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Amerks Top Bears To Force A Game Six In Playoffs

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BY WARREN KOZIRESKI —

Juri Kulich and Lukas Rousek scored in the opening minutes of the first and third periods respectively while Michael Mersch (power play) and Rousek (empty net) added insurance tallies late in the third as Rochester staved off elimination with a 3-1 victory at Hershey Wednesday night to force a Game Six Friday at the Blue Cross Arena.

“You never know the result, but I expected our guys to play well,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said. “We were in a similar spot in Game Four…and the lesson was that we weren’t assertive. We weren’t perfect, but we were a much more composed team. We’re excited to make the bus ride mean something.”

Kulich opened the scoring just 4:43 into the contest with an assist from Joseph Cecconi and that 1-0 Rochester lead held up until early in the third when Rousek pounded in a cross-ice feed from Mason Jobst after the former won an offensive zone board battle.

But Hershey pulled to within one goal taking advantage of a Linus Weissbach retaliation penalty to score on the power play.

Mersch ended the threat scoring a sharp-angle goal over the blocker shoulder of the goaltender at 13:11 of the third and Rousek added the empty-netter at 18:38.

“That was a big-time win and good to take care of business,” Jobst said. “The power play has been struggling after we had success in the previous series, so it was good to get one.

“When you go on a deep run in the playoffs, you learn from different situations. Going into the third, we learned our lesson in these playoffs the hard way, so it was good to finish.”

“It’s not an easy building to win in and I like how we persevered today,” goaltender Malcolm Subban (32 saves) said.

Hershey still maintains a 3-to-2 lead in the best-of-seven series, so Rochester faces another potential elimination game Friday night.

Kremer and Dobson To Return To Beauts

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BUFFALO – Key pieces to the Buffalo Beauts roster are now guaranteed to be back for the 2023-24 Premier Hockey Federation season. Defender and team captain Dominique Kremer and forward Summer-Rae Dobson renegotiated the second years of their two-year contracts with the team. Kremer and Dobson were originally signed to two-year deals back on May 2, 2022 and July 20, 2022 respectively. Kremer was the first player in PHF history to sign a two-year contract. Terms of the renegotiated deals will not be disclosed.

“I am super pumped to get back to the grind in Buffalo,” said Kremer. “It’s really time to turn things around for the Beauts, and I’m excited to be a part of that. I can’t wait to prove all of the naysayers wrong this year.”

Kremer is entering into her fourth season with the Beauts. She was named the team’s captain back on September 22, 2022. Kremer went 1-9-10 for scoring in 23 games last season. In 49 PHF regular season games – all with the Beauts – Kremer has gone 7-14-21 for scoring in her career. She was the PHF’s Defender of the Year for the 2021-22 season and has been selected as an All-Star for both the 2022 and 2023 All-Star Games. Most recently, the 25-year-old from Napoleonville, LA was named the First-Star for the league’s annual Fans’ 3 Stars Award.

“While the Beauts have struggled over the past couple of years, a solid foundation has been laid,” said Kremer. “I believe that this foundation will help lead this team to success. Every woman that signs on to be part of this organization understands that it will be an uphill battle, and I don’t think that level of commitment and determination will be matched by any of our opponents.”

Dobson made a splash with the Beauts as a rookie last season and garnered a reputation as one of the most physical players in the PHF. She went 4-7-11 for scoring in 24 games, tying for third on the team in points. In turn, the 23-year-old from Huntsville, Ontario was voted by her teammates as the Beauts’ Rookie of the Year for the 2022-23 season.

“I’m so excited for this upcoming season and for what our team has in store,” said Dobson. “My mindset moving into this offseason is very motivating from the outcome of last season. We as a team are going to come back better than ever and make a run for that Isobel Cup.”

Prior to turning pro, Dobson played 162 NCAA games during a five-year collegiate career that was primarily played for Mercyhurst from the 2017-18 season through 2020-21. She played her fifth and final season with the University of Connecticut during the 2021-22 campaign. Across her 162 games, Dobson scored 51 goals, 57 assists and 108 points.

“I am really glad that we could get both Dom’s and Summer’s contracts renegotiated ahead of the upcoming season,” said Beauts GM Nate Oliver. “Our whole point in signing them to two-year deals last offseason was because we believe that they are paramount to the Beauts’ success. Both players are the epitome of the notion that we need to be a team this season that will not accept being out-worked and certainly never being out-cared. That is the mindset that we as a team need to have and buy into right from the get-go. Dom and Summer exude that.”

The Beauts look forward to announcing more player signings in the coming weeks as roster building continues ahead of the 2023-24 PHF season.

