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Future Sabres: Maxim Strbak

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By Warren Kozireski —

Not many players, if any, have participated in four U-20 World Junior tournaments but Buffalo Sabres 2023 second round draft pick Maxim Strbak, currently plying the blueline for top-ten ranked Michigan State could be the next in 2025.

Last month Strbak, who will not turn 19 years old until April 13th, registered seven points in five games for Team Slovakia in his third tournament where he was named one of his team’s Top-Three Performers.

“It was a little hard (to adjust),” Strbak said after his first weekend back from overseas. “At the World Juniors we played on an Olympic sheet, so it was a little bigger and I think the competition was much faster so I could definitely feel it in the first two shifts in both games, but I tried to adjust as much as I could, and I think I got better throughout the game.

“Personally, I felt I had a good tournament.”

Strbak, a coveted right-shot blueliner, left his Kocice, Slovakia home—eastern part of the country just north of Hungary, at 16 years old to play in the USHL with Sioux Falls. There he had 18 points in 46 games in preparation for being one of the youngest this season in the NCAA.

His father, Martin, was drafted by Los Angeles and played a combined 49 games on defense with the Kings and Pittsburgh Penguins before heading back overseas and playing competitively for various teams in eastern Europe until he was 41 years old. He represented Slovakia in the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.

“He kind of just let me play and I took the role  so there wasn’t much pressure (to be a defenseman). I knew what I wanted to do on the ice and off the ice. I want to have a career in hockey also, but (playing until) 41 is a little out there, but we’ll see.”

Strbak attended the NHL draft in Nashville and took in the moment when he heard his name called.

“I still remember it as if it was yesterday. Me and my whole family got some breakfast in the morning and then just sat around. A lot of names fade away and it was 33, 35 and all of  sudden it was 40 and I was like, am I going to get picked. And then Buffalo at 45. It was an unreal moment for me, and my family and I will definitely remember that for a while. I talked with basically every team and didn’t have a bad conversation with anyone…but I had a feeling about Buffalo.

“I did Development Camp this summer; it was a good time. The (NHL) Combine was in Buffalo, so I was there two weeks before not knowing where I was going to get drafted and, after two weeks, going straight back to that hotel and that rink, so it was kind of nice to know where I was going. But for me it was more about meeting people who I’m going to work with and practices and everything else we did.”

Strbak has been a key component as one of four freshmen playing regularly in the Spartans blueline helping them to their best start in over 20 years, His 6’2”, 205 lb.  lanky frame gives him great stick reach and his long skating stride allows him to fill gaps quickly.

He stood second on the team in blocked shots despite missing two games for the World Junior tournament, scored his first collegiate goal against Canisius Oct. 19 and had four assists through 17 games.

“Here at Michigan State, I’m getting a lot of ice time; as much as I can prove myself to play so it’s been very good and obviously, we as a team have had vary, very good season too. It’s been fun.”

(Photos provided by Michigan State Athletic/Men’s Hockey Depts.)

Hamburg’s Geary Helping Spartans Stellar Blueline

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By Warren Kozireski —

He is often one of four freshmen on the Michigan State defense along with a freshman goaltender, but that has not deterred Patrick Geary from making a quick impact on the top-ten ranked Spartans defense.

Impact is the appropriate word to describe the 6’1”, 185 lb. left shot; he does not shy away from contact, is regularly clearing the front of the Spartans net. Which he also did over his four seasons with the Buffalo Jr. Sabres organization and two with Waterloo in the USHL.

“Tough in the beginning for sure; I was in and out of the lineup and then didn’t play for a month, but got my chance, stuck with it and just kept going from there,” Geary said about his first collegiate season after the Spartans swept nationally ranked Penn State on the road.

“Consistency I think is a big part of my game. I like to play hard; I like to play physical and that’s what the coaches like. Just keep moving the puck north and keep to my game.”

Geary registered his first collegiate point in his second game on home ice against Lake Superior State with his first goal at Ohio State Nov. 4. He seems to like playing against Penn State with one goal and two assists over four games this season.

He was invited to the Team USA camp for the recent World Junior tournament in Sweden but was one of the final cuts.

“Definitely disappointing, but a great opportunity, great experience to play against those guys and see how they prepare and train…definitely a great experience and I’m happy they ended up winning gold.”

