Weekly Feature

2017-01-19 / Sports

East beats West to end three-game slide


West Seneca East’s Tyler Arndt finishes a hard check along the boards that sends West Seneca West’s Jason Wojciechowski to the ice during the Trojans’ 6-1 conquest of their crosstown rivals Monday at HarborCenter. It was East’s first victory in three games. 
Photo by Jake FrenchPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com West Seneca East’s Tyler Arndt finishes a hard check along the boards that sends West Seneca West’s Jason Wojciechowski to the ice during the Trojans’ 6-1 conquest of their crosstown rivals Monday at HarborCenter. It was East’s first victory in three games. Photo by Jake FrenchPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Something felt different to West Seneca East hockey coach Phil Prynn as he and his team sat in silence for the length of Monday’s bus ride to the HarborCenter.

With the very real prospect of dropping a fourth consecutive game looming over their heads, the Trojans seemed to collectively turn their focus to mentally preparing for the task at hand awaiting them in downtown Buffalo: a clash with crosstown rival West Seneca West, a team riding a three-game winning streak going into the contest.

That focus — and the reassembling of a potent line that had been dismantled earlier in the year in a bid to create more balanced offensive opportunities — seemed to make all the difference in the world for East, as the Trojans notched four unanswered goals to close out the contest and secure a 6-1 victory.

“We came into this game with the feeling that it was a midseason gut check for our guys, and we responded to that challenge,” Prynn said. “I think the boys showed on the ice that they were willing to do the things they needed to do in order to be victorious.

“It was a big divisional game for us, so to be on the winning end of that was pretty fun.”

Neither team was able to score in the first period, but it didn’t take long for East to break the stalemate in the second period as Dominic Khoury found the back of West’s net just 16 seconds into the frame off passes from Cameron Mentel and Matt Benaquist. West answered back just under five minutes later when Parker Leemer finished his chance, which was set up by Colin Deubell and Kyle Haettich.

The Trojans made sure to prevent West from capitalizing on that momentum swing, however, with Danny Flynn tacking on what would ultimately be the game-winning goal with 6:14 to play in the period off a pass from Tyler Arndt.

“Getting the first goal and then responding the right way three minutes after they tied it was huge for us,” Prynn said. “The kids really did everything the right way, the way that we harp on them for in practice, that are crucial to success. This was definitely a game where we did the little things right and had the results to show for it, getting undoubtedly our signature win of the season to date.”

East kept its foot to the floor in the third period, posting a pair of two-goal bursts no more than 3:20 apart to seal the decision. Colin Schmatz, Cameron Bauer, Mentel and Benaquist all found the back of the net during East’s final surge, with Mentel, Bauer, Khoury, Josh Jensen and Adam Stradtman each adding an assist.

Jagger Maving finished with 39 saves to secure the win in net for the Trojans.

“Once they got that third goal, it kind of deflated us a little bit,” West coach Kevin Rozo said. “Their goalie was solid all night long, and they did well with their 2-on-1 and 3-on-2 opportunities. Their transition game was definitely very good, and they were just opportunistic when they had chances.”

Coming into the Martin Luther King Day clash, it looked like West would be the one to come out on top after picking up wins over Williamsville South, 9-3, on Sunday and Sweet Home, 3-1, on Friday.

West jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead against South behind goals from Mike Velasquez and Sean McCarthy. Tyler Dunning assisted on Velasquez’s tally, which came just 1:22 into the game, while Haettich had the helper on McCarthy’s power-play tally just 56 seconds later.

South answered back with a three-goal burst over a 5:21 stretch that began just 1:17 after West’s second goal, but that would mark the end of the Billies’ production. The Indians snatched momentum right back from South just 23 seconds after its final goal to knot the score at 3-3, and then tacked on two additional goals over the next 2:06 to enter the second period with a 5-2 lead.

Dunning, Deubell and Leemer were responsible for West’s final flurry of first-period goals, with assists going to Haettich (2), Leemer, Jacob Fort, Jason Wojciechowski and Aaron Highway.

“We got a little sloppy there after taking that 2-0 lead and gave some of their talented players way too much room before we cleaned stuff up defensively and went on a roll,” Rozo said. “Our second line was really flying that game; they were in the offensive zone and dominating all game long.”

