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Spatorico Nets OT Winner

After the game the Jacks joked that they were “unbeaten” in 2017. Jokes aside, the win was a much needed reminder that progress was being made.

Austin Spatorico scored the game winner with less than a minute left in over time as Division IV North Tonawanda scored a stunning 2-1 win over Division III St.Francis in their WNY Federation Ice Hockey game that was played on the KayBank Rink at HarborCenter on Jan.2.

“It was all a blur. We just had to keep the fore-check on them,” Spatorico said he described how the play unfolded. “Just keep them contained in their zone. I saw (teammate) Trent Woodroe going in hard behind the net and he must have just shock the kid. It squirted from behind the goalline. I picked it up, the goalie didn’t hug the post and I just tried to put it on net.”

Entering the season as the defending Division IV champions, even though they lost eight seniors to graduation the returning Lumberjacks felt they still had the talent to make another strong run at the division title and beyond. But a 2-4 start in division had the NT boys’ scratching their collective heads wondering what exactly was going wrong? Why aren’t the wins coming?

Taking down a solid team like Frannies, from a higher division, served as a reminder that they were headed in right direction.

“The last three games we’ve been playing really well,” said NT coach Alan Zbytek. “Generating a lot of shots on goal. We just haven’t been able to get them in and even today was a struggle to put some in.”

John Horab’s first goal of the season would give the Red Raiders the 1-0 lead in the second period. But it would be the only time Frannies would beat NT keeper Nick Przybylski-who would stop 26 of the 27 shots he faced as he improve to 3-1 on the year.

“The win is giant,” said Przybylski. “Now we know that we can beat Division Three teams. We know that we can play with these teams. We have the confidence to play teams like West Seneca West and West Seneca East and Grand Island who’s is coming up next (on our schedule). The confidence is (up), but we’ve just got to keep our heads in it. Keep working hard in practice obviously it wasn’t a perfect game. And if we just keep working hard keep bringing that effort to games I think we should come out on top.”

While the start of the season certainly wasn’t what the Jacks were expecting, adversity is nothing to new to this group. Last season they Jacks roster took a hit when a handful of players were suspended in late January for violating team rules. The team finished out the season with 20 points to win the division, edging out Lewiston-Porter and Kenmore West, which had 19 points each.

“There’s always a ton of pressure when you’re the defending division champion” Przybylski said. “Last year we learned what adversity is really like. I think we played hard, especially the young kids, me included, learned how to battle through that (adversity). I think it’s gonna help us as we go on through the year. That experience from last year is going to make us a better team.”

Co-captain Dan Smolka’s goal tied the game at 1-1.

“The last two games we’ve played hard, we just didn’t get the bounces. This game finally paid off for us,” Spatorico said. “Just keep grinding, keep the pucks on net and just kept going.”

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