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Prep Talk: St. Joe’s hockey tops Power 10

Each week during the high school regular season, we put together our Power 10 rankings of the best teams – in any sport.

It’s our attempt to determine which team is the best overall – which should be considered the No. 1 among many No. 1s. To start, they have to be the best team in their sport in Western New York. To move up our chart, they have to be dominant in doing so.

What often makes the difference on our chart is how well those teams set themselves apart by succeeding outside the area: advancing in the regional or state playoffs, winning state championships.

When it came to the final accounting of the Power 10 for the winter season, there were some very impressive, very memorable performances.

However, there was no doubt who was No. 1.

1. St. Joe’s hockey. The Marauders were part of the Power 10 most of the winter, but this is the first time they’ve ended up on top. As we often say around here, our grades are weighted very heavily on what happens in the postseason.

St. Joe’s was terrific in the playoffs, but they were actually terrific all of this calendar year. The Marauders won 18 straight games to end the season, including a 3-2 victory over Bishop Timon-St. Jude for the Monsignor Martin Association’s Niagara Cup championship and a 3-0 victory over St. Anthony’s of Long Island in the state Catholic High Schools Athletic Association final.

That state title – the Marauders’ second in three seasons – is quite the achievement. However, a look at St. Joe’s schedule also shows how they put themselves at a certain, lofty level.

The 18-game win streak not only included a sweep of formidable rival Canisius and another win over Timon, the Marauders beat Niagara-Wheatfield, which would go on to win the Section VI Division I (large school) title. St. Joe’s also beat the other three members of the state Division I final four: champion Saratoga (in a shootout on Dec. 7) of Section II (Albany area), runner-up McQuaid (5-1 on Feb. 2) of Section V (Rochester area) and Massena (8-2 on Feb. 10) of Section X (North Country area).

St. Joe’s finished 25-2-1 – it was 24-0-1 against New York teams as the only two defeats came at the prestigious Mount St. Charles tournament in Rhode Island. Its Federation record was 15-0-1, with the lone tie coming against Lancaster on Dec. 6, the Marauders’ second game of the season.

2. Canisius boys swimming. The Crusaders finished third in the team Federation standings at the state championships, and they had an All-American helping to lead the way. Jack Boyd, a junior, won the 500- and 200-yard freestyle events at the state meet in All-America times. He also swam on the Crusaders’ 400 freestyle relay, which finished second to overall champion Fordham Prep. Second at the Federation meet was public school champion Pittsford. Canisius swimming also made plenty of marks in the regular season, including a win over Cathedral Prep of Erie, Pa., and a sweep of all 11 events at the All-Catholic meet.

3. Nichols girls hockey. The Vikings went 34-7-1, becoming the first squad in the very competitive 10-team North American Prep Hockey Association to win back-to-back playoff titles. They also won the NAPHA’s regular season title and swept their way to another championship in the Canadian Independent Schools Athletic Association.

4. McKinley boys basketball. Western New York’s first large-school state championship by a team outside Niagara Falls since 1984 goes a long way with us. We voted the Macks (22-4) No. 1 in the large school poll (which they shared with Canisius) based on that state title, earned by playing simply beautiful basketball in the public school final four at Glens Falls.

5. Cardinal O’Hara girls basketball. Our basketball fast-break continues with some teams that need to be kept close together. The Hawks (27-2) were No. 1 in these rankings for much of the season and they won a second straight Catholic state title in Class B. O’Hara lost in the state Federation final; its other loss came by 20 in the Monsignor Martin final to a team it beat in the regular season (and which we’ll see in a couple of paragraphs).

6. Canisius boys basketball. Co-large school No. 1 had a tremendous season (23-5) that ended with a loss in the state Catholic final.

7. Sacred Heart girls basketball. The No. 1 large school finished with a flourish – with a 25-3 record and back-to-back MMA titles after overpowering O’Hara.

8. Maryvale girls bowling. The Flyers won the Section VI Class B championship and senior Melanie Hannon was among the brightest stars of any sport in the postseason. Hannon came one pin from a perfect game as her 299 helped the Section VI girls all-star team to a state title.

9. Olean boys basketball. Only a backbreaking Batavia buzzer-beater with a sliver of a second left kept the No. 1 small school Huskies (21-2) and two-time Section VI Class B champion from reaching a second straight state final four.

10. Clarence wrestling. The No. 1 large school all season had four Section VI champions: Ryan Burns (106), Nate Schwab (152), Jake Weber (160) and Nate Ward (285).

Around the halls

• In the last two days, five major football programs have offered scholarships to Canisius standout junior running back Qadree Ollison. On Wednesday, it was Syracuse, Maryland and Wisconsin. On Tuesday, it was Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, joining a list that already included Iowa, Rutgers, Nevada and the University at Buffalo.

• More than 250 were in attendance at Monday’s Prep Talk/BCANY Awards banquet for boys basketball at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant. Lifetime achievement awards went to Bill Russell of Riverside and statistician Paul Hutzler while the Pastor-Cooper Tournament and the late David Cooper were honored as contributors. The event was sponsored by The Buffalo News, BCANY, ADPRO Sports and UNYTS. A complete list of winners is on Page D6.

• The Niagara PAL/ACE All-Star boys basketball games are tonight at 6 at Niagara Falls. Rosters of the freshman-sophomore and junior-senior games are on Page D6.