Weekly Feature



2017-07-12 / Sports

North boys hockey, East softball share Team of the Year honor

by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter


Williamsville North’s boys hockey team — The Amherst Bee’s 2016-17 co-Team of the Year with the Williamsville East softball team — defeated Section V Pittsford, 3-2, to win the Division I state title March 12 at HarborCenter. It is the Spartans’ fifth state title in school history and their first state title since 2011. Members of the team include, from left: first row — head coach Bob Rosen, Jake Zurat, Brett Sardina, Dan Mosher, Matt Jeffries, Reilly Moyer; second row — David O’Donoghue, Joe Oliver, Josh Surowiec, Matt Bielinski, Tyler Durfee, Matt Shiring, Alex Jones, Griffin Green, Andrew Bruno, Eric Cretella; third row — Trevor Cavalier, Robbie Moyer, assistant coach Greg Brown, Sal DiNatale, Adam Batz, Ben Michalowski, assistant coach Brian Willison, Anthony Trigilio, athletic director Steve Ferenczy, A.J. Ferenczy, assistant coach John Burns, equipment manager Matt Henry and booster club president Gary Joseph. 
File photo by Nicholas T. LoVerdePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Williamsville North’s boys hockey team — The Amherst Bee’s 2016-17 co-Team of the Year with the Williamsville East softball team — defeated Section V Pittsford, 3-2, to win the Division I state title March 12 at HarborCenter. It is the Spartans’ fifth state title in school history and their first state title since 2011. Members of the team include, from left: first row — head coach Bob Rosen, Jake Zurat, Brett Sardina, Dan Mosher, Matt Jeffries, Reilly Moyer; second row — David O’Donoghue, Joe Oliver, Josh Surowiec, Matt Bielinski, Tyler Durfee, Matt Shiring, Alex Jones, Griffin Green, Andrew Bruno, Eric Cretella; third row — Trevor Cavalier, Robbie Moyer, assistant coach Greg Brown, Sal DiNatale, Adam Batz, Ben Michalowski, assistant coach Brian Willison, Anthony Trigilio, athletic director Steve Ferenczy, A.J. Ferenczy, assistant coach John Burns, equipment manager Matt Henry and booster club president Gary Joseph. File photo by Nicholas T. LoVerdePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com It was an unforgettable year for the Williamsville North boys ice hockey and Williamsville East softball teams.


Williamsville East’s softball team — The Amherst Bee’s Co-Team of the Year for 2016-17 with the Williamsville North boys hockey team — became the first girls team in school history to play for a state championship, losing to Maine-Endwell, 1-0, in the state final. Team members include from left: first row – Grace Pogorzala, Bri Bucello, Jess Weaver, Sam Crane, Abbie Stellrecht, Rachel Steffan and Madison Kozlowski; second row – head coach Chris Durr, Maddie Lawida, Maddy Miske, Veronica Zimmerman, Christy Mack, Analiese Piccillo, Gracie Wendell, Sydney Lewandowski, Cara Leone and coach Lauren Zelasko. 
File photo by Patrick J. Nagy Williamsville East’s softball team — The Amherst Bee’s Co-Team of the Year for 2016-17 with the Williamsville North boys hockey team — became the first girls team in school history to play for a state championship, losing to Maine-Endwell, 1-0, in the state final. Team members include from left: first row – Grace Pogorzala, Bri Bucello, Jess Weaver, Sam Crane, Abbie Stellrecht, Rachel Steffan and Madison Kozlowski; second row – head coach Chris Durr, Maddie Lawida, Maddy Miske, Veronica Zimmerman, Christy Mack, Analiese Piccillo, Gracie Wendell, Sydney Lewandowski, Cara Leone and coach Lauren Zelasko. File photo by Patrick J. Nagy The Spartans defeated Section V Pittsford, 3-2, to repeat as Division I New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys hockey champions while the Lady Flames became the first girls team from East to play for a state championship, losing to Maine-Endwell, 1-0, in the Class A state softball final.

Both teams’ accomplishments were equally impressive as they were named the Amherst Bee’s Co-Teams of the Year for the 2016-17 school year.

North hockey

The Spartans’ winning tradition continued as they won their fifth Division I state title in school history and their first state title since 2011.

“We are about three months removed from it, and there are days when I wake up and can’t believe that we did it,” North coach Bob Rosen said.

The win was especially nice as it was won in front of between 450 and 500 North alumni at HarborCenter.

“It was tremendous,” Rosen said. “When we were out for warm-ups, I saw alumni who played in the first year of our program and parents of alumni in the stands. It was like we already won regardless of the outcome of the game. That type of support was pretty amazing.”

Rosen knew going into the season that his team’s defense and goaltending were solid; the question was whether the offense could score enough goals.

“Our six defensemen — top to bottom — was the best defense that we ever had,” Rosen said. “Any night, any one of those kids could have been our top defender. I just didn’t know if we could score enough goals. There were some games during the season that caused me concern because the previous year, we were the better team in the regional game and lost.”

