By Janet Schultz, NYHOL
Ten years ago the puck dropped on the first-ever girl’s varsity high school hockey league in Western New York. After four years of hard work by parents, coaches, athletic directors, school superintendents and players, and the dedication of Coach Rick Hopkins and support of Williamsville School District Superintendent Dr. Rusin, six schools became charter members of the league. Williamsville, Kenmore, Amherst, Lancaster, Monsignor Martin, Sweet Home, West Seneca, Frontier and Orchard Park. Without enough players in any one school, combinations were built giving us Amherst and Sweet Home and Buffalo-area catholic schools combining fr a Monsignor Martin team. December 1, 2010 Monsignor Martin faced off against Williamsville at the then Pepsi Center in Amherst. The score 5-1 in favor of Monsignor Martin.
Over the ten-year span Clarence joined Amherst and Sweet Home to form CASH; Grand Island joined Kenmore; Lancaster brought in Iroquois and Depew, now LID; West Seneca had Hamburg and Eden join to form LID and LakeShore joined Frontier and Orchard Park for a team fondly called FLOP.
Last season Niagara County had girls from Starpoint and Niagara Wheatfield and this season they have players from North Tonawanda and Lewiston-Porter, making them a truly Niagara County High School Team.
On November 19, 2019 Monsignor Martin and Williamsville faced off in a first-ever game repeat at the Northtowns Center . This time it was a 3-1 victory for Williamsville.
Why this history lesson in a playoff story?
Well, the league has a history of no one knowing who will end up where in the playoffs, who will be a champion and who will head off to the State Championship.
First, a clarification. Due to the rules of the Section VI federation, Monsignor Martin cannot play in the Sectionals but only in the league playoffs. So WNYGVIH has two playoffs.
The first playoff for this season begins Tuesday, Jan. 21 when #8 Niagara County (NICO) faces #1 Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew (LID); #7 Clarence/Amherst/Sweethome (CASH0 faces #2 Williamsville; #6 Hamburg/Eden/West Seneca (HEWS) faces #3 Monsignor Martin and #5 Kenmore/Grand Island faces #4 Frontier/Lakeshore/Orchard Park (FLOP).
The eventual winner in the first season was Williamsville and they also won the Section VI championship.
This season, again, we are looking at “anyone can win on any given day.”
LID lost one game in overtime to Monsignor Martin (2-1) in the first game LID played in 2019-2020. LID has the top two scorers in the league in Jersey Phillips (19g/15A) and Morganne Dee (19g, 12A).
Williamsville lost two and tied two, and also has scorers in Emma Roland and Vanessa Willick.
Looking at two teams that could move to the top would be Monsignor Martin and FLOP. FLOP has some good scoring power in Brooke Becker and Mary Kromer; while the strong suit for Monsignor Martin is their goaltending in both Sophia Will and Grace Harrington.
That said, we have seen some great goaltending in Dylan Gorski (LID); Mia Wendell (Wmsl); Kerrigan McCarthy and Kristen Heard (FLOP).
However, never count out Kenmore/Grand Island with Abby Blair, Kaylynn Savoy and Carissa Buyea scoring. Carolyn Bourgeault has also had some outstanding saves in goal.
HEWS, CASH and Niagara County all struggled this season.
HEWS has scoring power in Olivia Wade and Annika Balk and good goaltending with Natalie Davidson.
CASH’s Allison Greene has been putting points on the board while Kylie Page keeps the pucks out.
For Niagara County all of us watch as Goalie Annie Riek stands on her head, or spreads out, to stop the pucks from going in; while teammate Natalie O’Brien seems to hit the net on a regular basis, along with Amanda Jackson and Kayla Persinger.
Looking back Lancaster lost all 18 games in the first season, ending with 0 points and 10 years later they are looking at taking a title.
It was also just released that Williamsville is ranked #1 by My Hockey Rankings for Girls Varsity Ice Hockey in New York State. LID, Monsignor Martin and FLOP are third, fourth and fifth, respectively. Interestingly, Salmon River (who came to play two exhibition games in WNY) is ranked second. Salmon River defeated both FLOP and Kenmore/Grand Island in those games.
FLOP is looking to defend their 2018-19 Federation Championship and Williamsville is looking not only to defend their 2018-19 Section VI championship but the 2018-19 New York State Championship.
The puck drops at 4 p.m. at the Northtowns Center, Amherst on Tuesday followed by games at 5:30 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.
Semi-finals will be Wednesday, January 22, at 4:30 and 6 p.m. at Northtowns and the Federation Champioship game will be Thursday, January 23 at 4:30 p.m., also at Northtowns.
Section VI playoffs will be January 28, 30 and the Championship February 3. Playoffs will be held at the Norttown Center and that Championship will be played at Lockport’s Cornerstone Arena.
The NYSPHSAA Championship series will be in Lake Placid February 7 and 8.