Amerks Lose To Hershey; Now Trail Bears 3-1 In Series

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BY WARREN KOZIRESKI —

Hershey scored four times over the final ten minutes of regulation to overcome a 2-0 deficit and defeat Rochester 4-2 to take a 3-to-1 lead in their best-of-seven conference final series. Game five is in Hershey Wednesday and Game Six, if necessary, is back in Rochester Friday night.

Linus Weissbach scored in both the first and second periods to stake the Amerks to a 2-0 lead. The first was a backdoor rebound of a Filip Cederqvist shot while the second was a perfect redirection of a Matt Bartkowski shot.

“I stuck around the net more; we talked as a team to go to the net-front a little more—we need to win those battles at both net-fronts and, if we do that more, I think we’ll put some more goals in,” Weissbach said.

But Hershey began their comeback at 10:06 of the third period and tied the game just 2:05 later on goals from defensemen Lucas Johnasen and Logan Day respectively.

Mason Morelli chipped in what would prove to be the game-winner at 15:27 and added an empty-netter in the final minute.

“It’s tough to see it end that way, but we just need to regroup and come back,” Weissbach said.

“That one kicks—just a lack of composure with the puck there in some big moments,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said. “Both of their goals to tie it we had pucks on our stick—one in the defensive zone and one in the offensive zone—and I think we just made immature decisions with it which led to them getting chances and those chances went in.

“It was more puck decisions that put us in uncomfortable positions more than anything else.”This marks the second time in this year’s playoffs the Amerks have found themselves on the brink of elimination. In the first round they trailed Syracuse 2-to-0 before rebounding to win the best-of-five series.

Amerks Lose To Bears, Now Trail 2-1 In Conference Final

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BY WARREN KOZIRESKI —

Rochester fell behind 2-0 and 3-1 in Game Three of their best-of-seven conference final series with Hershey and never recovered in a 4-2 loss giving the Bears a 2-1 lead with Game Four Monday at 6pm in Rochester.

Hershey scored just past the midway point of the first period and added a power play goal early in the second before rookie defenseman Zach Metsa, who won a national championship with Quinnipiac University in April and was signed to an AHL deal the following week, scored his first professional playoff goal off a Hershey player in front to cut the lead in half.

“I was just shooting for chaos and it hit one of their guys in front,” Metsa said.

Two-and-a-half minutes later Hershey retook their two-goal advantage into the second period locker room but, in the third, Sean Malone put a rebound just under crossbar for his third of the playoffs at 7:36 to cut the lead to 3-2 Hershey.

But the Bears scored an empty-net goal with 43 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Rochester changed their forward lines late in the second period in an attempt to balance out their players with size playing with their smaller ones.

“I thought the second and third (periods) that we did a lot of good things,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said. “The way the game is being officiated, we have to scored how we scored because it’s tackle football out there…and we’ve scored a lot of goals this year that way, so I’m not worried about that.”

“It’s playoff hockey; well maybe a little different in this league compared to the NHL games I’ve watched at least, but you need to fight through it,” Malone said. “Keep playing our game and I think we’ll come out on the other side next time.”B

Hershey Tops Amerks To Tie Playoff Series

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BY WARREN KOZIRESKI —

Hershey scored once on the power play and one even strength goal while hiolding Rochester 0-for-2 on the power play and scoreless for the second time in this year’s playoffs in a 2-0 victory to even their best-of-seven conference final series 1-1.

“They played a great game, so we need to make a few adjustments and play better in our own zone,” Rochester captain Michael Mersch said.

“I don’t think our D moved the puck fast enough tonight…but I think we probably created as many chances tonight as in game one, but Hunter Shepard was great tonight,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said.

Hershey opened the scoring after a scoreless first period with a goal over the glove of goaltender Malcolm Subban at 16:35 and got an insurance tally in the final minute of the stanza.

Buffalo Sabres 2022 first round draft pick Matt Savoie made his professional debut playing on the fourth line on the wing with Brendan Warren and Kevin Olischefski.

“It was good to get my first game under my belt and get a little more comfortable out there,” Savoie said. “They did a good job keeping us out of their zone, but I was happy with the chemistry I had with my teammates going back to playing together a bit back in training camp.”

The series shifts to Rochester for games three and four Saturday and Monday. Saturday’s game is already a sellout, while Monday is a 6pm start.

Update on Ithaca High Girls Varsity Ice Hockey

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Katie Howells (TGHA President) and Tyler “TR” Wagenet (IYHA President) have had many meetings with the ICSD Director of Athletics and Wellness Samantha Little since the 2022-23 Ithaca High School Girls Varsity Ice Hockey season was suspended . While area girls playing ice hockey have received direct messages about next season, they would like the greater community to know that the sport was never canceled by the district, rather it was in a holding pattern for one year only.

