Jamie Tobias hopes he’s in plenty of win-win situations today.
The West Seneca West senior will spend the morning and early afternoon today at Cornell University in Ithaca trying to win a state championship with his track-and-field teammates. He’ll spend his evening lacing them up for the Indians in their first state quarterfinal hockey game when they take on Section III champion Syracuse Christian Brothers Academy at 8:30 p.m. at the Northtown Center in Amherst.
“It’s exciting to go to the track meet and it’ll be even more exciting, I hope, to play a hockey game with my friends,” said Tobias, a distance runner and a forward. “It’s always special when you compete for a state title. Hopefully, it’ll be a good day.”
The New York State Public High School Athletic Association has a rule allowing the option for athletes to play two high school sports in the same season so long as the athletes are able to meet the minimum practice and game requirements. However, the state also leaves it up to the individual sections and leagues within sections as to whether they wanted to follow that rule.
It just so happened last June, ECIC athletic directors voted in favor of letting athletes when possible play two sports in the same season as a way of helping small school districts with numbers issues.
That opened the door for Tobias’ personal championship week.
Tobias worked hard to turn that Section VI championship dream he had as a sophomore into reality, finally achieving the feat Feb. 21 in school-record fashion.
Of course, we’re talking about an indoor track and field title, a sport that gradually subplanted hockey as Tobias’ favorite. He along with Kalen Sullivan, Gregg Hart and Jon Rehner captured the 4x400 relay in 3:38.66, breaking a 14-year-old school record.
Who knew there would be another championship out there that would prove to be oh, so meaningful to the 6-foot-2, 180-pounder, who plans to give up sports in college so that he can focus on becoming a doctor?
Turns out, his mother did.
Barbara Tobias talked Jamie into playing hockey one more time, and he had the time of his hockey-playing life Monday night at First Niagara Center. He and his younger brother Adam played key roles in helping West’s fifth-year Federation hockey program win its first Section VI Small School championship. Jamie recorded a hat trick during the 4-2 triumph over Williamsville East. Adam broke up a potential breakaway chance with a sliding/diving poke check with about 90 seconds left and the Indians nursing a 3-2 lead.
“I’m definitely glad I came back.” said Jamie, whose 17 goals and 37 points in 18 games both rank second on the Indians. “It’s icing on the cake. Hockey’s a team sport, not an individual sport. Just go out there and do it for the team. It’s great to help the team do it.”
The reason Jamie decided to play hockey one more time, after two months of discussions with his mother – who said she left the decision to return up to him – was so he could honor the memory of his late grandfather, Frank. Frank Tobias coached both Jamie and Adam over the years with the West Seneca Wings Hockey Association. He also coached Jamie and Adam’s father, Michael.
Frank died suddenly nearly three years ago from a heart attack, never having a chance to see both his grandchildren play on the same team, driven for a common goal.
“She said it’d be a great tribute to my grandfather,” Jamie said of his mother’s reasoning for him to play hockey one more season.
“He would’ve loved that we were playing together and would’ve been even happier we won the championship game,” said Adam, a sophomore defenseman who is a plus-19 and scored the game-winning goal in the sectional semifinals against Sweet Home. “He would’ve been the happiest person in the arena.”
Jamie’s tribute to his grandfather isn’t his only motivation now. Jamie has always wanted to experience that state-championship feeling on ice.
He came close with the West Seneca Wings during his youth association playing days. His team finished as state runner-up when he was 10. His team lost in the state semifinals when he was 8.
This is Jamie’s last chance to turn that dream into reality.
“It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do,” he said. “It just seemed so cool back then. We were so close. ... Hopefully we can win a state title and I can cross that off my list.”
States invade Amherst
The Northtown Center in Amherst welcomes the Tier I, Tier II and Tier III boys hockey state championships over the course of two weekends beginning Friday with the start of the 12-under and 14-under tournaments. The 16- and 18-and-under tournaments begin March 15. Admission is free. This is the first time the state is conducting all its championships at one “super site,” according to Amherst Youth Hockey board member Bob Schell.
On Friday, the Calder, Norris and Lady Byng trophies given out to players at the end of each NHL season will be on display in the lobby of the facility from noon to 6 p.m.
Amherst Youth Hockey is the official host and its fine work as a past host of USA Hockey Tournaments played a role in the state opting to give this one-site option a try, Schell said, instead of using the past multiple site model.
Western New York participants in states include:
12-under – Amherst (Tier I), West Seneca (Tier I), Buffalo Regals (Tier I), Clarence (Tier II), Niagara Jr. Purple Eagles (Tier II), Niagara County (Tier III) and Genesee-Batavia (Tier III).
14-under – Hamburg (Tier I), Buffalo Saints (Tier I), Wheatfield (Tier I), Buffalo Regals (Tier I), Cheektowaga (Tier II), East Aurora (Tier III), Olean (Tier III).
16-under – Buffalo Regals/Jr. Sabres (Tier I), West Seneca (Tier I), Buffalo Saints (Tier I), Clarence (Tier II), Cheektowaga (Tier II), Batavia (Tier III).
18-under – Amherst (Tier I), Buffalo Regals/Jr. Sabres (Tier I), Buffalo Saints (Tier I), Cheektowaga (Tier II), Clarence (Tier II), Jamestown (Tier III).
Around the boards
• If you haven’t seen them already, check out the video highlights from Super Monday shot by The News’ Lauren Mariacher at buffalonews.com – including the sensational stop West Seneca West goalie Dalton Kruger made on Williamsville East’s Jason Cohen. The save kept the game tied at 1, prompting coach Kevin Rozo to call it “the biggest save in program history” after the game.
• Trivia fact. In five seasons in the Fed, Niagara-Wheatfield has won three championships. That’s more titles than Originial Eight members Canisius (two), Timon (two), Williamsville East (one), Amherst (one) and Williamsville South have won since the league started play in 1990. St. Joe’s has won the most playoff titles (nine).
• Kudos to the Buffalo Junior Sabres 12-and-under team for reaching the quarterfinals of the prestigious Quebec Pee Wee International Tournament. A team that played just one exhibition game before the event went 6-2 with a win over national No. 2 Honeybaked.