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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Grand Island Has Grown Up

If you weren’t paying close attention you might have missed it but the Grand Island Vikings hockey team is currently undefeated. The Vikings (7-0-1) ended the 2015-2016 regular season with a total of 17 points. On Friday night, in just the ninth of 16 games this season, the Vikings have a chance to match that mark.

According to the Vikings the sudden success this season is not due to some secret formula or magic potion, but that the team has grown up and started playing simple hockey.

“The key to our success is playing simple and working together,” senior defenseman Valvo said. “We’ve gained experience.”

“Last year we didn’t play simple hockey and we tried to do too much,” junior forward Thomas Cecere explained.

“We have five senior defensemen and five of our top six forwards from last year were sophomores,” Assistant Coach Bob Simpson said.

Cecere, Parker Morrow, Brandon Synder were a few of those sophomore forwards who were just getting their feet wet last year. This year they are juniors that are sharp shooters who put the puck in the net.

They pick corners and shoot bar down,” Simpson said. “Being juniors they can still have an off game but when they’re on we’re on.”

Morrow is the Vikings’ leading scorer with five goals and 11 points. Snyder has three goals and nine points. Cecere has two goals and nine points.

Senior defenseman Zach Valvo is undoubtedly the leader for the Vikings. The defenseman is a four year varsity player and according to Simpson every coach’s dream player.

“He brings 110% every game, the intensity, the smarts and the leadership,” Simpson said. “He’s a kid you want to have as a son.”

Another key to the Vikings success has been strong goaltending. Grand Island truly has a three headed monster in Nick Jennings, Jason Lupp and Joe Samplinski at the goaltender position. The coaching staff told all three at the beginning of the season that the starting spot would be open competition all the way up until playoff time and they have yet to disappoint their coaches.

“We have really strong goaltending,” Simpson said. “We really see it in practice when we can’t get the puck by these guys. They’re keeping us in games.”

Jennings insists that the competition has been nothing but good for him and his team.

“This year our practices being competitive is key and we are a lot closer,” Jennings said. “We are a family.”

Playing in Division 3, Grand Island will be at a disadvantage come playoff time. By rule, because the Division 3 teams are considered weaker, the highest seed the Vikings can get in the small school sectional playoffs is third. Also, Grand Island faces only teams from Division 3 and 4, while small school teams in Division 2 get to play not only small school Division 2 opponents, but also larger schools from Division 1.

The Vikings recognize the challenge, but believe as long as they keep working they can compete with the Division 2 teams come playoff time.

“No matter what division you’re in you’re getting a team that is giving their best effort,” Simpson said. “The Division 2 teams are playing really good competition and making themselves better. So, we have to bring it every game no matter who the opponent is.”

“We can skate with anybody and our goaltending can take us far,” Valvo insists.

“When we play good teams, we rise up to that level, our skill should scare them,” Cecere said.

Since the Grand Island Vikings have joined the Federation in 2010, the farthest they’ve gone is the Sectional semifinal. This year’s team believes that they can change that.

“Our goal is to always make it to the sectional final,” Simpson said

“I definitely think we have it in us,” Morrow stated.

Grand Island will look to continue its unbeaten record as they face Kenmore West on Friday night at the HarborCenter at 9pm.

The game will mark the final time GI head coach Don Pray will coach against his sons, Adam and Jacob Pray, who are seniors on Kenmore West.

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