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West Seneca West boys hockey draws from football experience for state semifinals

West Seneca West boys hockey is entering unchartered territory.

The Indians will play I-John Jay in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Division II state semifinals Saturday at 2:15 p.m. at the HarborCenter. It's the furthest into the playoffs the program has ever been.

While the roster is inexperienced when it comes to hockey titles, a pair of players can draw from high-pressure experiences in another sport.

"We have a couple of football guys on this team that know what taking the next step is all about," West Seneca West head coach Kevin Rozo said. "These guys have been in big games before."

The duo, Matt Myers and Kyle Haettich, were vital playmakers for the Indians as they completed a perfect season and earned the program's first state title.

Myers was the team's star quarterback, earning Buffalo News Player of the Year honors after setting single-season program records for total touchdowns (46), passing touchdowns (24), rushing TDs (22), passing yards (2,397) and all-purpose yards (3,434). Haettich recorded 573 all-purpose yards, with 444 coming on receptions.

Rozo said their leadership, combined with other players' hockey playoff experience at the youth level, should eliminate some of the jitters.

West Seneca West is one of three Section VI teams participating in Saturday's state semifinals. The only chance at an all-Section VI state title game is in Division II, as Sweet Home plays III-Auburn at 4:30 p.m. on the opposite side of the bracket from the Indians. The winners of the two games play at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.

"I think it would say a lot about Section VI hockey," Sweet Home coach Dave Gerspach said about the possibility of two local teams playing in the final.

If Sweet Home and West Seneca West do meet, Gerspach said he's looking forward to the rematch. West Seneca West defeated the Panthers two weeks ago, 2-1, in the Section VI Division II championship.

Niagara Wheatfield plays I-North Rockland at 9:30 a.m. in the Division I semifinals. If the Falcons win, they'll face the winner of X-Massena and V-Victor on Sunday at noon.

All three Section VI schools are aiming for their first state title. Section VI has only swept state titles once, in 2004, when Williamsville North won Division I and Williamsville East won Division II.

Gerspach said Sweet Home is focusing on shutting down Auburn's top two scorers, Johnny Malandruccolo and Jake Morin. Combined, the pair accounts for 90 percent of Auburn's scoring. Malandruccolo scored a hat trick against Ogdensburg Free Academy in the state regionals.

The Panthers will need a strong game from goalie Mike Lisman. Gerspach said he's been especially sharp as of late.

"I think both teams are going to have a lot of scoring chances," Gerspach said. "I think it's going to come down to goaltending. Mike's been great for us in net. Hopefully, that's the difference for us."

Niagara Wheatfield's goalie, Peyton Siegmann, has also turned heads. He was named the MVP of the Falcons' Super Monday sectional game against Williamsville North, a 2-0 win. Last Saturday in the state quarterfinal win over III-Syracuse, he stopped 22 of 23 shots.

"He was strong all season long," Niagara Wheatfield head coach Rick Wrazin said. "He's a kid that was probably a little overlooked during the season in terms of his numbers. ... He certainly has stepped up."

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