Plans are being finalized for the Ithaca High team’s 2023-24 season that improve the practice and game schedule for all interested in participating, and TGHA and IYHA are also making adjustments to work well with the varsity program next year and beyond.

TR Wagenet has been encouraged to coach the Ithaca High Girls Varsity team along with Dusty Paul.  There are a number of items that need to be completed (CPR certification, Concussion seminars, etc.) before this is a confirmed coaching appointment by the school district.  Once those are completed and pending Board of Education approval, this will be formalized.  A strong effort will be made to have another assistant coach or two (including a woman athlete).

All skaters who are 2010 birth year and older will be eligible to try out for Ithaca High Girls Varsity. Mergers will be arranged to include school districts in addition to Ithaca and Lansing. Trumansburg, Cortland, Binghamton area, etc. are being approached. For reference, the Skaneateles Varsity Girls Hockey team draws from seven different school districts throughout Central NY, including Liverpool, West Genesse, Baldwinsville, Auburn, and others.  8th Graders will need to pass the Athletic Placement Process (APP) test prior to tryouts, either with ICSD or their own district.

Please share this information with potential team members. If you have questions or concerns, contact Samantha Little, slittle@icsd.k12.ny.us 607-274-2155

Amerks Win Game One Of Eastern Conference Finals

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By Warren Kozireski —

Meeting for the first time in the playoffs since 2000, the two oldest American Hockey league franchises opened their best-of-seven Eastern Conference Finals series in Hershey Tuesday night and Rochester skated away with a 4-1 victory. This is Rochester’s first trip to the conference finals in 19 years.

The Amerks tallied twice in each of the first two periods with Youngstown, NY native Joseph Cecconi opened the scoring on his 26th birthday just 14 seconds into the contest before Brett Murray tapped in a between-the-legs pass from Michael Mersch at 9:04 of the first period.

“We wanted to have an aggressive start…and used the defenseman as a screen,” Cecconi said about his goal on the first shift of the game. “We expect every team we play to run around and try to play physical on us, but we just stick to our game.”

Rochester put the game out of reach as defenseman Matt Bartkowski scored from the left point low blocker side at 1:42 of the second followed by a Mason Jobst tally in the final half of the second period.

Lukas Rousek added an empty-net tally with 61 seconds remaining as extra insurance.

Hershey netted a four-on-four goal about midway through the third period to break up the shutout bid of Amerks goaltender Malcolm Subban, who made 21 saves in net.

“Our team was blocking shots and taking away the back door, so it was about making the first save,” Subban said.

“We’re not trying to make statements; we’re just trying to win games…and tonight we did enough to give us a chance to win the game…and now we have to reset, learn some things and come back for another game,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said.

The win extended Rochester playoff winning streak to seven games—their longest since 1991 when they won ten in a row.

Hershey hosts Rochester for Game Two Thursday night before the Amerks return home for games three and four Saturday and Monday nights.

Rochester Begins Process to Ice Section V Girls Varsity Ice Hockey League

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BY RANDY SCHULTZ –

The Greater Rochester Girls High School Hockey 2023 Spring Showcase was recently held at the Rochester Ice Center in Perinton, NY.

One hundred thirty-two high school age girls attended the Showcase. Event organizer, Jamie Buss admitted that this Showcase didn’t happen overnight.

“Talks about having a girl’s high school hockey league in Rochester actually began four years ago,” stated Buss. “We thought we had the numbers, but nobody had ever sat down and figured it out.

“When COVID hit, that stopped everything. But within the past four or five months conversations began happening again. And this time we said that ‘we know we can do this.’

“But nobody has reached out to all of the different organizations to find out how many girls we have.

“So we got a committee together, we made that effort to find out how many girls we have. We have identified 200 girls in the Section V community that would be considered high school eligible next year (seventh grade through 12th grade and includes current sixth graders through 11th graders).”

The first step that the committee did was to send out an interest form.

“We had non-identifying information about those 200 girls based on reports we got back from (other hockey organizations) the Edge, ROCO, Jr. Rochester Amerks, Webster and the Empire League in finding out how many girls we had,” continued Buss. “The interest form went out through all of those organizations.

“We got identifying information back telling us the district that the girls play in, their ages, their grades, what level they were currently playing in, where the goalies are. And the goalies are a huge piece of this.

“Once we got all of this we came up with the showcase as their first opportunity to get all of these girls on the ice.”

The reason for all of this was because many of these Rochester-based girls don’t play for Rochester- based teams. Instead they played for teams in Syracuse, Buffalo and the Adirondacks. They simply didn’t play in Rochester.

“The majority of these girls want to play girls high school hockey,” explained Buss. “They don’t want to play with the boys in boys high school hockey.

“Yes, there are teams they (girls) can play for. They can try out, they can make the team but they’re not going to play.