Michigan State has some good history with players from the Buffalo area with Tim Kennedy, Mike Ratchuk and Chris Mueller (West Seneca) on the roster when they last won the national championship in 2007. And Amherst native Dave Arkeilpane was on the 1986 title team as well.

So, Geary may prove to be a bit of a good luck charm as the Spartans have quickly rebuilt into a title contender.

“Tim Kennedy has helped me my whole career. He was my 16-year coach, and we still stay in touch to this day, and I see him in the summer to skate and work out. He told me to go (to Michigan State), and I trusted him and knew it was the right spot. And Ratchuk, my dad is really close friends with them, so definitely a good connection there.”

Unlike many Division I college hockey players, Geary did not leave home in his mid-teens to pursue his hockey dream but stayed comparably in his backyard playing with the Jr. Sabres from his 13U campaign through 16U.

“It was just trust in the Jr. Sabres; we knew the organization they had, and I believed in them, and they believed in me. My adviser obviously helped me a lot, but I didn’t really see a need to move away, and I knew I would play in the USHL eventually, so I was just waiting for that opportunity.”

That came with Waterloo where he put up 30 points over 115 games in two seasons.

“I had great billets and was kind of at home for two years and made it a lot better to be at home and be comfortable in a house. It was great, I loved it there. The coaches and the staff is all unreal so I was very happy with my time there.”

Geary turns 20 years old Feb. 18 and seems more than happy to be on the ground floor of the Michigan State hockey rebuild under second year head coach Adam Nightengale committing just months after the coaching staff was named.

“I knew they were new and obviously I was going to be new coming in, so I just felt that it was the perfect spot for me, and it turned out great.”

It has been a mutual progression for both the player and the program. Maybe the Buffalo magic comes alive again for Michigan State over the next few seasons, such as in 2025 when the Frozen Four returns to St. Louis, exactly the location when the Spartans last won in 2007.

(Photos provided by Michigan State U. Athletic/Hockey Departments)

“Small Saves”

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Here is this edition of “Small Saves.”

Enjoy!

New York Raptors Update

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BY MICHAEL MEYERS –

The New York Raptors most recent home game was played on Sunday, January 14, 2024. The Raptors played their rivals, the New Jersey Dare Devils in Elmsford, NY.

The Dare Devils defeated the Raptors, 12-8. The Raptors record is now 3-2-0 for the 2023-24 season.

(Photo provided by the New York Raptors)

2024 NHL Draft Midterm Rankings For NYS-Born Players

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By Warren Kozireski —

NHL Central Scouting released their midterm rankings for the 2024 NHL Entry Draft to be held in Las Vagas June 28-29 at The Sphere and three players hailing from New York State dot the lists of 224 North American skaters or 32 North American goaltenders.

U.S. National team Development Program goaltender John (Jack) Parsons is the sixth rated goaltender. The 6’4”, 185 lb. from Ithaca is committed to play at Providence in 2024 or 2025 and has played in a combined 27 games with 14 wins  as of mid-January. He sports a 3.97 GAA during the USHL portion of the schedule with an .850 save percentage.

Slotted in at 83rd among N.A. skaters is 5’11”, 185 lb. Providence University freshman forward Tanner Adams. The Northport native spent the past two seasons with Tri-City in the USHL and was invited to this past summer’s Development Camp with Las Vegas. Adams has registered 13 points in 19 games through Jan. 16 on four goals and nine assists.

Ranked 120th among N.A. skaters is Rye’s Drew Dellasalla, a 6’0”, 170 lb. New York City native who is skating with Omaha in the USHL. The 2025 Harvard commit has six goals with six assists over his first 27 games this season after he put up 44 points in 31 games with the Brunswick School last season.

Smithtown’s Ufko Anchoring Blueline of Nationally Ranked UMass

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THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

By Warren Kozireski —

Some players have that magic touch of winning seemingly wherever they go, and University of Massachusetts junior defenseman Ryan Ufko is quickly living up to that billing.

A Clak Cup championship and was First Team All-USHL while with the Chicago Steel in 2020-21, tied for the national lead among rookie defensemen in assists and third among rookie defensemen in points as a freshman and a Hockey East Second Team All-Star finishing third in scoring and leading the team in blocked shots despite missing three games to join Team USA for the World Junior Championships where he tallied ten points over seven games as a sophomore.

