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Dream Season for the Indians continues

The West Seneca West Indians hockey team have gone from underachievers to Section VI Small School Champions in less than a year. On Monday night they knocked off the No. four seeded Sweet Home Panthers 2-1 to claim their first title since 2013.

Senior forward Matt Myers assisted on both Indians goals and junior netminder Noah Sobczyk turned in a remarkable 30 save performance for the win. “It wasn’t easy,” WSW head coach Kevin Rozo said after the game. “Sweet Home with a heck of a battle. They did a real nice job clogging up the neutral zone and not allowing us to get running and gunning.”

The Panthers came out the aggressors in the opening period outshooting the Indians by a two-to-one margin early on. Sweet Home’s first good scoring chance came off the blade of Blake Russo. Whose wrist shot seemed to evade Sobczyk initially. The puck slid down through the goaltenders pads and fell to the ice behind him and slowly rolled towards the goal line but died just before it could cross. That was the first scoring attempt of the evening for either team and it certainly woke up the Indians.

After killing off a Panthers power play attempt, the WSW offense woke up.

Ethan Parsons, a freshman who had just one goal during the regular season buried a rebound past goaltender Michael Lisman to give the Indians a one goal lead. The play started back in the WSW zone with Myers stripping the puck away from a Panthers forward. The 6’4 forward carried the puck through the neutral zone and into Sweet Home territory untouched and let a shot go from just above the right face-off circle. Lisman made the initial save but the puck bounced right out to a waiting Parsons, who shot the puck into the wide open net.

“What else is new, in the big moments the guy (Myers) rises to the occasion,” Rozo said. “Other than Noah I thought he was our best player today. He did a heck of a job shutting down No. 18, shadowing him and then providing the offense.”

Myers finished his WNY football career with a NYSPHSAA Class A Championship and just a few short months ago was throwing touchdown passes at New Era Field, home of the Buffalo Bills. Monday, he was setting up goals at the Key Bank Center, home of Jack Eichel and the Buffalo Sabres. “You can’t ask for anything better, these are great experiences,” Myers said.

“It’s the goal of every team to go out and win the Section and we did it in football and now with hockey it’s really amazing. I played with a lot of these guys back as an eighth grader and we went undefeated then. I had a feeling that if we played our game we could wind up here,” Myers said.

During the second period things became interesting. The Panthers and Indians exchanged goals just seconds apart. First it was West Seneca extending their lead to two goals. Once again it was Myers setting up the Indians with what turned out to be the game winner. Chase Chodkowski took a feed from Myers and got behind the Panthers defense and slipped a backhand shot past Lisman.

Sweet Home answered back quickly. Forward Tyler Edholm’s wrist shot from the left side beat Sobczyk on the stick side to cut the Indians lead in half.

The teams played a physical third period but neither team surrendered another goal despite the Panthers outshooting the Indians 13-6 in the final frame. The Indians were called for interference late in the third that resulted in a penalty shot. Officials charged the Indians with interfering with Russo all alone in front of the net.

Sobczyk poke checked the puck away during Russo’s penalty shot attempt to preserve the lead. The Indians killed off the ensuing Panthers power play and then another with under a minute and a half to play in the game.

“We gave it everything we had,” Sweet Home coach Dave Gerspach said. “We had a lot of good bounces this year, tonight, not so much.” The Panthers are a resilient group and will go right back to work on Tuesday afternoon to prepare for the next round. “We’ll have a full roster when we leave and they’ll be ready to play Saturday.”

Even with last night’s loss, the season hasn’t officially ended for the Panthers. Sweet Home still has a chance to win a state title because this year, Section VI has the luxury of sending two teams (happens every seven years). It was determined prior to the start of the regular season that the final two teams playing for the Section VI title would move on to play in the regional round.

West Seneca West will play host to Section V’s Canandaigua Braves on Saturday at HarborCenter. Meanwhile, Sweet Home must travel up to Section V territory, Plattsburgh, NY. The opponent will be the winner of Tuesday night’s game between the Northeastern Clinton Cougars and the Plattsburgh Hornets. Should the Panthers win, they will find themselves right back in WNY and quite possibly have another shot at West Seneca West.

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