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NYSPHSAA Boys Ice Hockey DII Semi-Finals: WSW vs John Jay Preview

There is no shortage of back stories in the NYSPHSAA Division II semi-final match-up between West Seneca West (WSW) and John Jay (JJ) high school Saturday at HarborCenter. From players who were once cut to ninth graders playing big roles this is a game where everyone will skate away with a great sense of accomplishment.

JJ head coach Alex Smith is not just the bench boss for the Indians, he is also a teacher. “I’ve taught most of them and see them around school all day,” he said. “I’m just as excited to be here for them as I am the school, they earned the right to compete for a state championship.”

One of Smith’s players is senior Brian Park, who was cut after his tryout as a sophomore. Park sat out his junior year but gave it a go this year. Although he is more of a role player now and has only appeared in half the games, Coach Smith appreciates Park’s resiliency. “I’m sure he was disappointed after being cut and it was hard for him. Now, he’s back and has been a great “chemistry” guy for our team.

Another player, senior Max Klares was cut when he tried out his freshman year. Today, he’s one of the top defenseman on the club and a player the Indians rely on. “I started to feel better about my game last season when we played North Rockland,” Klares said. “It took a period to get settled in but from there I felt really good, knew that I could do it at this level.” Ethan Jackson, a ninth grader has turned into another top blue liner for JJ.

“Ethan didn’t play much at the start but he would later take advantage of his opportunity and made the most out of it,” Smith said.

“Ethan doesn’t look like a freshman, he’s a big kid,” teammate David Browne said. “He definitely makes our team better. He plays a simple game, a defensive defenseman for sure.”

The JJ roster has 11 seniors, most of whom have played varsity since they were in ninth grade. “We knew we had a good team, even last year we started to feel more confidence,” Captain Joe Corelli said. “Pelham was on another level, they were very tough last year and won it all, but we knew we had something. We had a turning point in January, coming off a bad loss to Rye Town the next night we beat North Rockland (Division I).”

“We played a really bad third period against Rye and ended up losing 8-3,” coach Smith elaborated. The next night against Rockland we found a way to win. In all fairness, they also played the night before but we’ll take the win. Plus gaining the confidence of going out and beating a DI team, there’s a lot to be said for that.”

JJ had about a 10 hour bus ride to Buffalo, with the last 40 minutes being the most exciting. Just past Varysburg, NY while going through some hills the team bus almost rear ended a broken down vehicle. Thanks to some quick thinking by the driver, he was able to swerve around the incident, avoiding a potential wreck.

The WSW Indians have approached this game as any other. Practices this week have been sharp and the team is at full strength. Plus, they will have their back-up goaltender back from vacation.

“Confidence is high, as it’s been since the beginning of the year,” coach Kevin Rozo said. “I like our team and our chances. That’s not taking away from our opponent. We understand they have a couple of top lines that can score, we’ll have our hands full for sure.”

The WSW Indians are coming off of a come from behind win last week over Canandaigua, played at HarborCenter. They are one of three teams representing Section VI this weekend, the tournament host.

“I’m very excited for these boys, some of them I taught in eighth grade,” Rozo said. “They showed some resiliency this season and overcame some adversity to get here, they deserve it.”

Ethan Parsons, just a ninth grader is playing with great confidence as of late and has been a big part of the team’s success this year. Parsons plays on a line with seniors Matt Myers and Kyle Haettich, two players that were instrumental in guiding WSW’s football team to a state championship four and a half months ago.

“My teammates have been very supportive,” Parsons said. “They have made me feel comfortable and like, just one of the guys, which gives me confidence.”

In net for WSW will be Noah Sobczyk, a junior that has been one of the surprise stories for these Indians this season. Sobczyk was considered an above average goalie heading into the season but after back-to-back playoff wins, he has shown that he is an elite net minder.

Outlook:

Keep your eye on JJ forwards John McKeon (22 goals) and David Browne (33 points) as they have been a tough combo to contain this year. Coach Smith has not announced his starting goaltender but will Friday after the team’s video session.

For WSW, Jacob Fort might be the best defenseman in DII. He is the WSW Indians top player who also led the team in goals, assists and points (10-14-24) during the regular season. The senior also posted seven power play goals this year. Matt Myers, third line center has been very good in shutting down opposing team’s top lines. Additionally, Myers has been just as good on offense, especially on the power play.

This should be a very physical game.

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