ESG - Men's Ice Hockey
Winning is a contagious feeling and there's no question that this year's Western men's scholastic hockey team has the Midas touch, which should lead to a seventh straight gold medal at the Empire State Games later this month in Rochester.
Almost every player on Western's roster has been part of a winning program in the last year. Williamsville's Ryan Geary was part of Williamsville North's New York State Division I state championship squad. Depew's Jared Fischer and Cheektowaga's Rob Szymkowiak were big factors in Cheektowaga winning the New York State Club Hockey Small School Division Championship game for the second time in three years, while Orchard Park's Tyler Matthews helped Orchard Park claim its eighth straight Southtowns Club Hockey of Western New York title.
In addition, Scott Moser, a Tonawanda resident, was a top scorer at Kenmore West, who won its first Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation championship. West Seneca residents Matthew Terreri and Chris Barrea, along with Derby's Ryan MacKey, Eden's Kevin Ryan and Lackawanna's Vincent Scarcella, were keys for the St. Francis prep hockey team's taking the Midwestern Prep Hockey League championship.
Eden's Kevin Ogiba played on Niagara-Wheatfield's Western New York Large School championship team, while Buffalo's Patrick Kane was the leading scorer (six goals, five assists) for Team USA's Hockey National Team Development Program's gold medal team at the 2006 International Hockey Federation World Under-18 Championship.
Grand Island's Anthony Borelli and Ryan Grimshaw were on the Salisbury Prep School team which won the New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association Division I championship.
Knowing how to win is a crucial first step for Western, which returns only five players from last year's squad.
"Kids have to learn how to win and continue to win and that's the thing we stress from day one," said Western head coach Pat Fisher, a Blasdell resident. "We go in wanting nothing less than a gold medal. So when you're pulling in kids who've had success, we want to bring all that together right into the games."
"You have to know how to win," said Matthews, a soon-to-be senior at Orchard Park. "It definitely helps out a lot."
"All of us have come from a good group of teams," added Moser. "We have a lot of kids who don't like to lose and that's great to know, so hopefully we get can through these five games."
It also helps that several Western players are teammates or have played against each other.
"Some kids have played with each other, which helps," said Fisher, who is assisted by Buffalo's Christopher Panek and East Amherst's Derek Gilham, Rob Ray (see Rob Ray story) and Anthony Tomasula (goalie coach). "You're hoping to maybe have a little bit of chemistry right off the bat because some of these kids haven't played with one another."
"It's always a plus having someone in the locker room that you know who you can talk to," said Fischer, who was an alternate for Western last year.
The Western forward lines are MacKey, Rochester's Cory Schneider and Moser (Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation All-League all-star); Ogiba, Kane and Pendleton's Ian Braun; Fischer, Scarcella (nine goals, eight assists, Midwest Prep Hockey League all-star) and Terreri (three goals, seven assists at St. Francis prep); and Buffalo's Daniel Krug, Geary (23 goals, 17 assists at North, New York State first team) and Szymkowiak.
Barrea (five goals, two assists, Midwest Prep Hockey League all-star), Matthews, Ryan, West