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Grand Island makes history; West Seneca West Has Chance to Defend Boys Hockey Title

Photo courtesy of Aaron Bobeck

The Grand Island Vikings Boys Hockey team was expecting to take a step back this season after graduating nearly half of their roster from last year’s Division II winning team.

Instead, they’ve taken a leap forward into the record book.

After being unable to get past the quarterfinals with No. 2 and 3 seeds the last two seasons, GI took full advantage of their top seed this year, punching a ticket to the Vikings’ first ever sectional final.

“It means a lot for the program,” Grand Island coach Don Pray said. “I’m very proud of the boys. I’m proud of the fact that they worked hard all year after graduating 10 players last year. These guys are very coachable. They earned this.”

The Vikings made history by holding off the Williamsville East Flames, 4-2, on Wednesday night at HarborCenter in the Section VI Boys Hockey Small School Semifinals.

“It means absolutely everything for the school, the fans, and the coaching staff,” said Brian O’Neill, who had two goals. “It’s huge. Winning this game was literally everything for us.”

Grand Island will take on the West Seneca West Indians in the Small School Sectional Championship game on Sunday at KeyBank Center. Faceoff is set for 4:45 p.m.

O’Neill’s second goal, which came with 4:30 left in the third period, gave the Vikings a sigh of relief after the Flames battled back in the third to cut the GI lead from three goals to one.

Grand Island got on the board halfway through the period as O’Neill shot it in. The Vikings added another before the horn. Dylan Russo’s desperation attempt from the blue line was tipped by Josh Conta into the net with six seconds left.

GI continued to dominate play in the second period. Tyler Hunt deked out the Will East goalie for the goal with 15:43 left to put the Vikings ahead 3-0 going into the locker room.

In the third, Williamsville East picked up the pace. Flames forward Nick LaFornara scored a few minutes in. Later, Ryan Mitchell’s shot bounced off the post onto the back of the GI goalie and Brennan McCarthy put the puck in the net. McCarthy’s goal cut the GI lead to 3-2 with 8:05 left.

“In between the second and third period I told them, ‘I know what a great coach (Mike) Torrillo is. He’s going to have those boys ready to capitalize on the mistakes we make,'” Pray said. “Sure enough they did. At 3-2, we just told the guys to stay calm on the bench. It was a huge moment when O’Neill scored on that breakaway.”

West Seneca West took a 3-0 lead to the third period as well.

However, unlike the Vikings, the Indians didn’t let their opponent, the Kenmore West Blue Devils, get into the game. West Seneca West blew past the Blue Devils, 5-1, in the other semifinal as they return to the sectional final after winning it last season.

“We continued where we left off (last year),” WSW coach Kevin Rozo said. “It’s a different cast of characters. But the guys that were a part of last year’s team are hungry to try to make another run at it. Our goal every year is to get to the sectional final and try to get another banner.”

Chase Chodkowski and Mike Velasquez connected for the Indians’ first four goals.

“We feel for each other on the ice,” Chodkowski said about he and Velasquez. “When we’re at our best I’d like to see three guys who can keep us with us.”

Velasquez had the only goal of the first period, sneaking it past the Ken-West goalie seven and a half minutes in.

The Indians took full advantage of two of their three power play opportunities in the second period. Chodkowski found the back of the net on the first, scoring with 14:04 left in the period. Velasquez got his second goal a few minutes later to give his team a three-goal lead at the intermission.

West Seneca West continued to bring it in the third period.

Chodkowski and Velasquez connected again halfway through the third for the game’s fourth goal.

Billy Coughlin netted the final goal on a breakaway not too long afterward.

Sean Cranston scored the Blue Devils’ lone-goal with just over a minute left in the game.

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