Weekly Feature



2014-02-26 / Sports

North scores early, falls to Niagara-Wheatfield in Large Schools final

by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter


Williamsville North’s Bryce Ferrell takes a moment after the Spartans lost to Niagara-Wheatfield, 3-2, in the Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large Schools championship Monday at First Niagara Center. 
Photo by Patrick McPartlandPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Williamsville North’s Bryce Ferrell takes a moment after the Spartans lost to Niagara-Wheatfield, 3-2, in the Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large Schools championship Monday at First Niagara Center. Photo by Patrick McPartlandPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Williamsville North could not have gotten off to a better start against Niagara-Wheatfield in Monday’s Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large Schools final at the First Niagara Center.

The top-seeded Spartans scored twice in the first 1:46 but was held scoreless for the rest of the game as North fell to the second-seeded Falcons, 3-2.

Niagara-Wheatfield became the first boys hockey team in Section VI history to win back-to-back-to-back titles. They beat North, 4-0, two years ago and Clarence, 7-2, last year.

“We set the goal of a three-peat from the start of the season but said we weren’t going to talk about it again,” Falcons coach Rick Wrazin said.

North was looking for a three-peat of its own as they had beaten Niagara-Wheatfield, 4-0 and 4-2 during the regular season.

“Beating a team three times in one season, that is what it came down to,” North coach Bob Rosen said. “I tried to ignore it but it is so tough to three-repeat in a season.”

Spartans sophomore Zack Kurbiel opened the scoring with a shot in the slot 59 seconds in, assisted by junior Brendan Cunningham and senior Jimmy Roberto.

Forty-seven seconds later, North junior Brian Couto’s wrist shot from the point skidded through four players and into the net. Junior Buddy Dimitroff assisted.

Wrazin regrouped his players, telling them to keep their head up and to keep grinding and play their game, and senior Domenic Senese tallied just as a North penalty expired at 3:01, assisted by senior Adriano Medici and junior James Stencel.

“It wasn’t the way we wanted to start the game,” Wrazin said. “I can’t say enough about how proud I am for coming back after dropping two. A lot of good games in a game like that end up losing by seven. They hung in there. I thought we took the period over after their second goal. If we had not done that, the game would have gotten away from us early.”

“The goal at the end of a good penalty kill in the last minute of the first period was a big momentum shift for us,” Rosen said. “Not making it 3-1 or 3-0 hurt as always. We had a bunch of chances and were unable to connect on those.”

Stencel tied the game from Senese and junior Dakota Becker at the 8:44 mark.

Senior James Durkee – game MVP – scored the game-winning goal on the power play 2:33 later, assisted by junior Andrew Logar and senior Troy Pulli. Pulli came around the net and threw the puck in front and Durkee hammered it home into the open net.

“I was kind of stunned when I first got the pass but eventually I put it in,” Durkee said.

“Ugly goals win championship hockey games and the boys were committed to the net to do the little things and they drove the net hard, and poked home a rebound,” Wrazin said.

North had several scoring chances to tie the game – including a 5 on 3 late in the third period - but could not get the equalizer past senior goalie Nate Sommers, who finished with 21 saves.

“I can’t say enough about Nate,” Wrazin said. “He’s always been solid with his positions. We know we can always count on him. With the way the game started, I don’t think you would see too many goalies come back and finish the way he did.”

“They did a good job of penalty killing and we did a poor job of getting pucks through,” Rosen said. “We had our opportunities and didn’t cash.”

North sophomore goalie Matt Ladd recorded 19 saves.

The Spartans advanced to the finals after posting a convincing 3-0 win over sixth-seeded Frontier in the semifinals Feb. 18 at the Northtown Center.

It’s North’s first trip to the finals since losing to Niagara-Wheatfield two years ago.

North has improved throughout the season and saw that in watching film of both regular-season games against Frontier.

“We played them the second game of the season and in Janu ary,” Rosen said. “Seeing the development from the first game tape to the second game tape to tonight where kids did the little things, like kids putting the puck in deep, the things that I never appreciated as a player but love as a coach, gave me tremendous satisfaction.”

Senior Bryce Ferrell recorded all three goals. All three were assisted by senior Brad Bailey.

“We were neighbors as young guys and grew up and played hockey together,” Bailey said. “We’re very familiar with each other. I am always throwing pucks at the net because I know Bryce will be there finishing if I can’t.”

Junior Kevin Gramich also assisted on Ferrell’s first goal scored at 5:39 of the first period. Ferrell pounced on a rebound at 6:23 of the second period and slipped in a power-play goal with 1:55 remaining in the third period.

“He was the benefit of a lot of hard work and in the right spot,” Rosen said.

Ladd recorded 21 saves for the shutout.

The Spartans finished 14-5-2-2. Seven seniors graduate including Roberto, Ferrell, Will Stryker, Sean Bailey, Carmen De’Angelo, Brad Bailey and Pat Haynes.

“I’ve had a lot of great wins but I still measure it based on what just took place in the locker room,” Rosen said. “The friendships you have from hockey are why I coach and what motivates me. What we asked of them and what they were willing to do, you hate to see it end with this group. It was hard.”

email: pnagy@beenews.com

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