Williamsville North hockey is back in a championship game. And its good friend from Section VI is joining them.
North, which last year missed being in a championship game for the first time in seven years, earned a berth in the Section VI Division I final Thursday night with a 3-0 shutout of Frontier.
In the second half of a doubleheader seen by an estimated combined crowd of 1,000 at the Northtown Center at Amherst, Niagara-Wheatfield earned its third straight trip to the finals with a strong third period and a 4-1 victory over Clarence.
It marks the fourth time in the last six years that Williamsville North and Niagara-Wheatfield will meet in the Division I (large school) final, and it assures that one of the schools will win the title for the seventh straight season. Wheatfield beat North in 2009, and North won a rematch in 2010 before beating Frontier in 2011. Wheatfield is seeking its third straight title after beating North in 2012 and Clarence last year.
“They’re always good games … and they beat us twice,” Niagara-Wheatfield coach Rick Wrazin said of their Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation matchups. “So we know we have our work cut out for us. We have to go to work tomorrow and come out ready on Monday.”
Williamsville North and Niagara-Wheatfield will play at 8:30 p.m. Monday - Super Monday - at First Niagara Center.
For North, coach Bob Rosen has loved how his team has progressed this season, and how they are doing the little things they need to win.
As for the big things, senior Bryce Ferrell took care of that.
Ferrell’s hat trick accounted for all of the scoring in North’s victory, which returned the Spartans to the championship game after an uncharacteristic absence last year when it lost in the quarterfinals.
“Watching the games that we played - in the second game of the season, then in January,” Rosen said of North’s matchups with Frontier, “and seeing the development from the first game tape to the second game tape to tonight – where kids got a puck in deep, the little things. The things that I never appreciated as a player but love as a coach.”
All three of Ferrell’s goals were of the do-the-little-things variety, as he was in the right spot to get a loose puck or a rebound. Senior linemate Brad Bailey assisted on all three goals as he put pucks on the net and just let his buddy go get them.
“We’ve grown up together as neighbors as young kids, we’ve been playing hockey together for a long time,” said Bailey. “We’re very familiar with each other, and I always throw pucks at the net because Bryce is a goal scorer.”
Niagara-Wheatfield tied its game with Clarence at 1-1 in the second on a goal by senior Troy Pulli’s point shot and it took control of the game in the third. Wheatfield entered the final period with a power play, and that momentum helped lead to senior Andrew Connelly’s goal from the slot just 1:45 into the third.
“The puck kind of came out to me, my lane to the net was wide open,” said Connolly, “and I was like, ‘Oh, shoot.’ … If we’re able to win again, that would be awesome.”
Wheatfield had the better of the play for most of the third before Mathew Paonessa scored off a scramble with 2:24 left. The Falcons added an empty-net goal with seconds to play.