“They have ponytails. They’re going to have a target on their back the entire time they are on the ice.

“It isn’t fair. It isn’t equitable. A lot of these girls don’t want that opportunity. They want to play with their peers.”

So the Showcase became a reality. There were 132 girls divided up among eight teams. A handful of coaches were brought in from the main organizations assisted with the breakdown of teams so everything would be equal.

The Showcase is the first piece of a much larger puzzle that is being put together to launch a girls high school hockey league.

So what is next?

“The real work begins now,” responded Buss. “We have shared all of the information we have gathered so far with all of the athletic directors in Section V.

“Some have responded and some have not. So the next step is to get the main districts and get them to a table to talk. We feel that we’ve done all the hard work, now they have to make something happen.

“We feel that these girls deserve everything opportunity in hockey that the boys have. Section V currently has 200 girls that want to play high school hockey but currently can’t.”

Does this organizational group have a target date in mind that they would like to see the high school hockey league launched?

“In the Fall,” stated Buss. “It is going to happen in the Fall, in one fashion or the another.

“With school budgets getting ready to be voted on very shortly, a varsity program this late in the game is most likely not going to happen in the next school year.

“But in the 2024-25 year we will be bringing girls varsity hockey into the conversation. In the meantime we will be looking for other ways to raise money.

“We will also look at each school to see if there are enough girls to play for that school, or if some schools will have to combine to make up a single team.

“If this is club level teams, which I believe will happen this Fall because we will be working on our own. But we have to do it in a way that will make it easy to slide into a varsity program.

“So it is our hope to get things started next year so we can slide into that varsity program in 2024-25.

“This is something that can’t wait anymore. There are 200 high school girls out there that want to play girls high school hockey.

“We’ve got it moving. We’ve just got to keep it moving. We know there will be bumps along the way. We’re banking on six teams to start out with.

“But it is going to happen.”

Photo Gallery by Janet Schultz, NYHOL© Copies available at https://janetschultz.smugmug.com

Buffalo Sabres Inducted Ryan Miller into Hall of Fame, Set Up Endowed Fund Benefiting Courage of Carly – An Update

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(Thanks to Roswell Park for this updated information)

If you were in Buffalo in the early 2000s, chances are, you’ve heard of Ryan Miller. Donning the now iconic No. 30, the Sabres goaltender holds the Buffalo Sabres franchise records in games played (540), wins (284) and saves (14,847). Throughout his NHL career, he banked 390 wins overall, earning him 14th place in NHL history, one ahead of fellow Sabres icon Dominik Hasek. He won silver at the U.S. Olympics, snagged himself the Vezina Trophy as the league’s best goaltender and finished his career as the all-time winningest U.S.-born goaltender upon his retirement following the 2020-2021 season.

When Ryan retired from the NHL in 2021, the Sabres released a statement that still rings true today:

“His on-ice performance and dedication to our fans has forever endeared Ryan to the Western New York Community. Through his Steadfast Foundation and numerous charitable events, Ryan consistently displayed a sincere commitment to Buffalo and was the epitome of what it means to be a Buffalo Sabre,” the statement read.

There are few stronger examples of that commitment than that of his dedication to the Courage of Carly Fund.

Courage of Carly’s biggest fan.

For nearly a decade, Ryan supported pediatric patients and their families at Roswell Park through both personal donations and contributions through his non-profit, The Steadfast Foundation, totaling more than $250,000. Inspired by his cousin Matt who lost his battle to leukemia, Ryan took it upon himself to make regular visits to the pediatric clinic where he would read with the kids, share stories and play games.

Luke Gworek, now 17 years old, recalls meeting Ryan on a day he was notified that “there was something wrong.” At seven years old, Luke didn’t yet grasp the ramifications of his leukemia diagnosis, but he knew the situation wasn’t good. As he sat in his hospital room, crying, Ryan walked in. He spent time with Luke, calming him down and reassuring him that he would push through.

“When you’re diagnosed with cancer, you feel very sad and down,” Luke said. “And when someone like Ryan comes along and tells you, ‘You’re going to be fine, you’re going to get through it,’ it really inspires you to keep doing that and get through.”

But Luke’s story doesn’t stop there. Several years after their original meeting, Luke was undergoing treatment at Roswell Park when Ryan walked in — this time for a surprise visit. At the time, Ryan had been traded to a different NHL team and was in town for a visit. When Ryan saw Luke, he instantly remembered their conversation and asked Luke how he was doing. Ryan’s genuine nature and kindness only served to further cement Ryan as one of Luke’s all-time favorite players.

Old picture of Ryan Miller visiting pediatric cancer patients in Buffalo.

Honoring Ryan’s career and kind heart.

