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Niagara Wheatfield hockey advances to state champsionship

Niagara-Wheatfield senior forwards Nick Peters, Nick Breier and Chace Woods had a goal and an assist each as the Falcons beat I-North Rockland, 4-0, in the state hockey semifinals Saturday at HarborCenter.

Niagara-Wheatfield has a chance to win its first state championship at noon Sunday when it faces Rochester champion Victor, which beat Section X’s Massena in Saturday’s other semifinal, 4-2.

“It’s electric,” Peters said of the team’s mood entering the championship. “It’s something you dream of as a kid.”

Peters opened the scoring with a power-play goal late in the first period and Breier and Michael Lotempio broke the game open with goals 25 seconds apart early in the second period. Woods’ tally sealed the victory with five minutes to play. Zack Belter had two assists.

“We came out and did what we wanted to do and played the way we wanted to play,” coach Rick Wrzain said. “For the most part it was stick to the system, do the things we’ve done all year – get pucks deep, chip when you should, get sticks on sticks, take the body.”

Junior goalie Peyton Siegmann made 20 saves in the shutout. He has allowed only one goal in Niagara-Wheatfield’s entire postseason run.

Siegmann blanked opponents all the way through the Section VI playoffs, culminating with a 31-save shutout against Williamsville North in the championship. He stopped 22 of 23 shots in N-W's regional win last week against III-Corcoran.

“We’ve been big on team defense all year long; actually, for 10 years we’ve been a defense-first team,” Wrazin said. “We changed things up a little defensively from what we’ve done in the past. Not big changes but enough that it’s really created a situation where we don’t give up a lot from in tight. Our defensemen have been tough in front of the net. Sieg’s so focused.”

Niagara-Wheatfield’s team defense limited North Rockland to only six shots on goal in the third period. Siegmann helped the Falcons kill all eight of their penalties in the game, while the offense went 2-for-6 with the man advantage. Final shots on goal favored N-W 25-20, while shot attempts were 58-40 in the Falcons' favor.

Niagara-Wheatfield is a regular in the sectional championship game but has never played for the state title.

“We’ve had a lot of really close groups; this team is as close as any,” Wrazin said. “I think about halfway through the year they had a team meeting and decided to play for each other. I think that’s been their driving force. I think that’s what separates them at this point.”

The team has also been brought together by the death of classmate Michael Ziegler, who played football, wrestling and lacrosse.

“As a community, I think a win today was very big for bringing everyone’s hopes up,” Peters said.

“It definitely brought them together,” added an emotional Wrazin, who is a physical education teacher at the high school. “They all have that in the back of their mind. When they came out it was business as usual, but they have a ‘why’ now.”

SCORING

First period

1, NW (PP), 2 Nick Peters from 19 Zack Belter and 11 Chace Woods, 1:17 left, 1-0 NW. PP shot from point deflected.

Second period

2, NW, 96 Nick Breier from 2 Nick Peters, 10:03 left, 2-0 NW. Deked goalie on half-breakaway and backhander found a hole.

3, NW, 9 Michael Lotempio from 96 Nick Breier, 9:38 left, 3-0. Bad turnover in D zone led to one-timer from low slot.

Third period

4, NW (PP), 11 Chace Woods from 7 Christopher Tobey and 19 Zack Belter, 5:19 left, 4-0 NW. Cross-ice one-timer on the power-play snuck five-hole.

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