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Vikings pass the (first) test

December is for figuring out who the best teams are.

January is for finding out who can claim to be the best of the best.

In the small schools of the Section VI Boys Federation Hockey league, that process started Friday night with Division II leader, the Kenmore West Blue Devils, taking on Division III’s Grand Island Vikings.

It was a battle of two of the most prolific teams in the Fed with both offenses averaging more than seven goals a game.

Kenmore West rode an eight-game winning streak before failing to complete the comeback over Albany Academy last week. The Blue Devils also have the Fed’s top three scorers.

Grand Island had only played four league games but made the most of them outscoring their opponents 26-2. The Vikings had also gone 0-1-3 in a tough non-league schedule.

The billing for this game lived up to the hype as the teams went to overtime before GI’s Tyler Hunt scored on a short-handed breakaway with 53 seconds left for the 3-2 win.

“It was definitely the first big test,” GI coach Don Pray said. “All this week we’ve been saying this was our first big test of a really tough January. I was very happy with how the boys responded tonight.”

The Vikings’ Dylan Russo put his team on the board first when he scored short-handed just five minutes into the game.

GI took a 2-0 lead into the break as Joseph Christiano found Brian O’Neill with 8:13 left in the first.

Kenmore West fought back in the second period. Cam Crosier hit Jacob Vacanti during a two-on-1 breakaway to cut the deficit to one.

The Blue Devils tied things up in the third as Ethan Yotter found the back of the net with 11:13 left in the third period.

“It feels good,” Hunt said. “We haven’t had a tough schedule so far so beating Kenmore West gives us a lot of confidence heading into the rest of the season.”

Friday’s tilt was just the beginning of an important stretch for both teams.

Ken-West will face off with West Seneca West on Sunday. The Indians have firmly separated themselves from everyone else holding the second spot in Division II. The Blue Devils also have the red-hot Flames coming up on Jan. 18th.

The Vikings have a jam-packed month with four sets of back-to-back games. On Sunday, GI faces a West Seneca East team that has picked up steam as of late. Next week, they have meetings with Catholic schools Bishop Timon and St. Francis.

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