Rosen said a big reason for the team’s success was that each player filled a role.

“We always talk about how important the little things are, from off-ice conditioning to picking up a stick and backchecking all of the way,” Rosen said. “All of it makes a big difference. Sometimes people credit the kids who scored the goals. I remember one time this season when our third line was up and one of our kids recognized that their first line got a change and he said ‘one is coming, one is coming’ to the whole bench. Putting the team first so we can get the right matchup was huge.”

The state final against Pittsford did not start out well, as Pittsford senior Connor Haims redirected a shot past North senior goalie Jake Zurat at 12:08 of the first period.

The goal seemed to wake up the Spartans, as they started to dominate possession. North outshot Pittsford, 8-4, in the first period and 31-15 overall.

Junior Brett Sardina tied the game on a perfect shot from the point at 9:11 that beat Pittsford senior goalie William Hernes high and to the glove side. Junior Matt Bielinski recorded an assist.

Pittsford was then called for an interference penalty, and North scored again in the first when Bruno took a pass from junior Anthony Trigilio on the backdoor and buried it into the open net at 11:31. Junior Griffin Green also assisted on the play.

Senior Adam Batz, who had just missed a potential goal on a North power play earlier in the second period, redeemed himself with a goal that went between Hernes’ legs with 37.1 seconds left, scoring what turned out to be the game-winning goal.

Zurat was named to the All-Tournament Team, as were senior Adam Batz and senior defenseman Matt Jeffries. Junior Andrew Bruno was tournament MVP.

North was coming off a 1-0 win over defending state champion Mamaroneck in the state semifinals.

Junior Trevor Cavalier picked a great time to score the first goal of his Federation career, tipping in a low shot from the right faceoff circle by senior Joe Oliver under the blocker of Mamaroneck goalie Tommy Spero at the 11:43 mark of the first period.

“That line gave up one five-on-five goal all year,” Rosen said.

Rosen said scoring the first goal against Mamaroneck was huge because Spero was last year’s state tournament MVP and set the all-time state record for career shutouts with 20.

“We knew they had a good goaltender and if we shut down their two kids, that they would have a tough time scoring,” Rosen said. “It’s a credit to our league that, night in and night out, we do not have an easy game. You have to do all of the little things to win. I think that prepared us.”

North’s season began over Thanksgiving weekend with dominating victories over Ithaca, 9-1, Nov. 25 and Mc- Quaid, 6-1, Nov. 26 as part of the L&M Financial Services and John J. Fromen Law Offices Hockey Tournament.

North then dropped its first league game of the season against Lancaster, 4-2, Dec. 3.

The Spartans avenged the loss with a 2-0 regular-season win Jan. 26 and a 3-2 overtime victory over the Legends in the Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large Schools final at KeyBank Center Feb. 27.

Lancaster’s Shawn Kross sent the game to overtime tied at 2-2 when he scored with five seconds left in regulation.

Batz squashed Lancaster’s championship dreams, scoring 16 seconds into the extra session.

“Right before overtime, I said to the team, ‘why not us?’” Rosen said. “The calmness they displayed on the bench was tremendous.”

It was North’s 15th section final appearance in 20 years, and ninth time in the 10 years there has been a large school championship.

The win put North into the Class A Far West Regional against Section III West Genesee, for which they also needed overtime, winning 3-2. The victory placed North in the state semifinals for the first time since 2011.

Green was the hero for the Spartans, scoring the game-winning goal at 4:10 of overtime. Seniors Josh Surowiec and Daniel Mosher recorded assists.

Ten seniors graduate, including Zurat, Batz, Oliver, Mosher, Surowiec, Matt Jeffries, Robbie Moyer, Alex Jones, Salvatore DiNatale, and Matthew Shiring, but still return plenty of talent, including Bruno, Trigilio, Sardina, Green, Cavalier, Reilly Moyer, Eric Cretella, Ben Michalski and Bielinski.

The team will also bring up several players from the JV team that won the Niagara Frontier Junior Varsity Hockey Association championship for the third consecutive year.

“Depth, like it was this year, will be an issue,” Rosen said. “Can we find a player like Joe Oliver or Alex Jones, and how much will some of the kids develop over the summer through our dryland program?”

Rosen also credited the work of all coaches in the North hockey program — modified and JV coaches Joe Spano, Jason DePrima, Joey Jacobbi and Dylan Moscato, and Rosen’s varsity assistants, John Burns, Greg Brown and Brian Willison. Willison and Moscato are goalie coaches. Rosen also noted the help of previous assistant coaches Dan Mancuso and Tim DiGiulio.

“I’m very lucky to have the the assistance around me that I have had,” Rosen said.

