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West Seneca West and Sweet Home to meet in all-Section VI state hockey final

A Section VI team will leave HarborCenter Sunday as NYSPHSAA Division II boys hockey champions. It’s just a matter of which one.

The title game will feature two Section VI schools for the first time ever after West Seneca West and Sweet Home both won their semifinals Saturday.

One of the programs will earn its first-ever state hockey title. Puck drop is set for 3 p.m.

“This is our best case scenario by far,” Sweet Home goalie Michael Lisman said. “Going to a game that we know the team, we won’t be confused about what we’re about to get into.”

West Seneca West goalie Noah Sobczyk shut the door in the Indians’ 3-0 victory against Section I’s John Jay, while Tyler Edholm was the hero in Sweet Home’s 6-4 victory against Section III’s Auburn.

Edholm went into another gear after the Panthers entered the third tied at two. He scored three goals in the 15-minute frame.

“I’m a leader on this team and I felt like I needed to step up,” Edholm said.

With his performance, Edholm broke the program records for points (58) and goals (33) in a season.

“Records that I thought were never ever going to be broken,” Sweet Home coach Dave Gerspach said.

The victory was never comfortable for Sweet Home, who faced an offensive juggernaut in the Maroons. The Panthers had to constantly keep an eye on Johnny Malandruccolo and Jake Morin. Both have scored over 70 points this season.

Plus, Auburn never backed down, even after going down two twice in the third period.

Sweet Home’s Blake Ruzzo opened the scoring 5:17 into the game with a shorthanded tally. He redirected an Eric Abbate pass into the net just before crashing into the Auburn goalie.

The Maroons answered with two straight in the second period, but Sweet Home’s Daniel Lund scored his first of the year to tie it with 45 seconds left in the middle frame.

The third period was Sweet Home’s best. Edholm scored twice in the first eight minutes to give the Panthers a 4-2 lead, but Auburn’s Brendan Williams answered with a redirect with 6:17 on the clock. Edholm scored his third to reclaim the two-goal lead a minute later. That didn’t slow down the Maroons.

Sweet Home hung on for dear life. Two penalties were called on the Panthers in the final five minutes and Auburn capitalized on the second to cut the deficit to one goal with 1:41 remaining,

“I was terrified,” Edholm said. “I was ready to throw up on the bench.”

Sweet Home didn’t seal it until escaping a defensive zone faceoff with 23 seconds left and scoring on the empty net.

Lisman made 27 saves on 31 shots.

For West Seneca West, it was a battle of endurance. The Indians were outshot and outchanced by John Jay in a scoreless first period.

Tyler Dunning scored West Seneca West’s first goal, as Jacob Fort set him up perfectly with a cross-ice pass seven minutes into the second. He fired a wrister from the left dot past John Jay goalie Taylor Isom.

Matt Myers added an insurance goal with 12:13 remaining in the third period. He navigated through heavy traffic around Isom, finding the puck and firing a backhand past the sprawling and unsuspecting keeper.

West Seneca West coach Kevin Rozo said he didn’t relax until Colin Deubell made it 3-0 with 8:27 left in the final frame. Deubell got out on a breakaway, got Isom to bite on a deke and fired a backhand to the top of the net.

Sobczyk made 24 saves in the shutout performance.

“Lights out,” Rozo said. “He was outstanding. Something happened. The flip switched in early February and he has just absolutely been on a tear.”

West Seneca West and Sweet Home met two weeks ago in the Section VI Division II championship. Ethan Parsons and Chase Chodkowski scored in the Indians’ 2-1 victory.

“We felt like we played well with them in the first (meeting),” Edholm said. “We just couldn’t get the bounces to go into the net.”

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