This season the Nashville Predators 2021 fourth round draft selection is almost a point per game player with 18 in 19 games while wearing the “C” while sitting second on the squad in shots and blocked shots.

THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

“I just try to play to our identity; I enjoy playing offense and try to make as many plays as I can especially \in the “O” zone, but I take pride in my defense; that’s most important, especially with the way we play,” Ufko said while at the Adirondack Invitational in Lake Placid.

“I play all situations—PK, power play five-one-five—whatever I can do to help my guys and help the team out. I’m an undersized defenseman (5’10”, 181 lb.) so I’ve always had to use my brain a little bit more rather than my size especially growing up. I was a late bloomer.

“Most d-men are pretty big and I’m pretty small so always thinking ahead and thinking where guys are going to be and try to use my body positioning, which helps with blocking shots but also around net fronts. I may not be the biggest guy to battle with around the net, but I try to close on guys early in the corner to slow them down and use my body as a way to help me.”

Ufko played for the Mid-Fairfield Rangers as a 14-year-old and jumped to the North Jersey Avalanche at 15 years old where he netted a combined 47 points in 47 games. Then Chicago for two campaigns before starting as a traditional 18-year-old freshman at UMass.

“I started out with P.A.L. and we were all right, but then Ryan Haggerty, the coach at Mid-Fairfield played at BC (Boston College) for four years, reached out to my dad and asked if I would be willing to join the team and they were top-five every year. So, I made that commitment when I was ten (years old) and played there until I was 15.

“Then lucky enough Martin St. Louis got traded from Tampa to the Rangers and he has a son who also was my age who was on the team, so he coached us for two to three years and I learned a lot from him, so it was a cool experience learning from a guy like that.

“Then Vinnie Smith with the New Jersey Avalanche recruited me; great experience there. The whole organization there from Larry Robbins the owner, credit to him he helped out all the guys and gave us whatever we needed.”

Ufko has another season of eligibility if he chooses to continue to be among the 13th ranked Minutemen leadership team and he has already attended three summer camps with the Predators.

THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

“It’s definitely an honor to be one of the captains here with Aaron Bohlinger. This program has been through so much. This place breeds NHL defensemen so it was kind of a no-brainer for me, and the staff cares for individual development which has helped me a lot.

“The staff down there (Nashville) has been really great. The most important thing they do is they get connected with everybody; they go out of their way to have meetings and  talk to the guys and get to know you and make sure you feel comfortable, so I think they do that really well.”

With so much success over a relatively short period of time, it’s also tough to pin Ufko down as to a favorite memory.

“Clark Cup is definitely a big memory of mine especially since the year before we had a really good team my first year and the season got shut down.

“Another one would be going to World Juniors and being able to represent my country for the first time. And then Hockey East we won the championship my freshman year; we played at TD Garden.”

Do not bet against his list of memories adding a few more bullet points over both the near and short term.

(Photos provided by UMass Athletic/Hockey Dept.)

Cortland’s Filighera Reaches 200 Coaching Wins

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CORTLAND, N.Y. – Sophomore Ainsley Delacourt (Stoney Creek, ON/Brampton Canadettes) scored early in the third period to lead the Cortland women’s ice hockey team to a come-from-behind 2-1 win versus nationally 12th-ranked Elmira in non-conference action Tuesday night at Alumni Arena. The Red Dragons earned their first win over the Soaring Eagles in program history and handed head coach Rick Filighera his 200th career victory. Filighera has compiled his wins with stops at RIT, Maine and Cortland. Filighera is a native of Buffalo, NY.

Graduate student Dany Donegan (Cicero/Syracuse Nationals) also netted a goal for Cortland, which improved to 12-3-1 on the season. Freshman Katie Mahoney (Toronto, ON/Toronto Leaside) recorded two assists, while sophomores Kayla Persinger (Lewiston/Newark Ironbound) and Hayley Hunter (Pulaski/NAHA) each collected an assist. Junior goalie Molly Goergen (Eden Prairie, MN/Eden Prairie H.S.) stopped 31 shots.

Graduate student Claire Meeder scored her eighth goal of the season for the Soaring Eagles (11-5-1). Junior Erika Goleniak and sophomore MK Boyle chipped in with assists. Junior goalie Leonie-Louise Kuehberger made 15 saves.