January 19, 2023 marked a momentous occasion for Ryan Miller and the Buffalo Sabres franchise. As the Sabres prepared to face off against the New York Islanders, Ryan stood before his fans and watched his signature No. 30 jersey get raised to the rafters and officially retired. The evening celebrated Ryan’s legendary accomplishments and marked his induction into the Buffalo Sabres Hall of Fame.

“When I look up and see Ryan’s number 30 hanging in the rafters, I’m going to remember that he always has a spot for Buffalo in his heart,” Luke said. “He’s a very inspirational person, and he’ll just continue to inspire people even after the NHL.”

True to his dedication to Western New Yorkers, Ryan stopped by Roswell Park for a visit on Friday, January 20, following his honorary night at KeyBank Center. He spent time with pediatric patients and their families and honored the start of a special initiative: the Ryan Miller Legacy Fund.

In recognition of all that Ryan has meant to Roswell Park and the Courage of Carly Fund, an endowed fund has been established, with seed funding from the Buffalo Sabres, to support future pediatric programs for years to come. A wall in the pediatric clinic at Roswell Park was dedicated to Ryan for everything he continues to mean to the thousands of patients, caregivers and staff who are in the fight. 

Donate.

If you want to show your appreciation for Ryan Miller, you can donate to his legacy fund to help the Courage of Carly Fund for generations to come.

Donate to the Ryan Miller Legacy Fund.

Old picture of Ryan Miller visiting pediatric cancer patients in Buffalo.

Men’s and Women’s Hockey Again Score Well in Classroom

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Latest APR data unveiled recently by NCAA

The sports of NCAA Division I men’s and women’s hockey continue to make the grade in the classroom according to Academic Progress Rate (APR) data recently released by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

Women’s hockey’s four-year average score from 2018-22 was 991 while men’s hockey scored 984, placing both among the top 10 among all sports. Men’s hockey’s most recent single-year APR score of 980 for 2021-22 ranked sixth-best among men’s sports with 50 or more teams.

Additionally, the four-year eligibility rate for both women’s hockey (994) and men’s hockey (988) placed both among the top six of all women’s and men’s sports, respectively.

The APR, created in 2003 to measure Division I schools and teams on their student-athletes’ success in the classroom, awards points to teams based on students’ grades, their progress toward their degree and for staying in school. Teams are also rewarded in the APR for students who return to school to complete their degree.

The APR is related – but not identical – to the NCAA’s Graduation Success Rate (GSR), serving in a way as a predictor of GSR success. Women’s hockey had a 98-percent graduation rate in the most recent study, tied for the best among women’s sports, while men’s hockey’s boasted a 92-percent graduation rate, fifth-best among men’s sports.

The calculation of APR also rewards teams when former student-athletes return to school to complete their degree. In recent years, current National Hockey League players like Johnny Gaudreau (Boston College), Jack Johnson (Michigan), Logan O’Connor (Denver) and Jake Oettinger (Boston University) have completed their undergraduate degrees despite having left school early to play professionally.

Nine women’s programs – Boston College, Boston University, Brown, Quinnipiac, Syracuse, Minnesota Duluth, New Hampshire, Vermont and Yale – logged perfect multi-year average APR scores of 1,000. Eighty-three percent of all women’s teams (30 of 36) included in the study had multi-year scores above 980 while two-thirds (24 of 36) had scores of at least 990.

Six men’s teams – Bowling Green, Canisius, Penn State, Princeton, Notre Dame and Yale – had perfect multi-year average APR scores of 1,000. Seventy-three percent of all men’s teams (43 of 59) included in the study had multi-year APR scores above 980 and nearly half (24 of 59) had scores of at least 990.

Amerks Sweep and Move On In Playoffs

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BY WARREN KOZIRESKI —

ROCHESTER, NY — Rochester netted three power play goals and eight total to defeat Toronto 8-4 and sweep their best-of-five North Division finals series. The Amerks advanced to the conference finals and AHL semi-finals for the first time since 2003-04 and marked their first playoff series sweep since 2005.

Lukas Rousek had a four-point game with one goal while rookie Isak Rosen scored twice to lead the offense.

“It’s an amazing feeling to get through here and to get two goals in front of 10,000 fans on a Wednesday night is amazing,” Rosen said.

“I was just thinking ‘gotta get it to the net’ and got a pretty good shot off (on the power play goal) and…(Mason) Jobst made a really good play and I just stayed back door and Jobber found me back door. Two good goals—a good shot and going to the net, so just (need to) keep that in mind and keep going.”

Rochester fell behind just 17 seconds into the contest but rebounded to lead 3-1 after the first period on goals from defenseman Ethan Prow, Kevin Olischefski and Rousek.

