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Flames Win a Showdown vs Hamburg

The Williamsville East Flames continued their hot streak to start the 2016-17 season by defeating the Hamburg Bulldogs 6-3 at the Northtown Center.

The Flames (4-0) not only are undefeated, but have also been the second-highest scoring team in the Federation, and that has come as a result of hard work and dedication, according to head coach Mike Torillo.

“So far, we’ve gotten off to a good start this year,” Torillo said. “The kids are working hard, and we’ve made some mistakes along the way, but we’ve been doing what we have to do to get wins and that was definitely the case today.”

The Flames opened the scoring 9:38 into the first period on a shorthanded goal by captain Mike Steffan, who was assisted by Ryan Mitchell and John Gunar Weppner. Two minutes later, Steffan added another goal to increase the Flames’ lead to 2-0 and the rout was on from there.

Steffan has been the catalyst for most of the Flames’ success this season. With a Federation-leading eight goals, seven assists and 15 points on the year so far, the fourth-year varsity veteran has been everything the Flames have hoped for and more.

“Steffan’s been on fire so far,” Torillo said. “He’s our captain for a reason. Not just for how well he plays on the ice, but no one can get his team up for a game quite like him. When he’s at his best, it’s hard to stop him… He’s a really special player.”

Steffan agreed.

“We just came out really strong in the first period and kind of took the game over,” Steffan said. “We played well for the most part, but I think we’ve got the potential to be even better than we were today. I can also improve in a lot of areas, so we’ll just keep working hard and see what happens.”

After both sides killed off penalties, Sam Pastore increased the lead to 3-0 with 18.3 seconds remaining in the first period with assists from Will Mann and Sean MacLeay. The second period wasn’t much kinder to the Bulldogs either, as Spencer Neu put the Flames up by four less than three minutes in and led to a goaltending change.

Senior Griffin Coppola had come into the contest sporting a 1.89 goals against average, and was under siege from the moment the puck dropped to start the game. However, he wasn’t on his game throughout Saturday’s matchup, and was pulled following the fourth goal in favor of junior Elliott Szabala.

“Griffin just had an off-night tonight, and we didn’t play well in a lot of different areas,” Bulldogs coach John McFall said. “We’re going to have to go back to the drawing board, put this behind us and get ready for our next opponent.”

Jason Delmont finally got Hamburg on the board with a goal 7:23 into the second, and another Bulldog goal by Jake Hangen pulled the team within two later in the third period. But Steffan had other ideas, notching his third goal of the game with a powerplay marker just two minutes later, and MacLeay scored on an empty-netter a short while later to seal the win for the Flames.

Owen Gonter scored the Bulldogs’ final tally of the game.

“Our goal is to get back to the sectional championship, and from how we played today I think we can get there,” Torillo said. “We fell a game short of sectionals last year, but this team is on a mission. We’ll see how it plays out.”

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