East softball

The Lady Flames had a season to remember, repeating as ECIC Division II champions, winning their second Section VI Class A-1 crown in three years, claiming their first Section VI Class A championship since 2008, earning their first Far West Regional championship in school history, and playing in the state semifinals and finals for the first time.

“We came back without losing any seniors, and we all thought it would be a special year,” East coach Chris Durr said. I think it was a perfect storm of things coming together at the right time. It was not a team goal, per se, to make it to states, but I know the kids talked about that it was something that they wanted to do. It was nice to bring it into reality.”

East finished the regular season with a 10-2 league record and 13-3 overall mark and earned the top seed for the Section VI Class A-1 Tournament.

Durr said the way East played against Amherst during the regular season — rallying from a 7-0 deficit to win 9-8 at home and 7-2 on the road to sew up the division title — made him think they could get on a good postseason run, and that is exactly what they did.

The Lady Flames blanked North Tonawanda, 8-0, in the A-1 quarterfinals, Hamburg, 7-1, in the A-1 semifinals and Williamsville South, 11-2 in the A-1 final.

The win put East in the Class A final against Olean, which they defeated 2-1 in 10 innings, to advance to the Far West Regional for the first time since 2008.

Sophomore Kristy Mack hit a walk-off bases-loaded, two-RBI single in the bottom of the 10th inning.

“I would have said it was the best game I have been a part of even if we were on the losing end,” Durr said. “It was a pitcher’s duel. It was players in the field making plays and people getting big hits. … Two years ago we lost to Starpoint [in the Class A final] and last year we lost to West Seneca East [in the Class A-1 final] so to get to the regional game was huge.”

East then crushed Our of Mercy in Rochester, 18-3, in the Class A Far West Regional, to advance to the state semifinals for the first time in school history. East batters recorded 21 hits on 42 trips to the plate.

Seniors Sam Crane (3-for-5, home run, four RBIs); Bri Bucello (4-for-6, two doubles, five RBIs); and Jess Weaver (3-for-5, two doubles); and sophomores Rachel Steffan (2-for-5, home run, two doubles); Maddy Miske (2-for-4, two doubles, RBI) and Grace Pogorzala (2-for-3, stolen base) paced East’s hitting attack.

In the state semifinals, East built a 5-0 lead against Jamesville-Dewitt of Section III Syracuse and won 7-3.

East’s bottom of the order came up big. Eighth-grader Abbie Stellrecht, East’s sixth hitter, went 2-for-2 with three RBIs.

Miske, East’s seventh batter, hit 1-for-3 with a double and two RBIs. Crane, the team’s eighth hitter, went 1-for-2 with a single and an RBI.

Weaver finished with a five-hitter, allowing one walk and striking out five.

The Lady Flames never had a problem all year hitting. In 766 at-bats, East batters totaled 313 hits (236 singles, 50 doubles, 10 triples, 11 home runs), recorded 200 RBIs and 236 runs, and only struck out 87 times.

Six players who competed in at least 22 of the 23 games hit over. 400: Steffan (.477); Stellrecht (.476); Mack (.468, team-high 33 RBIs, nine doubles and five home runs); Bucello (.434, 24 RBIs, tied for team lead with 30 runs); Crane (.415, tied for second on the team with 28 RBIs); and Weaver (.402, 21 RBIs).

“We have had good hitters over the years, but if you look at our lineup this year you really couldn’t walk anybody and try and face the next person,” Durr said. “That led to everybody’s success. And it came against good pitchers. I think we out-hit every team we played against this year.”

East also received outstanding pitching from Weaver, who finished 13-3, including 8-1 in the final nine games — her only loss was a 1-0 defeat in the state finals — and a 2.23 ERA.

She threw 103.67 innings and threw 62 strikeouts and allowed 77 hits and 23 walks.

Weaver was named co-ECIC II Pitcher of the Year.

“She came into her own halfway through the season,” Durr said. “She really became a ‘pitcher’ this year because she managed the game really well. She pitched around people when she needed to and got opposing hitters to ground out or pop up when we needed to get out of situations. She has never been an overpowering pitcher, but her ability to change speeds and hit spots really down the stretch was huge.”

Mack was named a First Team Class A all-star, ECIC II Player of the Year and to the ECIC II First Team with Bucello, Weaver and Steffan. Crane, Stellrecht and junior Veronica Zimmerman were named to the ECIC II Second Team.

Mack and Steffan were also named to All-ECIC I and II teams. Steffan and Weaver earned All-State Second and Third team honors, respectively.

Mack was also named First Team All-Bee, and Crane and Stellrecht made Second Team All-Bee.

Durr was named ECIC II Coach of the Year and New York State Coach of the Year.

East also won the Class A sportsmanship award, given by the New York State softball officials. Crane won East’s sportsmanship award for the state semifinals.

While the loss of East’s four seniors — Weaver, Bucello, Crane and pitcher Analiese Piccillo — will hurt, there is a ton of returning talent to make another deep postseason run in 2018.

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