After a scoreless first period that included much play in the neutral zone, Meeder put Elmira in front with a one-time shot from the top of the crease just 16 seconds into the second period. Donegan tied the game on the power play at the 3:45 mark of the period with her fifth goal of the season. She collected the puck from Mahoney near the end line, circled out to the left point and into the middle of the slot and scored with a wrist shot.

Delacourt’s game winner came at 6:09 of the third period. Mahoney fed a pass from the right side to Delacourt at the left point. Delacourt skated into the left circle and beat Kuehberger with a wrist shot. Late in the period, Cortland took a penalty, but just four seconds later the Soaring Eagles also took a penalty leaving the teams skating at four aside. The Red Dragons controlled the puck in Elmira’s defensive zone for most of the 4-on-4 until both teams returned to full strength with less than a minute remaining in regulation. Elmira pulled Kuehberger for an extra skater with 15 seconds on the clock, but Cortland held the Soaring Eagles without a shot to seal the 2-1 victory.

Cortland 2, Elmira 1

Score by periods:
Elmira            0-1-0      1
Cortland         0-1-1      2

Scoring Summary (Goals-Assists):
Elmira: Claire Meeder 1-0, MK Boyle 0-1, Erika Goleniak 0-1
Cortland: Dany Donegan 1-0, Ainsley Delacourt 1-0, Katie Mahoney 0-2, Kayla Persinger 0-1, Hayley Hunter 0-1 

Saves: Leonie-Louise Kuehberger (Elmira) 15 saves (2 GA in 59:45), Empty Net :15; Molly Goergen (Cortland) 31 saves (1 GA in 60:00)

Shots on goal: Elmira 32 (8-16-8), Cortland 17 (3-6-8)
Penalties: Elmira 3-6:00, Cortland 2-4:00
Power Play: Cortland 1-3, Elmira 0-2

Records after game: Elmira (Soaring Eagles) 11-5-1 (ranked 12th in Div. III); Cortland (Red Dragons) 12-3-1

(Photo By Cortland Women’s Athletic Dept._

Walden’s Bohlinger Captaining Minutemen To National Prominence

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THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

By Warren Kozireski —

University of Massachusetts senior defenseman Aaron Bohlinger is not known for scoring a lot of goals, but he makes them count in big moments. The Walden native waited to net his first collegiate goal until the 29th game of the season his freshman year—in the national championship game against St. Cloud State to help give the Minutemen their first hockey national title.

He made quite the first impression earlier that season registering a pair of assists in his collegiate debut against UConn and being named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week.

This year, the 23-year-old co-captain through the first 17 games has just two markers, but one came against then sixth-ranked Michigan for the nationally ranked Minutemen.

“Sometimes; I try to be in the right spot at the right time and I play with a lot of really, really good players so I don’t have to do much, they tend to find me so I’m grateful for that,” Bohlinger said. “They make my job easier and I’m super-grateful to have those memories, moments and experiences.”

Bohlinger split the 2015-16 season with Don Bosco Prep (in Ramsey, NJ), the Connecticut Jr. Wolf Pack and New Jersey Hitmen 16U before leaving home at 15 years old to head to Omaha, Nebraska where he was a point per game player with the Lancers in the NAPHL.

“I played Omaha triple A for a guy named Dave Wilkie for my second year of 16’s and my first year 18’s and then to the BCHL (British Columbia Hockey League with Alberni) and then to the USHL (with Waterloo).

“I wanted to play in the BC; I really didn’t have a chance in the USHL that year, so I knew I wanted to play juniors and thought I was ready for it. They gave me a chance up in Alberni; coach Matt Hughes up there did a lot for me and was really, really good for me and I loved it up there. Great billet family and it was a good first year of juniors and took me to where I am now so I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Ramsey is about 45 minutes from home and his team in Connecticut the same in the other direction.

“It was a good experience just different things and those are days I learned a lot, a lot of time management lessons and things like that.”

The finance major has another year of eligibility if he chooses to use it but is keeping that decision close to the vest for now.

THOM KENDALL FOR UMASS ATHLETICS

“I’m trying to just take it day by day. I’m really enjoying where we’re at right now…we have a lot of potential and I have a good feeling about where we’re headed, so sometimes you have to learn lessons the hard way and I think this weekend (two close losses in the Adirondack Invitational in Lake Placid) just did that for us.

