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Goaltending carries St. Mary's, Niagara Wheatfield and West Seneca West to hockey crowns

Goaltending not only stole the show during the Super Monday championship triple-header at KeyBank Center, it enabled the ultimate underdog to have a day only it believed to be possible as a hockey program.

Joseph Henry's goal with 95 seconds left broke a 2-2 tie as the rebooted St. Mary's Lancers stunned two-time defending state Catholic champion St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute, 3-2, in the Niagara Cup final. Henry's tally came seconds after junior goaltender Kyle Karoleski made a sprawling blocker/pad save to deny a 2-on-none break by the Marauders.

"It's unexplainable," said Henry, who redirected a short pass through traffic from defenseman John Galvin. "It's just insane, fun."

A toe save here and a poke check there enabled Niagara Wheatfield and West Seneca West to experience that championship feeling as well.

Peyton Siegmann turned aside all 31 shots he faced as the Falcons of Niagara Wheatfield ended Williamsville North's reign as state champion by taking out the Spartans, 2-0, in the Section VI Division I final. Chace Woods scored twice for NW, including a penalty-shot goal in the third period as the Falcons became the only team this season to defeat North in regulation. Orchard Park beat the Spartans during the regular season in overtime.

"It's just awesome," 10th-year coach Rick Wrazin said. "We knew we could do it if we played the right way, and they came out and did it."

In the Section VI Division II final, third-seed West Seneca West won its first title since 2013 by surviving against No. 4 seed Sweet Home, 2-1. Junior Noah Sobczyk made 30 saves, including a nifty poke check stop on a penalty shot with 5 minutes left as the Indians protected a one-goal lead over the final 20:28 in which the Panthers had the better of the play.

"Our goalie stood on his head and stole it for us," West Seneca West coach Kevin Rozo said. "Happy to be where we are. It wasn't easy. It was a heck of a battle."

The three champions, along with Sweet Home, return to action this weekend in games in their respective state tournaments.

Niagara Wheatfield and West Seneca West host New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association quarterfinal games at HarborCenter Saturday, while NYSPHSAA at-large-team selection Sweet Home will hit the road to face the Section VII champion in the North Country.

St. Mary's also will hit the road but not in the way most folks expected, as it heads to Coney Island as Niagara Cup champions to face St. Anthony's (L.I.) for the New York State Catholic High Schools Athletic Association championship on Saturday.

To think the Lancers did not have a program two years ago after they dropped hockey following the 2014-15 season due to low numbers. They came back as a club team last year and won a championship, but the Western New York Club League isn't Western New York Varsity Federation.

St. Mary's went through some early growing pains but hit its stride in the playoffs. The Lancers beat state. No 1 small school St. Francis in the quarterfinals and followed that by blanking top-seeded Canisius, 4-0, in last week's semifinals.

The coup de grace came Monday in the form of beating a St. Joe's team that's won more playoff titles (12) than any other Federation team for its first Niagara Cup.

"It means everything," Lancers coach Mark Dantonio said. "It's almost Hoosiers-esque. These kids are that special and nobody gave them the benefit of the doubt other than the guys in that room."

St. Mary's overcame a 2-1 deficit when Brendan Krawcyzk gave a defenseman the slip and picked the top corner from the right circle to tie the game with 7:43 left.

With under 2 minutes left the top-seeded Marauders had a 2-on-none break. Instead of scoring the go-ahead goal, the shot off a cross-crease pass was turned away by Karoleski.

"I saw him like open up and pass it across, I kicked my leg out and made the save," Karoleski said. "I just knew I had to stretch across."

Lucas Prince also scored for St. Mary's, while Spencer Frome and David Matthew scored for St. Joe's, which held a 28-17 edge in shots.

Niagara Wheatfield won its sixth championship in its 10th season and for the fifth time beat Williamsville North in the Section VI Division I final.

Woods' first goal with 5:50 left in the first period proved to be the game winner. He had just been denied off a 2-on-1 break, set up by a bad pinch, but as play continued the defense forgot about him and left him wide open for a one-touch backdoor goal. Zack Belter and Nick Breier earned assists.

After being outshot 10-7 in the first period, the ice tilted in North's favor as it held a 17-5 edge in shots in the second period. None of the Spartans' attempts crossed the goal line because of the play of Siegmann who didn't give shooters any room and also didn't give up too many rebounds. Still his best stop came late in the second period when he a sensational toe save on Andrew Bruno after he split the defense to earn the one-on-one chance.

Yes, the 5-foot-11 junior netminder was dialed in. His teammates gave him some breathing room, nonetheless, in the third period with 11:14 left on Woods' penalty-shot goal.

While North held a 31-17 shots advantage, it didn't get to the dirty areas enough to score, according to longtime coach Bob Rosen.

"To win your last game, only one team does it," Rosen lamented about the season-ending loss. "We've done it five times and it's special but it's also hard. … You hate to see it come to an end but sometimes it doesn't work out."

Winning the title didn't work out for Sweet Home because of the play of Sobczyk.

West Seneca West took a 1-0 lead late in the first period on Ethan Parsons' goal off assists from Matt Myers and Kyle Haettich – two key members of West's state title run in football last fall. Myers earned his second assist of the game when Chase Chodkowski scored with 5:53 left in the second period.

Sweet Home pulled within a goal 21 seconds later on Tyler Edholm's goal.

Sobczyk did his best stone wall imitation with his penalty-shot stop late in the third period on Blake Russo, who tried to deke with his quick hands, but Sobczyk flashed a quicker stick.

"It's mind blowing," Sobczyk said. "It's the first (championship) I've experienced. It's amazing."


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