Weekly Feature



2011-03-23 / Sports

Inaugural varsity girls hockey season deemed success

Williamsville’s Clair, Cohen join Amherst/Sweet Home’s Posner in earning First-Team All-WNY honors
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter


West Seneca’s Erin Gehen, far left, Amherst-Sweet Home’s Abby Posner, Kenmore’s Kate Miller, Monsignor Martin’s Ashley Malicki, and Williamsville’s Jamie Cohen and Shauna Clair were named the inaugural Western New York Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation’s All-Western New York First-Team All-Stars. 
Photo by Scott SchildPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com West Seneca’s Erin Gehen, far left, Amherst-Sweet Home’s Abby Posner, Kenmore’s Kate Miller, Monsignor Martin’s Ashley Malicki, and Williamsville’s Jamie Cohen and Shauna Clair were named the inaugural Western New York Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation’s All-Western New York First-Team All-Stars. Photo by Scott SchildPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Five years ago, Shauna Clair remembers going to school board meetings to promote high school varsity girls ice hockey. Five years later, she’s one of six All-Western New York First-Team All-Stars for the inaugural season of the Western New York Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation.

Formed in June, the league featured players from Williamsville, Amherst/Sweet Home, Frontier/Orchard Park, Kenmore, West Seneca, Lancaster and the Monsignor Martin Association.

“I remember going to board meetings in eighth grade with Coach [Rick] Hopkins with our jerseys on promoting it, so it meant a lot that it was able to start with us,” said Clair, a senior at Williamsville East.

Joining Clair on the All-WNY First Team are: Williamsville’s Jami Cohen, West Seneca’s Erin Gehen, Kenmore’s Kate Miller, Monsignor Martin Association’s Ashley Malicki and Amherst/Sweet Home’s Abby Posner.

Shauna Clair

The senior captain led Williamsville in scoring and helped Williamsville win the league’s first Federation championship.

“She had the ability to take over games and score in the clutch with seven game-winning goals,” said Hopkins. “She was a force on the power play and penalty kill and very difficult to defend.”

Clair is being recruited by Cortland State College and Oswego State College.

Jami Cohen

An assistant captain for Williamsville, Hopkins said Cohen was a dominant defenseman who was very smart and strong at both ends of the ice.

“She was great on the breakout and difficult to beat one-on-one or on odd-man rushes,” said Hopkins.

A National Honor Society and Honor Roll student and an ECIC All-Star catcher in softball, Cohen is considering Geneseo State College.

Erin Gehen

Gehen, only a freshman at West Seneca West, is the youngest player to earn First-Team All-WNY honors.

Gehen led the Federation in scoring for most of the season and ended up second overall with 22 goals and 14 assists for 36 points.

“Her diminutive size, 5-1, 105 pounds, was deceiving her tremendous speed and skill to handle the puck, shoot and score incredible goals,” said West Seneca coach Pete Tonsoline. “Erin is an outstanding athlete, unselfish team player and a wonderful young lady.”

A 95 average student, Gehen has qualified as a scholar athlete.

Kate Miller

Miller, a junior forward, sat out the first part of the season with a broken ankle and returned to score a league-best 27 goals and five assists in 13 games.

“She is our best player, our captain, and has one of the most accurate shots I have seen in girls hockey,” said Kenmore coach Jeff Orlowski. “Kate is on the ice as much as possible. We were 0-5 before she stepped out on the ice and ended 6-12.”

Ashley Malicki

A senior defenseman from Mount Mercy Academy, Malicki was immediately named an assistant captain for the inaugural season.

She led a young defensive core that featured three freshman and two sophomores who only allowed a league-best 17 goals in 18 games. The physical defenseman also led the defense with nine assists and 10 points.

Malicki also participated in the WNY Girls Hockey Federation Bowman Cup and also plays varsity softball. She plans on furthering her education in international business.

Abby Posner

Posner, a senior goalie at Amherst High School, started in 14 of the team’s 19 games and made more than 250 saves with a 3.39 goals against average.

“Abby was recognized as one of the best goalies in the Girls Ice Hockey Federation league,” said Amherst/Sweet Home coach Jim Ryan. “She was a team captain and a leader on and off the ice. Abby was one of the finest athletes I have ever had the pleasure of coaching. She is a model student and has set a great example for future female ice hockey players. Abby has such a bright future and will make a difference in whatever she does.”

