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St. Mary’s focusing on getting better in the home stretch

For all intents and purposes, the St. Mary’s hockey team’s regular season is all wrapped up.

Because Monsignor Martin only counts the games against the other MMAA schools towards its playoff seedings (the second matchup between Division I teams), the Lancers have done all they could do in terms of their playoff seeding for the Niagara Cup.

One might think the Lancers would take their foot off the pedal.

But that hasn’t been the case. In fact, they’ve been playing and practicing as hard as ever.

“For us, it’s not about wins and losses [right now],” St. Mary’s coach Mark Dantonio said. “We’re talking about doing the right thing shift by shift. We always try to get better at something and keep it going. For us, the challenge is, how hard do we want to work?”

The Lancers notched a third-straight win since Jan. 13, defeating the Niagara Wheatfield Falcons 4-2 at Niagara University on Saturday night.

“I feel like our motive is to get better every game,” forward Brendan Krawczyk said. “We really need to keep our game tempo up because if we go down, we know that St. Joe’s and Canisius can pounce on us.”

Last season, when the Lancers went on a storybook run to the Niagara Cup championship, they only ran three lines and had five defensemen. This season they’ve been blessed with thirteen forwards and nearly doubled the amount blue liners.

There were some growing pains for St. Mary’s as the season got off to a rocky start. The Lancers started this season 0-3 in their first three games competing in Division I. But they began to turn things around in mid-December going 6-2-2-1 since.

That run has propelled them to third place in the division.

“We have a lot of new guys this year,” Dantonio said. “When we added them to the mix it just took us some time to come together.”

On Saturday, the Lancers took the lead halfway through the first period as Daniel Pfalzer found Alex Bialkowski for the goal. St. Mary’s added another score early in the second period when Caleb Mangan hit the back of the net.

Niagara Wheatfield suddenly caught fire later in the period getting back-to-back power play goals less than two minutes apart to tie the game. Ben Foster netted the first goal and then assisted on the second one, scored by Caleb Lee.

However, as soon as the Falcons got the momentum, St. Mary’s took it right back. Krawczyk found the back of the net for what would eventually be the game-winner.

Jared Mangan scored the empty net goal for the Lancers to seal it with just over a minute left.

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