Kyle McNamara (power play) and Dunning tacked on to West’s advantage in the first 1:08 of the second period to push the Indians’ advantage to 7-3, and Dunning completed his hat trick with a power-play goal midway through the period. Mc- Carthy assisted on both man-advantage goals, while Fort, Leemer, Velasquez and Highway also recorded assists.

Tyler Sacco closed out the team’s scoring with his first varsity goal — on the power play — with just 23 seconds to play in the contest. Zach Lembke assisted on the tally.

Dan Browne stopped 23 shots in net to pick up the victory in net.

“I would not have pegged this as a 9-3 game, but other than the three-minute span where we gave up those three goals, that was probably our best performance of the season,” Rozo said.

West was just as dominant — though not necessarily on the scoreboard — in its win over Sweet Home. Ian Barker and Leemer scored the only goals the Indians would need, both on the power play, during the first half of the first period. Dunning, who scored the insurance goal with just 3:24 to play in the opening stanza, assisted on Barker’s goal. Fort assisted on both Leemer’s and Dunning’s goal, while McCarthy also picked up a helper on Dunning’s tally.

Sweet Home scored its only goal with just over a minute to play in the second period, but other than that, Browne (18 saves) was unstoppable in net for the Indians.

“You know you had a pretty good defensive effort when you only give up 20 shots,” Rozo said. “We were pretty much in control of the game all the way, and we moved the puck pretty well on the power play. That was a pretty big key to our victory.”

West (7-3, 6-2 league) returned to action Wednesday against Lockport, but information about that contest was not available at press time. The Indians close out their week by taking part in the Sweet Home Hockey Tournament Friday and Saturday at the Northtown Center — they play Hamburg at 6 p.m. Friday and Geneseo at 11 a.m. Saturday — before taking on St. Francis on Sunday to cap another busy stretch of games.

“We’re into the second half of the season now, so we’re just going to get back to work and focus on moving forward in a positive direction,” Rozo said. “There’s no time for us to feel sorry for ourselves about Monday.”

East, meanwhile, was ready for a change Monday after dropping contests to North Tonawanda on Thursday, 3-0, and Sweet Home on Sunday, 3-1.

The game against North Tonawanda might wind up being the low point of the season for the Trojans, Prynn suggested, after they found themselves short-handed 14 times — including three instances where they were down multiple players — yet still managed to finish with a 28-25 advantage in shots. All three of the Lumberjacks’ goals came near the end of each period, with Maving (22 saves) doing all he could to give his teammates a chance to pull out the win.

“North Tonawanda was a very frustrating game,” Prynn said. “We had no power plays ourselves and wound up killing off all 14 of theirs, we clanged a bunch of shots off their cross bar ... it was such an ugly game that we just had to laugh about it afterwards. We really dominated them, yet with how the game played out, everybody was doubting everything after that game. We just told the guys to throw it out and hit the reset button.”

The Trojans were able to put North Tonawanda behind them for the most part, but still struggled to come up with a winning formula when they faced Sweet Home. East had opportunities in 5-on-5 and on the power play — including a 5-on-3 advantage for 90 seconds — but just couldn’t find the back of the Panthers’ net. Sweet Home, by contrast, took a 3-0 lead midway through the third period before ultimately giving up the shutout bid with 55 seconds to play on Benaquist’s goal. Jensen and Jared Maurino each recorded assists on the tally.

“We just didn’t do the little things you need to do in order to be successful,” Prynn said.

East (6-4-0-2, 5-4 league) will look to build off Monday’s win Friday when it faces Lew-Port before heading to RIT Saturday to face Pittsford in non-league action. The Trojans will then clash with Kenmore West Monday after getting a day of rest.

“We know we can play with good teams, but after the game Monday, the message I delivered was that we can’t sit back and be relieved that our losing streak is over,” Prynn said. “We have to be willing to sacrifice and otherwise find a way to impact our shift every time we step on the ice. That’s what it’s going to take to win the games we need to win at the end of the season. We don’t want to lose any more games, and if we play like we did Monday, we’ll be hard to beat. But, we can’t cut corners or the results will go back to the way they were during that three-game skid.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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