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Starpoint “Family” Ready for NYSPHSAA Semifinals

Buffalo, NY – The Starpoint high school hockey team has officially entered unchartered waters. The Spartans are preparing for the NYSPHSAA D-II semifinals taking place this weekend at Lecom Harborcenter in downtown Buffalo, NY.

A year ago this popular state tournament was cancelled due to Covid-19. Now with the pandemic seemingly under control, the games are back on. Eight teams from all corners of New York State including Starpoint will converge for the weekend at Harborcenter. Friday afternoon all but Starpoint took the ice for a final practice. The Spartans had their final practice Thursday afternoon at Hockey Outlet in Wheatfield. That is where I caught up with their head coach Clayton Wilson.

Wilson has been at the helm for the past four seasons, bringing Starpoint out of Club status and playing inside the Federation along with teams like Grand Island, West Seneca, Kenmore and Clarence.

“I’ve had coaches tell me they’ve been with programs for a long period of time and never even got to the Sectional finals. Starpoint took the league by storm when they joined in 2018 along with Depew. They have been knocking on this doorstep since they showed up. It’s no surprise given the depth of talent and the experience of Wilson’s staff that they are now in this position.

The Spartans defeated Salmon River (X) last weekend 5-4 in double overtime of the state quarterfinal out in Fort Covington, NY. A game they lost in 2019 when Buffalo played host. “We had a real good team that season, a lot of guys that I loved coaching were on that team,” Wilson said. “The team we lost to, Skaeneateles was the eventual state champion, they had a great team.”

The Spartans redeemed themselves Saturday, erasing a 1-goal third period deficit to push the Shamrocks into OT. Will Mainstone scored your typical double-OT goal, a seemingly innocent flip of the puck over the Salmon River defense and somehow it reached the net. Fluke personified.

The Spartans had a really weird season. They had their share of adversity too. The midpoint of the season half the team had Covid  so they were forced to play with guys from JV. Their starting goaltender is a senior Rich Gareau. His back-up’s are freshman.

They lost games they should have won, there were a number of one goal games due to lack of firepower. Starpoint is loaded with guys that can put the puck in the net. Senior captains Owen Kiesman, Bobby Taylor are “playing off the charts,” Wilson said. “Those are four-year starters that are giving us their all. Natural leaders and really good hockey players.”

In addition to Kiesman and Taylor, junior Justin Bull is a 20-goal scorer and is a legit sniper. Alec Kirk, Matt Myhalenko and Cameron Agro are also big producers for the Spartans. Gareau has been steady. Don’t let the save percentage fool you (.878) he has been the backbone.

Starpoint now turns their attention to Webster Thomas of Section V. A team that knows their way to Harborcenter having played here back in 2019.

“We know them a little bit. We played them a month ago and it was a good game but we know it wasn’t our best game. We rolled lines, it was a non-league game. I’m sure they did the same,” Wilson said.

“Right now it comes down to who is mentally prepared. Any team playing can win this thing, there’s plenty  of talent, it just depends on who is willing to work harder. We just have to stay focused and play our game. We’re going to attack the net. We have goal scorers, we need to put pucks on the net,” Wilson said.

The Titans had a 2:30pm skate Friday in what was an upbeat practice. “It was our normal pregame skate, looking to get the legs going and get game ready,” head coach David Evans said. “We’re facing a really good Starpoint team coming out of Section VI you have to be.”

Webster Thomas will be led by Jack Stappenbuck, Dylan LaChance and Joey Crescimanni. The trio combined for 46 goals. Jackson Gruttadauria is the projected starter between the pipes, he carries a 2.16 goals against average. Gruttadauria has 13 wins this season. The Titans are unbeaten over their last 11 games going 9-2 during that span.

Wilson is expecting this to be a high scoring affair and likes their chances. “This team is a family, we wear that on our practice jerseys and sweatshirts. The guy splay for one another, as it should be. When you have that close-knit, togetherness in the locker room you have a chance to win. These kids earned this opportunity.”

Puck drop will be Saturday at 4:30pm and can be seen on the NFHS Network.

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