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Orchard Park wins large schools Title

Photos by Andrew Miller

Tyler Buchheit said his Orchard Park hockey team was accustomed to playing at KeyBank Center after winning there a year ago. But there’s surely something about performing in an NHL arena that brings out the best in the kid.

“Yeah, I like big lights,” Buchheit said after the Quakers beat Williamsville North, 5-1, for the Section VI large schools title.  “It gets me hyped, especially playing in the Sabres arena. Nothing better.”

It showed. Evidently, Buchheit rises up for big games in general. He scored three goals in Friday night’s rout — after finding the back of the net twice in OP’s 6-1 victory over Lancaster in the sectional semifinals.

Orchard Park won its third straight sectional championship, advancing the Quakers to the regional round next week. They will travel to take on either Rome Free Academy or Genesee in the state large schools quarterfinals.

To do it, they had to beat a Will North team coached by Bob Rosen, the all-time New York State leader in coaching victories with 551. The Spartans, who have won five state titles under Rosen, finished the season 18-5.

“They have a fantastic program,” said OP head coach Josh Dannecker. “We’re kind of the new kids on the block and we want to stay here. We have to beat those best teams that have been there. We’ve just got to keep working and trying to roll up wins and opportunities and keep it going.”

The Quakers are set up to continue the run. Seven of the top eight scorers return next season. That includes Buchheit, a junior who opened the scoring with two seconds left on a power play late in the first period.

Buchheit made it 2-0 midway through the second period, shortly after being denied by North goalie Max Kasprowicz on a penalty shot. After Brennan O’Hara made it 3-0 early in the third, Buchheit completed the hat trick in the third to make it 4-0.

Ben Hansen scored the Spartans’ lone goal late in the final period. OP’s

Jonah Reashor scored the final goal into an empty net.

Dannecker had high praise for his senior goalie, Brayden Hearn, and for junior forward Carter Zakrzewski, who had a brilliant all-round performance.

“Carter Zakrzewski took a lot of important face-offs in his own end,” Dannecker said. “I know on the scoresheet he didn’t necessarily show up, but he was strong defensively and when we got scrambling around, he calmed things down out there, too. His game wasn’t lost on us as a coaching staff.”

Buchheit said he’s looking forward to the regionals. He and his teammates haven’t forgotten a distressing 4-2 loss to Pittsford at this stage last year.

That’s the next step for an Orchard Park team that has become the standard for public schools hockey in Section VI. They’re establishing a mini-dynasty, which raises expectations and makes them a target for opposing teams.

“I don’t mind that at all,” Dannecker said. “If you’re the program that people are trying to chase, that’s good. Williamsville North has been that program for a long time. We’re going to try to put up our own little legacy here.”

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