The two teams traded two second period tallies each with rookie Juri Kulich scoring his sixth goal in six games and Rosen before the Amerks netted three in the third from Rosen, Brett Murray and defenseman Matt Bartkowski into an empty net to seal the victory.

“February 20th we were in sixth place and out of the playoffs, so our backs have been against the wall for two-and-a-half months and our guys have been growing with confidence…so the response after the first goal didn’t surprise me at all,” Rochester head coach Seth Appert said.

“The success of this group wasn’t preordained, they’ve had to work to become the group we are and…mindset is we’re not done yet, but that will be a banner that goes up there that this group earned that stays forever.”

 Rochester will face Hershey, who swept their series with Hartford in the conference finals in a 2-2-1-1-1 series starting Tuesday in Hershey. Rochester is home Memorial Day weekend on the following Saturday and Monday.

Howell Motors Hockey Hall of Fame Inducts Class of 2023

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BY RANDY SCHULTZ –

LOCKPORT, NY — The Howell Motors Ford Hockey Hall of Fame Inducted the Class of 2023 on Saturday, May 6th at the Cornerstone Arena. Former Buffalo Sabres play-by-play announcer Rick Jeanneret was the featured speaker at the ceremony.

This year’s class featured 14 inductees. They were presented in three categories including Contributors, Coaches and Players.

This year’s class included the following Contributors: Edgar Lee “Ted” Darling, Joe DiRamio, Clarke Snedeker, Jim Long and Ki-Po Motors, Inc. with Jack Kirchberger and Edward Poole.

Coaches: Chuck Weber and Matt Fogle. Players: Josh DeNardo, Ronald A. Morello, Jr., Kevin Ward, Rick Eberhart, Jr., Erik Bernardi, Matt Milliman and Eric DiRamio.

As part of Darling’s presentation Jeanneret, former Buffalo Sabres player, Tony McKegney and Joel Darling spoke of their memories of the former late Darling. Darling was the original “Voice of the Sabres” and resided for many years with his family in Lockport.

Howell Motors Ford Hall of Fame Founder Mike Landers opened the ceremonies. Hockey writer and Hall of Fame member, Randy Schultz, was the Master of Ceremonies.

All proceeds of the event were given to the Cornerstone Arena.

Photos by Janet Schultz, NYHOL© Ful Gallery for viewing/purchasing at https://janetschultz.smugmug.com

Starpoint Hockey Trio: A Line For The Ages

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BY RANDY SCHULTZ –

To find a hockey team at any level of the game these days that has a top scoring line made up of the same three players game after game is almost impossible. In many cases a center and a winger will play together for several contests, but the third player, usually a winger, can vary, depending on the team’s situation.

Back in the day National Hockey League team’s had several memorable scoring lines that made history. There was the Production Line in Detroit (Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsey and Sid Abel), the GAG Line with the New York Rangers (Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert and Vic Hadfield) and Buffalo’s famed French Connection Line (Gilbert Perreault, Rick Martin and Rene Robert).

But this past high school hockey season saw one team, the Starpoint Spartans boy’s hockey team, who had a center along with a left and right winger, who played together as a unit from the team’s first game through their final contest of the 2022-23 campaign.

They played so well together as a unit with Starpoint that when it came to post-season honors, the trio was selected to play together in both the WNY Sr. Boys High School All-Star Game as well as the Bowman Cup.

Those three players included: Alex Kirk, Justin Bull and William Mainstone. All were seniors in high school and had played on the Starpoint varsity team in previous seasons, but never on the same line.

Until this season.

The man responsible for assembling the line at the start of the season was Spartans boy’s hockey head coach, Clayton Wilson.

“All three of these boys, along with one other senior, were going to be captains on this year’s team,” recalled Wilson. “We got this group of boys together at my house at least eight to 10 times before the season started.

“I asked these three boys if they had any interest of playing together as a line. As captains, they have a voice on the team.

“They said that ‘coach, we would like to play together.’ All I told them is that they had to learn to divide that puck by three. If you only have one puck that’s selfish and we won’t win.

“As you can see by their success this season, they were phenomenal with it. It started in practice to see how they would jell.

“They had fun and fed off each other. They understood how each other played. They all brought a little different something to the game. I think that’s why they played so well together.

“But I threatened them all year. If the rest of the team was struggling and we’re not scoring and they weren’t producing, I was going to break them up.

“But it worked and they stayed together right to the end of our season. The success we had as a team was due to 99.9 percent of those three. I’m not dishing anyone else on the team.

“But as your studs go, your team goes. And they won.”

Was there a point in the season where Coach Wilson might have thought about breaking up the team?

“Mentally, yes, I thought about it,” responded Wilson. “Our team was in a little bit of a rut in the middle of December. I was frustrated with the team.

