Twice in the last six seasons Williamsville North failed to win the Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation championship. But each time that happened, the Spartans ended up winning state titles.
Coach Bob Rosen hopes that formula holds true once again because No. 9 Canisius shocked the defending Federation champions and playoff top seed, 3-2, Sunday night in the semifinals at the Buffalo State Ice Arena.
Peter Creighton capped a three-point night by netting the winner with 54 seconds left after picking off an errant cross-ice pass in the North zone. Anthony Gregory scored twice as the Crusaders rallied from a 2-0 deficit late in the second period to end the state's top-ranked team's 20-game winning streak.
Josh Shamrock made 33 saves in helping Canisius (16-9-3) advance to its first Federation final since the formation of the league in 1990. Canisius last won a varsity playoff title in 1989 when it captured the Monsignor Martin Association championship.
"It's a proud moment for the school and the program," Crusaders coach Terry Miller said.
Kenmore West had an historic night as well, advancing to its first final in its five seasons in the league with a 3-2 win over Lancaster.
"We're just overjoyed," Ken West coach Kyle Pray said. "It's a lot of work and effort put in by the kids and it all paid off."
Brandon McMullen scored the tying and game-winning goals for Ken West (18-6-2), the go-ahead goal coming at 2:16 of the third period. Goalie Corey Lloyd continued his stellar postseason with 23 saves. Garrett Sokolowski scored twice for Lancaster.
Although North lost, it's still the top seed for the state playoffs that begin March 4 in Plattsburgh. The Spartans (22-3), who won state titles in 2002 and 2004, open against Seton Catholic-VII.
"From day one, our goal has always been to win the state championship," Rosen said. "We realize we have a lot left to play for and our focus is on that going forward."
Ryan Clifford and Kenny Joseph gave North a 2-0 lead before Gregory netted his first with 1:01 left in the second. He tied things 1:35 into the third period.
24th Lockport Kiwanis Tournament: Freshman Lindsey Burke had 20 points and Bridgette Burke added 18 as Lockport beat Olean, 46-40, to win its first title since 1995.
"It's a great win going into the sectionals. We've won four in a row, so it's a little bit of a confidence builder," said Lady Lions coach Bill Shaw.
Brandy Wagelin led the Huskies with 14 points.
In the consolation, Kendra Brim had 14 points and Jessica Seebald added 12 as Nardin beat Monsignor Martin Association rival Holy Angels, 57-33.
St. Joe's Domonic Cook's man-to-man defense limited Canisius' Pat Brady to six points, enabling the News' No. 1 large school to win its third straight Monsignor Martin regular season title with a 63-50 triumph over its chief rival.
"It's great to clinch it against Canisius," said coach Mark Simon. "It's a great day for everyone associated with St. Joe's. It's a wonderful feeling."
The Marauders won the regular season title outright two years ago and shared it with Canisius last season before losing in the Manhattan Cup final to the Crusaders.
Cook poured in 15 points and added six assists, while Naaman Roosevelt added 15 points, six rebounds and five assists for St. Joe's (22-1, 9-0), which led, 32-19, at halftime.
Justin Young led Canisius with 18 points.
Cassie Stein, Lauren McDermott and Brigid O'Gorman scored for Nichols, which lost in the third-place game of the NAPHA Playoffs to Lake Placid's National Sports Academy, 4-3.
Reya Russell won the 50-meter hurdles and anchored North Tonawanda's victory in the 800 relay in Select Meet No. 2 at Fredonia. NT's Jackquelyn Burns, a member of the 800 relay, also won the 600 as the Lady Jacks captured a meet-high five events.
St. Mary's of Lancaster's Tara Ward set a school record and teammate Brittany Talani tied one during the St. Mary's Invitational. Ward won the 1,500 in 5:47, while Talani captured the shot put with a heave of 31 feet, 2 inches.