Posner is undecided on a college but plans to study medicine.

Second Team/

Honorable Mention

Earning Second-Team All-WNY honors were: Monsignor Martin Association seniors Kristen Spulecki (forward), Olivia Gajewski (defense) and Emily Terranova (goalie) and sophomore Rachel Ziarnowski (forward); Kenmore senior Stacy Lobaugh (defense); and Frontier/Orchard Park freshman Rachel Leonard (forward).

Earning Honorable Mention were: Williamsville seniors Blair Pembleton (forward), Sara DiBernardo (defense) and Alyssa Molnar (goalie); West Seneca sophomore Kathleen Zimmer (defense) and freshmen Molly Sikorski (forward) and Sydney Glenn (goalie); Monsignor Martin Association senior Taylor Bergmann (forward) and sophomore Julia Duquette (forward); Frontier/Orchard Park junior Chelsae Ortolano (forward) and sophomore Grace Page (defense); Amherst/Sweet Home junior Katie Frieh (forward); and Lancaster senior Alyssa Werynski (forward).

History of league

Discussions for girls hockey initially began at school board meetings, starting in Williamsville.

“Initially, when students came forward, we said we’re interested in providing the opportunity but we can’t play teams in Salmon River and Plattsburgh,” said Williamsville Superintendent Howard Smith. “If we’re going to make this go, we’re going to have to do it locally, so our position always was, ‘Let’s do all we can to have enough teams locally so we can make this go.’ We took the lead on that, and we said we’ll put a team on the ice so five other schools or combination of schools can do the same.”

On Dec. 11, 2008, a Girls Ice Hockey Development Committee was formed to study the issues involved in forming a league. Three other meetings occurred.

At the May 19, 2009 meeting, 12 recommendations, such as the sustainability of a league, availability of facilities and cost, and certified coaches, were made and given to area superintendents a month later to review.

Six showcase games were played before boys Federation games during 2009-10. The league was approved last June.

Reaction

Administrators, coaches and players thought the first year of varsity girls hockey was a huge success.

“When you have five of your seven postseason games decided by a goal, and two of them went to overtime, that speaks volumes for the competitiveness and the level of play,” said Hopkins, Williamsville’s coach. “A lot of the players are high-caliber players. The league was a huge success and laid any doubt people had about the playing level of the girls or the interest. It’s a great feeling to have this finally happen. The seven teams played hard against each other. There is a certain level of respect because they need one another to make this happen. Hopefully, the league grows.”

“The success of the league exceeded my expectations,” said Williamsville Director of Athletics Jim Rusin, the Section VI girls hockey chairman. “It was a very competitive, well-organized league. I’m very proud of the seven districts that committed to their girls to give them an equal opportunity with their boys teams. I’ve never worked with a better group of athletic directors in any sport.”

“It was really cool to be like the boys and have your school team and hear your name on the announcements,” said Gehen.

“It was fun to represent our school,” said Cohen. “Boys get to represent our school in hockey, but for us girls to go out there and represent our own schools and play against other schools, it’s something different and was really fun.”

“It was more competitive than I anticipated it to be,” said Miller. “It ended up being a lot more fun than I thought it would be.”

“It’s an experience I will never forget,” said Posner. “Playing in every game was so meaningful.”

League parity

The Monsignor Martin Association, despite being composed of players from nine different schools, joined forces to win the Federation regular-season title. They lost to Orchard Park/Frontier, 2-1, in overtime in the semifinals.

“I think our team was different because we had girls from so many different schools, and to come out and win the league the first year was so exciting for us,” said Malicki. “Coming up short in the playoffs was heartbreaking, but we were still a team in the end.”

Williamsville beat Orchard Park/Frontier, 6-0, for the Federation championship.

“That was awesome to win the whole thing,” said Cohen. “We’re always going to be known as the first ones to win.”

Orchard Park/Frontier beat Williamsville, 3-2, in overtime for the Section VI crown.

Future of girls hockey

Rusin envisions Section VI schools playing out-of-town opponents next year. There is also talk of some kind of state tournament next year, but Rusin will know more about that in June after speaking with representatives from other regions in the state that offer girls ice hockey.

“I think we’ve put together the best league in the state because of proximity,” said Rusin. “We were all within 10 miles of each other. We were the envy of the state. If there was one problem, it was getting quality ice time. We’re really going to do well next year with that.” e-mail: pnagy@beenews.com

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