in penalty trouble and watched the wheels come off a bit. It was a pivotal moment for Canisius. It showed this young group how much harder they were going to have to work if they were going to compete for the Private School Championship. The writing was on the wall, if the Crusaders had any thoughts about going all the way to State’s, they would have to go through St. Joe’s.
They went 2-1-1 in a four game stretch before the rematch with the Marauders. Canisius won 4-2. Canisius went 2-0 versus Timon, another Division I opponent, outscoring them 9-1 in those two games.
The Crusaders will be a very tough out this post-season.
St. Joe’s has had an up and down year. Most teams would be satisfied finishing with a record of 10-4-2 in any division but the Marauders expectations are higher than most. Aside from a three game losing streak in January St. Joe’s rebounded to finish out the season 4-0-1 in league play and won the Massena Invitational Tournament.
Every year the message inside the St. Joe’s dressing room is the same. Come ready, stay focused and play strong in all three zones. It’s a conservative system that the players buy into, often sacrificing offensive numbers for the good of the team. That’s why they’ve won five State titles in the last seven years. And, that’s why they get the very best out of their opponents whenever they play.
The Marauders are the New England Patriots of the Fed and they don’t apologize for it, why should they?
This team however has faced more adversity than previous squads. They’ve lost over 100 man games to injury. In their opening weekend forward Shane Scheeler went out with a devastating wrist injury that sidelined him the entire regular season. Recently he resumed skating with the team and has been cleared to play.
Call-up’s? There have been plenty, 12 total. This has been a big challenge for the Marauders but they have overcome the misfortunes and will be much better having gone through it.
They’ll face Timon in the first round. The Marauders won both meetings this season 5-1.
St. Francis is having a very good season, finishing with an 11-0-2-1 overall record in Division III. Against the private schools they were 1-1-3, which includes ties against St. Joe’s, Timon and St. Mary’s. Their only private school loss was to Canisius.
Gavin Krawiec led the Red Raiders with 10 goals while John Kubiak led the team in points with 19. Vincent Vaccaro went 6-0 with a 1.43 GAA with a couple of shutouts while his goaltending partner Rocco Arnold was 4-1-2 with a 1.67 GAA. Solid defense and a strong goalie tandem could help push St. Francis into a deep playoff run. This team should not be taken lightly.
Timon is battle tested year in year out after playing a Division 1 schedule. The record might not necessarily show it, but they are much better than their 4-10-2 record. Their first playoff opponent is St. Joe’s Monday night.
The Tigers aren’t going to roll over for the Marauders. Come playoff time the regular season records don’t mean anything. Timon has a chance if they can go out and outwork St. Joe’s for three periods. Additionally, they can’t beat themselves with undisciplined penalties. The game plan should be simple, stay out of the box, out work, out hustle and put pressure on the Marauders defense. That’s what they will have to do if they want to move into the 2nd round.
They do have some seniors that would like nothing more than to knock off St. Joe’s in Gavin Farrell (8-11-19), Dan Alvarado, Cian Gould and Matt Pilski. The younger Tigers will need their leadership now more than ever.
St. Mary’s of Lancaster played as well as can be expected in their first full year back in the Fed. Unless you are one of the Lancers. They set very high goals for themselves and getting past the first round of the playoff’s is one they’d like to complete.
Forward Brendan Krawczyk is having an MVP season. He led St. Mary’s in goals (17) and assists (16) and tallied three short-handed goals along the way, tops in the league.
It was a down year in DIII as a number of teams struggled to find wins. Either way the Lancers took care of their business and finished the season with a big 3-1 win over Sweet Home. The victory over the Panthers could give them more confidence heading into Thursday night’s game vs St. Francis.
I expect to see the Marauders and Crusaders down at Key Bank Center once again. I’d love to be wrong, that rivalry is getting old.