The Buffalo Regals expected this year's New York State Amateur Hockey championships to be quite the challenge.
It was, but the Elite Midget Development Program of Western New York still experienced an all-too-familiar ending in the state tournament -- a triumphant one.
Goalie Michael Rotolo made 22 of his 34 saves over the final two periods, while Alex Iafallo scored twice and had an assist as the Regals defeated the C.D. Selects of Albany, 4-1, in Sunday afternoon's state championship game before an estimated 500 at Nichols' Dann Memorial Ice Rink.
Chris Chapin and David Seward also scored for the Regals, who beat the Selects for the first time in four tries this year to earn the state's bid to the USA Hockey Championships March 28-April 2 in Hartford, Conn.
The Elite Midget Development Program captured its 14th straight state title but this one was far from easy. The game was in doubt until the final 69 seconds, when Iafallo's second goal of the game made it 3-1. He basically scored into an empty net as the Regals capitalized on a turnover by C.D. when it was attempting to pull the goalie for an extra attacker. Seward did score into an official empty net with 23.4 seconds left.
Before those late goals, Rotolo kept a relentless Selects attack at bay to help the Regals improve to 38-11-12.
"He carried us," said Regals coach Mike Mondoux of his goalie. "This [feels] real good. I think it was our biggest test."
The Regals qualified for the state final by earning a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Saints late Sunday morning in a game that decided which Buffalo team would face the Selects for the title. Iafallo, who had four goals in four games, scored the game-winner while Jake Moore made 28 saves to earn the win in net. Moore went 2-0 in the tournament, Rotolo 1-0-1.
The Regals went 3-0-1 in the tournament, the Selects 2-1-1, while the Saints went 1-2 and West Seneca 0-3.
This was the Elite Midget Program's 22nd straight state final appearance. It has won 19 titles in that span.