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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Boys Federation Hockey Preview: Small Schools

The brackets are all set for the Small Schools division in the WNY Federation Hockey Section VI Championship. Last year West Seneca East (WSE) made a valiant run through the playoff’s but came up short in the regionals. The Trojans are in good position to defend their Section VI title, finishing the regular season with a 12-4-0 record and claiming a first round bye.

There are a number of teams, however that will be looking to challenge WSE.

Weekend ScheduleDATERINKTIMEHOMEVISITOR2/15/2018NTC7PM(12) Will South(13) Amherst2/15/2018NTC9pm(5) No. Tona(6) Ken East2/16/2018NTC5pm(10) Lew Port(11) Hamburg2/16/2018NTC7pm(7) Ken WestW.S./Amh2/16/2018NTC9pm(8) Starpoint(9) Will East2/18/2018NTC1pm(1) W.S. EastLP/Ham2/18/2018NTC3pm(2) G.I.Starp/W.E.2/18/2018NTC5pm(3) W.S. WestKW/W.S./Amh2/18/2018NTC7pm(4) Sweet HomeNT/KE

The Contenders

West Seneca East, for all the right reasons. They have one of the best goaltenders in Jagger Maving and an explosive offense capable of putting up big numbers. They also have the experience and understand what it will take to get to the next level.

Danny Flynn and Tyler Arndt both put up over 30 points, making them one of the most difficult tandems to shut down. Drew Werner a senior and Colin Schmatz only a sophomore, have played big roles for the Trojans this year. Offensively, WSE scored 66 goals during the regular season, tops in DII.

Their special teams play was on another level for much of the season. The first short-handed goal they gave up was on Jan 15th in a loss to rival West Seneca West. The Trojans have struggled down the stretch to some degree.

WSE lost two of their last three games and were outscored 33-29 in their last nine outings going 6-4 during that span. In those six wins, all games were decided by one goal. It is safe to say that the Trojans have not been playing their best hockey when they need to be.

If you look at the full body of work, there is enough to worry opposing coaches. They are the defending section champs and not a team that’s going to quit. The Trojans will have to stay focused. They understand there is still a lot of work to do. Can they put it all together for another deep playoff run? Stay tuned.

Grand Island (GI) finished up at 11-3-2 with losses coming at the hands of Williamsville East, WSE and West Seneca West (WSW). GI went 5-1-2 over their last eight games with wins coming over WSE, WSW and Starpoint twice.

The Vikings received exceptional goaltending from Jason Lupp (8-3-2) who posted a 1.64 GAA and one shutout. Lupp allowed just 23 goals on the season, considering the firepower we saw throughout DII this year, that’s an incredible feat.

Offensively GI had three players finish with double digits in goals. Dylan Russo and Thomas Cecere each scored 13 while Parker Morrow had 11. Sitting in the No. 2 spot they’ll be patiently waiting the Williamsville East vs Starpoint winner.

West Seneca West has been playing at a high-level all season and earned the No. 3 Seed. Jacob Fort, a senior defenseman shouldered a bulk of the ice time this year and did an impressive job, leading the team in goals, assists and points (10-14-24). Seven of Fort’s goals came with the man advantage.

The Indians were a young team last year but you could see they had the talent to compete and that’s exactly what they’ve done in 2017-18. The biggest question mark was discipline? Could WSW stay out of penalty trouble? I think they proved this year that they could play a disciplined style of hockey, only two players had penalty minutes in the double digits.

Coach Kevin Rozo has said on several occasions that the only team that could beat his Indians were the Indians themselves. WSW is one of those teams playing at a peak level at the right time of year.

Sweet Home has a team that could make some noise. Having been ranked at the top of the New York State Sports Writers Association rankings throughout much of the season for small schools, the Panthers are looking to end this season on a winning note.

As you go up and down the roster you’ll notice a lot of the same players are still there. Many of them have been playing together for the last three years on Varsity. Tyler Edholm, Andrew Czyz, Joe Torillo, David Gardner, David Lund and Alex Farkas would like nothing more than to play at HarborCenter for the small school state title.