“I don’t know where life is going to take me next year, ten years or whatever it is down the road, but I will say I love UMass. I love playing here, I love the staff, I love the guys here so the longer I can play here the happier I’ll be. I just take it day by day and see how it goes. I’ve had some injuries and stuff, but I’m doing well with a lot of help and staff members helping out there and we’ll see how it goes.”

“Figuring out what I want to do for the rest of my life after hockey is done, whenever that may be, is a little daunting but I’m sure it will come because it always works out the way it should. Just gotta have faith and see where it goes.”

(Photos Provided by University of Mass. Men’s Hockey Program)

WNYGIH Week 6 “In The Books”

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Making Saves for Cash--Ella Celej (Photo by Janet Schultz, NYHOL)

by Janet Schultz, NYHOL

Week six has become a challenge. WNYGVIH’s first major postponements due to weather happenedon Tuesday, January 9. Three games postponed and one has been made up already. 

Topping the statistics is two players from KenGiPort are heading to the Century mark with points. Bella Jayme has accumulated 57 goals and 42 assists for 99 points and Izzy Bourgeault has 41 goals and 57 assists for 98 points.

Sitting in first place is Niagara County with 30 points on a 10 game winning streak. With a couple morewins on the books, HEWS has moved to second place with 26.5 points and KenGiPort close behind with 24 points. Then its FFLOP, St. Mary’s of Lancaster, Monsignor Martin, LIDA, CASH and Williamsville.

Topping the scoring board is Madison Mallone of NICO with 11 goals and 7 assists for 18 points. KenGiPort’s Isabella Jayme is second with 10 goals and 8 assists and following her is her teammate Izzy Bourgeault is 7 goals and 11 assists for 18 points. The top five slots are rounded out with NICO’s Sam Latini, 8/9 and Marina Mansfield 9/5 and St. Mary’s Avery Szczesek with 10/4.

Rachel Fix, FFLOP, heads the goaltending with a .975 save% and 1 shutout in her 91.33 minutes of play. She is followed by Betsy Accurso, St. Mary’s, .945 save% in 225 minutes; Kennedy Ruest, NICO, .945 in 540 minutes; Ella Buczynski, HHEWS, .937 and 501.55 minutes of play and Samantha Horne, KGIP, .934 and 445.30 minutes of play. 

On Monday LIDA best St. Mary’s 3-2 in a tight game. While St. Mary’s opened the scoring at 2:07 on a goal by Lauren Gilano, assisted by Avery Szczesek, LIDA answered back with two goals scored by Claire Whiteford and Leah Dowling ending the first 2-1 over St. Mary’s. St. Mary’s tied the game in the second on a goal by Szczesek and then with 8:46 left in the third, LIDA’s Emily Lysiak scored and the game ends 3-2 in favor of LIDA.

Carly Irzycki stopped 19 of 21 for the win and Avery Hall stopped 16 of 19 for St. Mary’s.

HHEWS came out with Liliann Drzazgowksi scoring the only goal in the first period and then great goaltending stopped any scoring in the second. It was FFLOP’s Sara Himelein scoring what would be the game-winner in the third, assisted by Luci Bowen. It was a tied game at the end of three so into overtime the game goes. FFLOP’s Jocelyn Smaczniak, assisted by Maya Griffin with 1:58 left on the clock for the 2-1 win. Kerrigan McCarthy stopped 26/27 sog and Ella Buczynski stopped 21 of 23.

On Wednesday, NICO postponed their game against Williamsville so Williamsville could play their Tuesday game at Northtowns against KenGIPort. 

It was a 5-0 KenGiPort upset over Williamsville. Scoring for KenGiPort was Teagan Willats with two and a goal each from I. Bourgeault, Savannah Samplinkski,  and Jayme. In net Horne stoppd 16 for the shutout victory. Olivia Lookman stopped 28 of 33 for Williamsville.

Thursday was a full night with St. Mary’s traveling to CASH which ended with a 2-0 shutout for St. Mary’s. The goaltending played an important role and even though the scoreboard doesn’t tell it, CASH’s Ella Celej made some fantastic saves stopping 37 of 38 sog. St. Mary’s Reece Gall and Szczesek with the goals, Szczesek’s an empty netter with 1:13 left in the third period. Accurso stopped 18 for the shutout victory.