“I put a lot of heat on these three guys and told them if we didn’t turn things around soon, I would have to break the line up. As you can see, I didn’t have to do that.”

Bull is the son of Jim and Lenee Bull. He has a sister, Jenna. Alec is the son of Matt and Kara Kirk. He has a brother Aidan. William is the son of Aaron and Amy Mainstone. He has a sister, Ashley.

Did any of the players feel pressure being captains on the team?

Yeah, you always know that you want to do good for your team,” responded Bull. “At the end of the day it’s a team sport.

“Being a captain you’ve got to lead the way, but you’ve got to expect that out of the rest of the team.”

Linemate Mainstone agreed.

“No matter if your team does good or bad, it reflects on the captains,” said Mainstone.

“People look at you when you have the good moments,” added Kirk. “People look at you when you have the bad moments.

“You have to be accountable. Coming off the great season we had last year (2021-22), there was a little bit of pressure on all of us to have another great year.

“The three of us knew we were going to be playing together this year. We knew we were going to be successful this year.”

Kirk admitted that the trio did have some discussions among each other when Coach Wilson thought about breaking up the line.

“We knew that it was our first year of playing together,” continued Kirk. “It was going to take some time and that there would be some growing pains.

“We had some talks together without the coach. We discussed different things.

“But we did figure it out and it was smooth sailing after that.”

Mainstone said that there was a point in the season when all three felt that they were made to play on the same line together.

“There were a few moments, even in the first game,” remembered Mainstone. “We could tell that there was something special about the three of us playing together.

“Probably the real moment we all realized how good we were playing together was in a game against Williamsville East. We had a big game and people realized that ‘wow,’ this line is here.

“And it was a big moment for us as a team as well.”

While there was a lot of emphasis on the line’s offensive abilities, they didn’t do that badly defensively either.

“We would be playing well offensively most of the time,” said Bull. “But sometimes that wouldn’t work out well for us.

“That’s when you would hear coach yelling at us to get back there, backcheck and take care of the other end of the ice.

“The three of us had been playing with coach for awhile and knew his system and where we needed to be at certain times on the ice.”

Interestingly, the trio had played travel hockey together over the summer.  They knew then there was something special about the three of them on the same line.

And it didn’t seem to bother them that game-after-game they would face the oppositions best line or best defensive line.

“We knew what we would be facing beforehand,” said Kirk. “We knew that no matter what team we faced, we had to play the way we knew how to play.

“I think we had so much confidence in our playing ability that our motto throughout the year became, “play how we know how to play.’

“As a team, we knew we had the skill to beat every team we played.”

(William Mainstone, Braden Allen (4th capt. on the team), Justin Bull, Alec Kirk accepting Section VI Championship Plaque)

“We knew the job we had to do and we went out and did it,” added Bull. “We didn’t worry about the other team’s line.”

Kirk admitted that there was a bottom line to the trio’s success as a line this season.

“Nothing comes easy,” stated Kirk. “We put a lot of practice and work in to get the point we were at where we were successful on a regular basis.”

The work paid off, knowing where each other would be on the ice during a game.

“I always had a pretty good idea where my teammates were on the ice,” commented Bull. “I knew what area they would be in and I just tried to get the puck to them.”

All three players are very proud of their personal accomplishments, but even more proud of what the team has done in three of the past four hockey seasons.

“Going to the State Championship game and winning three out the last four Section VI championships (Section VI, small school, Division championships) is crazy,” stated Bull. “To me it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we did it three times. Not many people get to do that.”

“I think high school hockey is really special,” added Kirk, who was named to the Section VI All-Federation Team and the only Section VI player to be named to the First-Team All-State hockey team. “I played for a lot of travel teams.

“But I think my favorite team I ever played with is the varsity high school team. That was the best experience I’ve had so far.

“Just to know that every time you hit the ice you were playing for your teachers, students, for everyone at the school and for your family and friends. It just gives you that extra push to always do the best you can.”

“The memories that have been made over the past couple of years, I’m never going to forget them, both on and off the ice.”

Statistically, this trio rewrote the Spartans boys hockey record books. They finished the season with 154 points as a line.

Bull finished his career with 131 points, first on the Spartans all-time scoring list. Kirk concluded his career with 117 points, good for number two on the all-time list, while Mainstone finished with 93 points, fourth on the school’s all-time list.

But the one stat that is even more important on the players comes from in the classroom from the academic side of their lives. Kirk has an overall grade point average of 99.83. Mainstone’s is 99.56 while Bull is at 96.56.

Kirk was just awarded the prestigious Thomas E. Hewitt Scholar-Athlete Award.

All three players are making their final decisions of their future academic endeavors. Will hockey be a part of it? That remains to be seen.