They begin the next phase of the journey on Saturday when they will face either Kenmore East or North Tonawanda.

The Panthers probably had the easiest schedule of the top four seeds. In head to head match-up’s with St. Francis and St. Mary’s of Lancaster, two private school teams that finished ahead of them in D-III standings, the Panthers split the season series with both.

It’s hard to tell how good the team is, they outscored the bottom four teams in the division 66-7, those same four teams combined had 12 wins. That could play into the Panthers hands in the form of fresher legs, healthier bodies. In non-league action they were 4-1-1, with the only loss coming at the hands of Timon, a D-1 team.

Sweet Home has experience, goal scorers, depth, quality goaltending and one of the best blue liners in the league in Czyz. It’ll be no surprise to me if they make it to Key Bank Center.

Dark Horses

Kenmore East. I challenge anyone to find a team in Fed playing as well as the Bulldogs are right now. After losing in back-to-back nights by a combined score of 19-1 to Grand Island and West Seneca East respectively, Kenmore East rebounded to finish out the regular season 8-2-1. They collected big wins over Kenmore West, West Seneca West, Starpoint and played Grand Island to a 3-3 tie.

Don’t sleep on the Bulldogs. There are some question marks, such as youth, inexperience and goaltending. One question that has been answered is their resolve. The Bulldogs showed a lot of guts and proved that they can play with anybody. In their rematch with West Seneca East, the score was tied 4-4 with two minutes left in regulation. The Trojans scored on a penalty shot which turned out to be the game winning goal. A heartbreaker for sure, but a confidence booster.

This is a well-coached team, Kyle Pray has won two state titles behind the Bulldogs bench, these players have bought in.

Kenmore West had a roller coaster season finishing 8-6-2. They picked up a nice win in the season finale over West Seneca East 2-1. They arguably have the most dangerous lines in the Fed with Ethan Yotter, Mike Barker and Cam Crozier. Defensively Owen Green is as consistent as they come.

The Blue Devils need to play as a team, listen to their coaches and follow the game plan. They get into trouble with undisciplined penalties far too often. When playing as a team the Blue Devils match-up with anyone in this bracket. Will that team show up at the rink Friday night?

Starpoint had a great first year in the Fed finishing 7-7-1-1, good for 16 points. There aren’t any individuals on the bus. This is a team that matches up well with just about anybody in the playoffs.

A number of Fed coaches have complimented the work that these players and coaches put in game in game out. Starpoint plays a patient game and tries to outwork their opponents in all areas of the rink. The Spartans had a rough go against the top teams in D-I and D-II during the season but played much better in rematches with Williamsville East, West Seneca East and Grand Island.

They’ll face the Flames Friday at 9pm, whom they split the regular season with.

The Underdogs

Williamsville East, along with Hamburg have been far too inconsistent this season to be considered a dark horse. Which is why they find themselves in this category. Each team has a goaltender (or two) capable of stealing a game, much like Niagara Falls did last season with Pat Sisler. The Flames and Bulldogs have two of the best coaches around in Mike Torillo and John McFall, so you can’t count either them out of it just yet.

North Tonawanda, Lew-Port, Amherst and Williamsville South won’t lay down for anyone. Despite their records players still have pride. Like Torillo and McFall, their coaches know how to push the right buttons in these situations. Will we see another Fed miracle like we did last year?

Outlook

This time of year it’s all about the teams that are playing at their very best. It would be very tough to bet against Sweet Home, West Seneca West, Kenmore East or Grand Island. When I look at the entire body of work over the course of this past regular season, West Seneca East stands out as the favorite.

Being the favorite just means you have the bigger target on your back. Down the stretch the Trojans played in a lot of one goal games and used up a lot of their legs. Will they have enough in the tank for a deep playoff run? We shall see.

The Panthers, Indians and Vikings are the complete package and are worth keeping an eye on. To me, those three teams along with the Trojans give WNY the best chance at a State title.

My gut feeling tells me that Sweet Home or Ken East will come out of their bracket to face either Grand Island or West Seneca West at Key Bank Center. Something tells me the Panthers and Indians will be the last two teams standing. I’ve been wrong before.

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