All six teams competing for Western New York Varsity Club Hockey League championships Tuesday entered the First Niagara Center having swept their best-of-three semifinal series, and the opponents in all three divisions had split the season series with their counterpart.
So perhaps it was only fitting that overtime was needed to split 2-2 ties in all three divisions. In the end, Canisius beat St. Joe’s for the large school title, Cheektowaga edged Starpoint for the small school title and Jamestown beat City Honors/O’Hara in the mixed school division.
St. Joe’s was going for two titles in two days after the school’s Federation team won the Niagara Cup Final Monday, but rival Canisius had other ideas.
St. Joe’s led 2-1 late before Joe Anain scored a power-play goal to tie the score with 2:14 left in regulation. Then with 6:09 left in overtime, Ethan Finn got the winner, with an assist from Frank Downing.
“I still don’t believe it happened,” Finn said. “One minute I was shooting the puck, and the next minute I was under 20 guys. I couldn’t breathe. But it was the best feeling in the world. That was the best way to ever close out my senior season. But we’re not done yet.”
The state tournament for club teams is this weekend, with the large schools and small schools heading down to Jamestown while the mixed schools play at Northtown Center in Amherst.
Brendan Hurley and Thomas Adolf scored for St. Joe’s, while Lucas Hurtt also scored for Canisius. John Nichols earned the win in net.
For Cheektowaga, Randy Szymkowiak waited all year to get another shot at Starpoint after a broken collar bone limited him to a spectator role in last year’s small school club hockey championship game.
He made the most of his opportunity in a title-game rematch, scoring two goals and netting the game-winner in double overtime.
Anthony Cybulski capped a hard-working game by picking up a turnover just inside the Starpoint zone and feeding Szymkowiak, who was in alone on goal. Szymkowiak faked to the left and then deked back to the right before putting a backhander past Starpoint’s Ryan Sullivan (20 saves) to earn a 3-2 victory for his Cheektowaga Warriors.
“Randy was hurt last year and this meant so much to him,” Cheektowaga coach Steve Ferrentino said. “This was a big win to get the title back where it belongs. ... It was a great feeling. It reminded me back of 2005 when we beat Southwestern here in triple overtime. My big player scored the winning goal back then and he did it again today.”
Cheektowaga led Starpoint 2-0 after two periods on goals from Szymkowiak and Derek Bull, but Steven Pierre-Louis wasn’t ready for his Starpoint team to be counted out. Pierre-Louis led a third-period comeback, scoring two goals, the latter with 4:15 left in regulation.
Cheektowaga goalie Christopher Reinhardt made 25 saves in the win.
Jamestown and City Honors/O’Hara were so evenly matched that tiebreakers for playoff seeding came down to which team had fewer penalty minutes.
Bill Krywy (two goals, one assist) was the hero for Jamestown, winning the game with a wrist shot from the circle that beat Will Kuettel.
“I just got it on my stick and ripped it,” Krywy said. “It’s just amazing. All my life I’ve been playing imagining that, and it finally came true.”
Tommy Fales recorded the win in goal for Jamestown.