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STECHER FINDING SUCCESS FOR SOUTH BUFFALO TEAMS

The South Buffalo Four Seasons Midgets have won both the Midget Major B Center division of the Western New York Amateur Hockey League and the Midget Tier I standings of the Empire West Hockey League.

This season, the midget divisions of the WNYAHL and the Empire West ended regular play Nov. 25 so they didn't conflict with local high school hockey schedules. South Buffalo is now idle until after the high school season concludes with Super Sunday in early March. Then it will head to the state Midget championships in Clayton.

"We are the surprise team of the WNYAHL Midget season," said South Buffalo coach Mike Stecher, who has coached the Midgets the past two years of his 10-year career. "We were not the preseason favorite to win the division but we did with a total team effort.

"Our improvement this year was due to the players having a little more experience. Last year, our whole team was Minors. This year, half of our team is Major Level."

Last year, South Buffalo placed second in the WNYAHL standings then lost in the semifinals of the state Midget championships.

Along with the South Buffalo Four Seasons Midgets, the second-place Hamburg Midget Hawks also will go to the state championships. The Hawks finished a 7-1-2 for 16 points, one shy of South Buffalo (8-1-1).

Stecher's team also finished at the top in the Empire West. South Buffalo won the head-to-head tie-breaker over Rochester after the two each finished with 26 points. South Buffalo defeated Rochester earlier this year.

"Though we won the two leagues, we had a tougher time in the WNYAHL than the Empire West," Stecher said.

Stecher also coaches another South Buffalo team that leads a division of the WNYAHL. His Pee Wee II team is first at 3-0, followed by Grand Niagara at 2-0.

The Buffalo Hornets Pee Wee III is atop its division with a 4-1 record. In their most recent game, the Hornets beat the Bud Bakewell Pee Wee III Bruins, 2-1. Craig Pfeifer and Don Fisher scored for the winners. Cheektowaga is second with a 2-1 record.

The Hamburg Hawks have a 3-1 record and lead the Bantam II class, the only Hamburg squad to be in first place in any division.

"We have a young team, " reports Hawks coach Jim Azzarella. "We have all first-year Bantams on the team with the exception of four players."

The first-place Bantam II team will go to the state championship but it is unclear whether the second-place finisher will gain a berth as well. Cheektowaga (0-0-1) is tied with Pittsburgh (0-1-1) for second place. Pittsburgh, however, a non-New York State team, is ineligible for state championship play regardless of its finish.

Jamestown has rolled up nine points (4-0-1) to lead the Bantam III race. Grand Niagara (3-0) and Cheektowaga (2-1-2) are next at six points.

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