FFLOP hosted KenGiPort and came away with the second shutout of the night. It was a goal by Lila Bell that won the game, along with the goaltending of McCarthy stopping all 31 sog. Horne was in net for KenGiPort stopping 25 of 26.

HHEWS traveled to Rochester to play a non-league game against Webster. They tied 1-1 with goals by Brynn Holland on the powerplay, assisted by Samantha Miller for HHEWS and Sami Cullen, assisted by Harper Blakley and Viv Kinkead for Webster. Tending the nets for HHEWS was Buczynski stopping 22/23 and for Webster Maddie Strelick, stopping 13 of 14.

Week seven will start our Senior Celebrations as team honor these ladies prior to their home game.

On tap: No games on Monday as of this printing.

Tuesday, January 16: MonMar will be at LIDA; FFLOP at NICO and HHEWS at KenGiPort.

Wednesday, January 17: Williamsville at MonMar

Thursday, January 18: Williamsville at FFLOP; LIDA at CASH and NiCO at HHEWS.

Remember, admission to games is free. Photo galleries of games that NYHOL attends will be posted at https://janetschultz.smugmug.com where they can be viewed and it anyone want, purchased. Please you are under no obligation to buy; we just wanted a place to easily upload photos of the games and provide an opportunity if anyone is looking for copies. Photos can also be obtained by contacting [email protected].

Churchville’s Kraft Impacting Cornell Hockey As A Freshman

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The Cornell men's hockey team competes against Massachusetts on December 29, 2023 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.

By Warren Kozireski —

It is hard enough for a freshman to break into the lineup of any Division I hockey program and to do so with a nationally ranked team such as the Big Red from Cornell University is doubly impressive, but Churchville native Jake Kraft is doing just that.

At the recent Adirondack Winter Invitational held at historic Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, the 5’8”, 170 lb. Kraft was the extra forward for the first game against the University of Massachusetts but was elevated to top line left wing for the championship game versus Arizona State University.

“It’s definitely exciting; I think more (opportunity) than I expected coming in (this year),” Kraft said. “I just go out and work as hard as I can every day to try to get the most opportunity and try to see where I fit in to the team.”

(Jake Kraft)

Kraft scored his first collegiate goal on home ice at Lynah Rink against Harvard Nov. 11 after registering his first two points—assists—in the second series of the season at Yale and Brown University. He had played in all 13 games of the season as the calendar turned to January.

He started getting serious about hockey at 13 years old and dressed with the Rochester Monarchs for two seasons before jumping to the Buffalo Jr. Sabres for his 15U and 16U campaigns, the latter where he scored 39 points in 50 games.

Then came two prep seasons with the Kent School in Connecticut, though the first was abbreviated due to the pandemic. His 2021-22 year with 25 goals and 44 points in 28 games put him on the USHL radar and he joined Cedar Rapids for the 2022-23 season where he played with current teammate Ryan Walsh from Penfield. There he scored 17 goals with 32 points in 56 games and committed to Cornell that December.

“He’s fast, he’s physical for being his size but I think his biggest asset is his speed; he can get to places really quick which is nice,” Walsh said about his former and current teammate. “He’s a great passer and can score so he’s a great all-around player, but his speed is his biggest attribute which is great to be on a line with.

“We have ten freshmen on the team, which is a lot, so (head coach Mike) Schafer definitely giving us a lot of opportunities to fill big roles early on which helps build confidence right away and shows that he trusts you a little bit.”

“I’ve always been an undersized guy, so I feel like I try to fight my way through everything,” Kraft said. “It’s accumulated over the years, but definitely picked up in the more physical college game.”

The Cornell men’s hockey team competes against Massachusetts on December 29, 2023 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.

As for why Kraft chose to play college hockey at Cornell?

“I always knew the tradition of Cornell (hockey) was second to none and being close to home was definitely something so my parents can get up and watch pretty much every game,” Kraft said. “And then once I toured, I fell in love with it…it felt like home.”

Kraft does have at least one quirk where he is often the first player off the ice after a pre-game warmup.

“I always kind of just got off the ice first; I try to be one of the last guys on the ice when we go out, so just keep it short and sweet. Maybe a little superstition is involved.”

No need to change what has obviously been working.

(Photos provided by Cornell Men’s Hockey Dept.)