(Team photo minutes after winning Section VI Championship this year)

But for now the Starpoint Spartans varsity hockey team of 2022-23 has those memories that will last a lifetime. As for Bull, Kirk, Mainstone and Wilson, they will be linked together for a long time to come.

Coach Wilson may have summed it up the best.

“You don’t get players like these three that come around every year,” concluded Wilson. “This was special.

“It was something special that a lot of people will never forget.”

(Photos by Janet Schultz Photography/NY Hockey OnLine)

18 New Yorkers Selected In USHL Draft

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By Warren Kozireski —

The Buffalo Jr. Sabres and Long Island Gulls combined to have seven of their players selected as the USHL held Phases 1 &2 of the annual draft May 2 & 3.

The Green Bay Gamblers and Dubuque Fighting Saints relied on state talent with each selecting three from New York.

Green Bay took Ellicottville’s Niles Benson in the fourth round of Phase 1. Benson is a 6’0, 176 lb. center who played last season with the Jr. Sabres where he scored 21 points in 15 games and added four more points in five playoff contests.

Commack native Brendan DeFeo was the Gamblers seventh round selection in Phase 1. A 5’7”, 140 lb. forward, he had seven points in a combined 16 Long Island Gulls games with their 15U and 16U teams.

In Phase 2, Green Bay made Geneva’s Brady Zugec their 15th round pick. The Jr. Sabres product stands 6’2”, 192 lb. and the forward scored a combined 36 goals with 55 assists in 81 games.

Dubuque took Ithaca’s Cooper Dennis in the second round of Phase 1. Playing for the Bishop Kearney Selects, the 5’5”, 1412 lb. forward tallied 124 points in 83 games. In the eighth round, the Fighting Saints selected Mid-Fairfield Rangers and New York City native Tommy Bleyl. A 5’8”, 141 lb. Schenectady-born defenseman, Bleyl put up 45 points in 16 high school games at Burnt Hills/Ballston Spa. And with their fifth-round pick in Phase 2, Dubuque chose Lake Placid native Ritter Coombs from Northwood Prep. The 6’1”, 174 lb. forward scored 31 goals with 49 points in 70 games this past season.

Buffalo native and Jr. Sabres center Haeden Ellis was the first from New York State taken in the draft seventh overall in the first round by Cedar Rapids. Ellis stands 5’7” and 134 lb. but just turned 16 in March. He played with Team USA’s Team Royal this past year with three goals in four games.

Waterloo used their second-round pick on Brooklyn’s Jess Orlowsky of the Long Island Gulls where the 6’2”, 181 lb. forward scored ten points in 14 games.

Perennial USHL power Chicago selected Roslyn native Ethan Wyttenbach and Skaneateles’s Henry Major with their two fifth round selections. Wyttenbach is a 5’8”, 170 lb. left wing from the Long Island Gulls where he scored a combined 13 points in 15 games with the 15U and 16U squads. Major is 5’7”, 140 lb. and the forward was an offensive force with both the Rochester Coalition and Skaneateles High totaling 67 goals and 98 assists in 65 games.

William Schneid from Syracuse was taken in the seventh round of Phase 1 by Des Moines. The 5’11”, 161 lb. right wing had 95 points in 40 games with the Rochester Coalition 15U team.

Skaneateles’ John Henry is a 6’0”, 185 lb. right defenseman with Cranbrook in the BCHL where he tallied five goals and 17 points in 44 games. Some websites list the 19-year-old as committed to Yale University as early as this fall.

Hudson Miller of Syosset was taken by Sioux Falls in the ninth round of Phase 2. With Avon Old Farms Prep and Yale Jr. Bulldogs 6’2”, 174 lb. defenseman had a combined 28 points in 63 contests.

Muskegon got into the New York State of mind with their ninth round Phase 2 selection—Stephen Peck from New York City. The 6’2”, 174 lb. goaltender played 38 games combined with Avon Old Farms and the Yale Jr. Bulldogs after four development years with the North Jersey Avalanche.

Victor’s Nicholas Peluso was a teammate of Henry’s in Cranbrook. The 5’10”, 158 lb. winger netted 15 goals and 41 points over 54 games. He is committed to the University of Maine.

Joseph Mense, a 6’0”, 215 lb. right defenseman from Port Jefferson, was a 15th round Phase 2 pick by Sioux City. He played 31 games with the Boston Jr. Bruins last season with six points.

Tri-City added a second NY stater in Tyler Procious from Pittsford in the 16h round. The soon-to-be 20-year-old 5’10”, 174 lb. defenseman captained Waterloo in his second year with the team and had seven points in 17 games.

The final player from New York selected was Rye native Lachlan Bonner, a 5’11”, 170 lb. forward with the North Jersey Avalanche 15U last season where he had a pair of assists in four games. He was taken by Youngstown in the 18th round.