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DevilDogs Look to Clear Final Hurdle

As the WNY Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation prepares for its seventh season, its resident powerhouse, Kenmore/GI, will be looking to do more than just continue its amazing string of five consecutive Section VI titles. They are hoping, and working towards, 2016-17 being the year they finally reach the promised land of being state champions. Making the state tournament the last five seasons, the DevilDogs, saw their state title dreams end in the championship game. Losing to Section X Messena at the HarborCenter in 2015, then falling to Section III Alexandria-Bay, 3-2, in last year’s title tilt.

“Me and Olivia, we’ve been playing together since seventh grade,” senior forward Hannah Gallivan said.

“Every year we’ve been on the team we’ve made it to the sectional championship. I think it’s really just gonna come down to the younger girls and the newer girls just wanting to win and wanting to get that far. I think we could have the talent level to get there again. It’s just gonna come down to who wants it.”

Gallivan and fellow senior Olivia Smith, an All-WNY first teamer last year, will lead the DevilDogs into battle this season. But this could be the DevilsDogs’ most challenging season since year one, as they will move forward without big game players like forwards Emily King, Lina Mirabella and Taylor Story, as well as defensive gem Grace Simmons and goalie Cara Klopp.

“That’s what you’ve got to do. You’ve got to count on somebody,” Kenmore/GI coach Jeff Orlowski said. “Last year we still had a lot of the big guns that we had for six years, but now we’ve lost eight. Everybody says ‘oh this is a rebuilding year.’ I don’t like the word rebuilding. I say re-tooling. I think we’ve just got to get ready and go for it.”

Orlowski said that falling in the state finals in back-to-back seasons should create a hunger in the returning girls to come in and see it through to the end goal of finally becoming state champs.

“You hope that it’s there,” he said. “Olivia, has been one of the best players in the league for a number of years now. She was on first team All-WNY last two years. She wants it. She’s pushing for the one thing that has eluded them-the state title. They want to get there. Olivia can take over a game. She can dominate and so can Hannah.”

Originally a merged team of Kenmore West and Kenmore East, the program reached beyond the Ken-Ton district last season to welcome in Grand Island.

Olivia Smith said that as time went on the chemistry between the Ken-Ton girls and the newcomers from GI grew as they developed that family bond and they feel as one with no divisions based on schools.

Offensively, Kenmore/GI will be counting on Smith and Abigail Blair to provide the bulk of their scoring.

Returnees Chloe Moore and Rosie Boyko will be needed to step up in a hurry to not only fill the void left by Simmons graduating, but also the departure of physical blueliner LeeAnn Wright, who transferred to Nichols School.

Ninth grader Kayli Reynolds is a powerfully built newcomer who just took part in her first practice on Nov.10, the day of this interview, so the coaching staff isn’t sure where she will fit in. Reynolds size should make her a formidable presence on the ice.

Senior goalie Andrea Colan returns, but she will likely face stiff competition from promising seventh grader Ellie Simmons, who is Grace’s younger sister.

“I think we have a good group of girls. I think we just have to work hard at practice,” Smith said. “Work as a team and get to know each other.”

A very a young team, Gallivan, Smith, and Colan are the only seniors. With four freshmen and three seventh graders among its 22 underclassmen, Kenmore/GI should continue to be a top program.

The biggest question for Kenmore/GI will be depth. The core players are as good as any team in WNY. The challenge is in crunch time can their support players like Jenna House (F/D), Nina Stockman (F) and Hannah Munley (D) step up and be difference makers?

“Obviously with Olivia, Abbie (Blair) and Hannah, you expect big things out of them,” said Orlowski.

“But I need big things out of Jenna, Nina and Hannah Munley. Girls that have been here a couple years. They need to step up now.”

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