“Small Saves”

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Here is this week’s edition of “Small Saves.”

Enjoy!

WNYGVIH Week 5 Recap

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Story and Photos By Janet Schultz, NYHOL

The Niagara County Lady Warriors come into 2024 on a winning streak that spans all 12 games in the W column, 10 of those are League games and putting them into a playoff position as we enter week 6.

HEWS follows with an 8-2-1 record and is 4.5 points behind NICO. Then it’s KenGiPort, FFLOP, St. Mary’s of Lancaster, Monsignor Martin, LIDA, CASH and Williamsville.

On top in scoring are Madison Mallone with 11 goals and 7 assists for 18 points; Sam Latini, 8 goals/9 assists, Isabelle Bourgeault 6 goals/10 assists, Isabella Jayme with 9 goals/6 assists and Marina Mansfield, 9 goals/5 assists.. Mallone, Latini and Manfield are from NICO with Bourgeault and Jayme from KenGiPort.

Goaltending has been a key factor in several games with Rachael Fix of FFLOP having a .976 save% followed by Kennedy Ruest (NICO) .945, Ella Buczynski (HHEWS) .938, Betsy Accurso (StMarys), .938 and Samantha Horne (KGIP) .928. 

Several teams have goalies that play each and every game and are racking up minutes between the pipes including Ruest (NICO) with 540 minutes and 4 shutouts; Olivia Lookman (Williamsville) 448.2 minutes and Kate Kelley (MMAA) 449.10 minutes. Along with Ruest, Buczynski has had 4 shutouts and Avery Hall (St. Marys) and Kerrigan McCarthy (FFLOP) have each had two shutouts.

So in the New Year it was KenGiPort 3-1 over LIDA. Jayme, Bourgeault and Madelyn Jagow scoring, Bourgeault with the game-winner. Horne stopped 23/24 sog. LIDA’s Leah Dowling had the lone goal with Irzycki stopping 17/20.

This week saw several shut-outs.

NICO beat Monsignor Martin 4-0 with Lawrence, Sam Draper, Julia Hoffman and Zimmerman making the score board. Ruest stopped all 19 shots for the shutout win. MMAA Kelley stopped 26/30.

In the “Nut Bowl” HHEWS shutout CASH 3-0 with scoring from Meghan Waszkielewicz (2) and Alexandra Hodil with Buczynski and Rakoski making the saves. CASH’s Celej stopped 36/39.

FFLOP beat CASH 3-0 at home with Sophia Lestingi having the game-winner plus another goal and Peyton Forcucci scoring the other goal. McCarthy made 26 saves for the shutout. Celej stopped 33/36 for the lsos.

St. Mary’s shutout Williamsville 6-0 with Avery Szczesek having a hattrick, including the game-winner. Also scoring for St. Mary’s were Gall, Pagano and Brooklyn Vitez. Hall made 10 saves for the win. Lookman stopped 27 of 33 for Williamsville.

Meghan Waszkielewicz had the game winning goal for HHEWS’ 1-0 victory over Monsignor Martin. Buczynski stopped 14 shots for the win. In goal for MMAA Kelley stopped 24/25.

NICO stopped LIDA 2-0 with Sam Latini scoring both goals for the Lady Warriors. Ruest made 20 saves for the win. In goal for LIDA Irzycki stopped 23/25.

In the sixth week of WNYGVIH play it will be LIDA vs St. Mary’s of Lancaster at 4 p.m. and FFLOP at HEWS at 8:55 pm on Monday.

Tuesday will be a triple-header with CASH at LIDA, Webster at Monsignor Martin (Non-League at Dwyer) and Williamsville at KenGiPort.

Niagara County faces Williamsville at Northtowns on Wednesday.

A double-header on Thursday with KenGiPort at FFLOP and St. Mary’s at CASH.

Admission is free, come out and support these teams and your high school.

Penfield’s Walsh Had Quite The 2023

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The Cornell men's hockey team competes against Massachusetts on December 29, 2023 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.

By Warren Kozireski —

Forgive Cornell University freshman Ryan Walsh if he would like to take a bit of a breather after 2023 was quite the whirlwind.

After being named to USHL First All-Star Team after logging a second best in the league 79 points in 61 games with Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, breaking the previous franchise record that stood for 17 seasons, he was then selected in the sixth round of the 2023 NHL Entry Draft by Boston, attended their summer development camp and then began his freshman season with the Big Red.

