Girls hockey team stays atop Fed standings
West Seneca’s girls hockey team did what it needed to do last week to stay in contention for the Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation League’s regular-season title, beating Amherst/Sweet Home and Kenmore to improve to 15-2 overall with one game to play.
Nemesis Monsignor Martin — which handed West Seneca both of its losses — is the only team that can catch West Seneca at this point; MMA sat at 13-1-1 with three games to play on the season, including one against Lancaster Wednesday after The Bee went to press.
While a regular-season title would be nice, it certainly isn’t the end-all goal for West Seneca — a playoff championship, after only reaching the semifinals last season, is much more appealing to the team. And winning as many games to achieve as high a postseason seed as possible helps West Seneca zero in on that goal, which is why coach Peter Tonsoline is pleased his squad did just that last week.
West Seneca started its week with a 5-4 conquest of Amherst/Sweet Home on January 31. West Seneca built up a 5-2 lead on Emily O’Shei’s goal, off a pass from Katie Zimmer, with 12:20 to play in the third period. Amherst/Sweet Home rallied to score two quick goals within three minutes of West Seneca’s final tally, bringing the score to 5-4, and West Seneca was fortunate to hold off its foe’s late surge — including killing off a four-minute penalty that West Seneca incurred with 4:39 to play in regulation.
“Things definitely got interesting taking that late penalty,” Tonsoline said. “They hit a couple of goal posts in that time, so we were fortunate to come away with the win. It was an interesting game for sure.”
West Seneca, which was outshot for the game by a 25-21 margin, also received two goals each from Erin Gehen (two assists) and Kristen Sikorski (one assist). Molly Sikorski and Nikki Kirchberger also had two assists each.
West Seneca then had to rally from one-goal deficits twice before finally putting Kenmore away, 7-3, two days later. Kenmore took an early 1-0 lead after converting on a penalty shot, and then tried to reclaim the momentum with a second goal — which gave Kenmore a 2-1 lead — just three seconds before the end of the first period.
West Seneca returned the favor at the tail end of the second period, with Gehen scoring the tying and go-ahead goals within 40 seconds of each other at the 1:20 and :42 marks, respectively, to give West Seneca a 3-2 lead heading into the third period.
That pair of goals clearly swung the momentum in West Seneca’s favor, as the team went on to score four more goals over essentially the first five minutes of the final period to blow the game open, 7-2. Gehen notched the first one, at the 13:51 mark off a pass from Kristen Sikorski, to earn the natural hat trick. O’Shei followed up 58 seconds later to push the team’s advantage to 5-2, and Jill Schrader found the back of the net 2:52 later to give West Seneca a 6-2 lead.
Molly Sikorski closed out West Seneca’s scoring a mere 11 seconds later, giving West Seneca more than enough breathing room with virtually two-thirds of the final period to play.
“We played a strong game, and we certainly came out and played very well in the third period,” Tonsoline said.
Schrader also scored a goal in the first period, while Kristen Sikorski finished with three assists. O’Shei also added an assist for West Seneca, which finished the game with a 47-26 shots advantage.
West Seneca closes out its regular season Thursday, Feb. 16, by facing Williamsville, and then will have to endure another long layoff before the postseason finally begins.
“I’m just hoping that the time off won’t hurt the way we’re playing and make us rusty,” Tonsoline said. “We’re going to spend some time concentrating on our special teams — specifically killing penalties, since that’s probably the more important aspect in high school girls hockey — and some other little things, and also work on finding ways to play stronger in our own end.”