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Jolly Old Kernitz lifts Red Raiders over NT

He may not be Santa Claus, but Jack Kernitz was wearing red and white and put the St. Francis Federation hockey team in the Christmas spirit Monday night in their final game before the break.

The sophomore delivered two big gifts in form of game-winning and game-sealing goals in the Red Raiders’ 5-2 victory over the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks.

Kernitz pounded in his own rebound in the final minute of the second period and then scored on the power play for St. Francis with 2:34 left in the third.

According to Red Raider head coach Tim Benner, it was well-deserved for Kernitz to be the hero.

“He’s one of our hardest workers on and off the ice,” Benner said. “He embodies what this team wants to do night in and night out.”

Besides staying undefeated, the win also gives St. Francis the lead in the Section VI Boys Federation Hockey Division 3 the standings.

“With our group of guys and we expect to be at the top of our division,” said Erick Pawelski, who had a goal and two assists Monday night. “We play hard in every game. We are where we belong right now.”

Play got off to an exciting start with a breakaway chance from Jacks’ forward Nolan Horn that was turned aside in the game’s first minute. From then on Frannies’ presence in the Lumberjack zone was unrelenting, forcing successive icings by North Tonawanda.

The Red Raiders got on the board when Pawelski tapped in a puck off a Connor Yuhas pass with four minutes left in the period.

In the second St. Francis continued to attack the net. Pawelkski helped his team go up by two when he found Zach Kent in front of the net for the goal. A few minutes later, goalie Rocco Arnold kept up his end of the bargain making a glove save on Jacks’ forward Ethan Henry, who came into the zone on a two-on-zero rush.

However, Henry came back and assisted on North Tonawanda’s first goal; a wrist-shot from Ryan Goehring.

The Lumberjacks had a great chance to tie on a power play opportunity with four minutes left in the period, but Red Raider defenseman Andrew Mazzone made a goal-saving play knocking away a puck that was trickling along the goal line.

“It’s great,” Kernitz said. “Our defense is fantastic and they keep us in a lot of games.”

St. Francis took their two-goal lead back as Kernitz scored his first goal late in the second.

The Lumberjacks were given a big boost to start the third period as Henry took the puck from the faceoff and powered his way to the net for the goal just 40 seconds into the period, cutting the deficit to 3-2.

North Tonawanda’s followed the goal up with an impressive offensive attack following a 29-15 shots-on-goal margin in favor of the Red Raiders in the first and second period to having 10 shots apiece in the third. Nevertheless, the Lumberjacks could not find the back of the net.

NT’s attack was hindered with costly penalties late. Jacks’ senior Rhett Stauffer went to the box for cross-checking with four and half minutes left in the period and then Trent Woodroe took his place for a slashing call for another St. Francis power play, which Kernitz scored to seal the deal.

Ben Kyte put in the empty net goal for Frannies.

Gavin Krawiec had three assists and Kevin Keane had one assist for the Red Raiders.

In the preceding game at the HarborCenter, Kenmore West upset West Seneca West 1-0 in Division 2 action. Ethan Yotter scored the lone goal with just 1:30 left in the third period. Chris Cairns earned the 28-save shutout.

St. Francis will play rival St. Mary’s of Lancaster back at the HarborCenter on Jan. 8 at 6 p.m.

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