The 6’1”, 181 lb. is already centering Cornell’s second line and had nine points over his first 13 collegiate contests. Three of his five goals have come on the power play.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played with,” fellow freshman and Rochesterian Jake Walsh said about his teammate with Cedar Rapids and now Cornell. “We grew up playing against each other our whole lives so it’s fun to get out and play with him and we ended up here together.”

“Definitely a little bit of a surprise to be given such a role which has been awesome,” Walsh said. “I’ve been trying to take that role…and perform as much as I can and keep that role and get more roles in the future, but (Cornall head coach Mike) Schafer has definitely given me a lot of opportunities for sure.”

Head shots of Cornell student-athletes, coaches and staff taken on Aug. 21, 2023 in the Hall of Fame Room in Ithaca, N.Y.

Walsh spent some of his development years with the Rochester Coalition and the Rochester Selects and spilt the 2021-22 campaign with Salisbury Prep and the Buffalo Regals U18 team where he netted a combined 98 points in 56 games.

“My youth I stayed in Rochester and ended up going to private school my junior year of high school, but up until then I had a great coach (in Rochester) in Chris Collins and I was thinking about switching organizations, but he was such a good coach to me so I stuck with him for multiple years and I’m glad I did.”

Walsh did not attend the NHL Draft in Nashville but stayed home with his family watching on TV.

“My adviser (Vin Fensore) was at the draft, and he texted me ten seconds before the pick came on the TV, so I had a little bit of a warning, so it was cool. All my family was there. I had an idea; I had couple of teams I thought if I was going to get picked it would be those, but Boston showed the most interest. Every single week I was doing zoom calls, in person interviews, Facetimes, but I talked to a bunch of teams, so I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go.

“(Then summer development camp) was awesome; I got to meet other draft picks and the coaching staff, and it was good to meet all the player development guys, because they are the ones I talk to all the time. They’ve been to a bunch of my games.”

Now at the halfway mark of his first season at Cornell, Walsh scored his first collegiate goal in his first game against Minnesota-Duluth and garnered points in four of his first five games, so in many ways, he is not playing like a freshman.

The Cornell men’s hockey team competes against Massachusetts on December 29, 2023 at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, N.Y.

“We have a lot of freshmen (10), so Schafer has definitely given us a lot of opportunities to fill big roles early on which helps build confidence right away. It shows that he trusts you a little bit. He likes a lot of fluidity like first guy back is center. He wants everyone to play every position…he’s instilled that in all the guys.”

(Photos Provided by Cornell Men’s Hockey Dept.)

Clarkson’s Taylor Returned To His Families Home

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By Warren Kozireski —

The first thing that jumps out about Clarkson University senior defenseman Kaelan Taylor’s biography on the athletic website not seen among many hockey players is that, in his spare time he enjoys surfing.

The second is that the Golden Knights assistant captain, though born in California, is the third generation from his family to attend Clarkson.

“My dad’s whole side of the family is from here,” Taylor said after the Adirondack Winter Invitational held in Lake Placid. “My dad went to Clarkson back in the 1980’s. I’m in California so everyone is a little surprised that I ended up here, but I’ve been coming here my whole life.

“I get to see the family at Thanksgiving and Christmas; it’s pretty nice.”

Dad, Patrick, is the second generation, but his mom (Julia) grew up in the Saranac Lake region and her father, Robert F. Wrench graduated from Clarkson in 1950. His parents met in Elmira.

Taylor had, by his estimates that 15 or 20 family members attended the Friday night game and had fewer, but they were still present on Saturday.

“Cousins, aunts, uncles, they all showed up. Pretty much every game I go to someone is going to be at it—it’s awesome to have them here. The Munn’s and Taylor’s are here.”

The Golden Knights won the consolation game of the tournament in overtime against UMass, but have disappointed some with a 9-6-1 start.

“We know we’re a really good team and we’ve kind of been waiting for a game to show it.”

And back to that third generation.

“When I got the opportunity to go to Clarkson, I knew this would be a special thing. Nothing like (family pressure); I was really excited for the opportunity.”

And pressure to make it four generations?

“I’m going to get some pressure on them…keep it going.”

(Photos provided by Clarkson University Men’s Hockey Program)