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St. Mary's caps hockey revival with title; Canisius, Iroquois/Alden win

St. Mary’s hockey program went from being dormant in 2016 to Western New York champions in 2017, holding off Starpoint to win a Club League title in the small school division Sunday at KeyBank Center.

Lucas Prince and Brendan Krawczyk had a goal and an assist each for the Lancers, who added a late empty-netter to win, 3-1.

Canisius scored late to edge St. Joe’s Maroon for the large school title, 2-1, while Iroquois/Alden iced Dunkirk/Fredonia in the mixed division, 6-1.

St. Mary’s coach Mark Dantonio came over from St. Francis last March to revive the program after a year without a team. He ended up with three of the top four scorers in the league’s tough Red Division, which included all four teams playing for the large school and small school championships.

“They didn’t have a coach, so they just sat idle,” Dantonio said. “We put this thing together in a couple months and here we are.”

Prince gave St. Mary’s the lead late in the second period on a goal set up by Krawczyk and Michael Walter.

Starpoint came close to tying the game in the third period, including a shot from Luke Kenyon that went off the post, but Alex Bialkowski sealed the win with an empty-net goal.

“Everyone who was going to be on the team was heartbroken, especially me,” senior Matt Peitrzak said of the year without a team. “Words can’t describe the feeling.”

But after Sunday’s title, “A lot of them came up and gave hugs and said, ‘Thank you very much.’ It was awesome,’ ” Dantonio said. “Hopefully, it will be a program that lasts.”

St. Mary’s plans to move from the Club League to the Federation next season, but first it has business to attend to at the state championship tournament, which runs Friday through Sunday on Long Island.

St. Joe’s scored in the first period of the large school final but was held in check the rest of the game. Canisius answered with a goal in the second by Kevin O’Leary and won it late in the third on Patrick Donovan’s decisive tally with 2:17 to play.

St. Joe’s had the better of the chances in the third period, but couldn’t beat Canisius’ Mike Gagliano, who held down the fort as the Crusaders were hemmed in their own end for long stretches of the final 17-minute frame.

Donovan picked up a loose puck deep in the St. Joe’s end and beat the goalie short-side for the winner, sneaking a bad-angle shot over the glove but under the bar to end the Marauders’ streak of three consecutive titles.

“I kind of pictured scoring a goal like that,” Donovan said. “It didn’t even feel real when I put it in. It’s the best feeling you could ask for.”

Iroquois/Alden scored four times in the first period to put away Dunkirk/Fredonia and improve its season record to 20-0-1.

Alex Held had two goals and  two assists in the victory while Dan Porzio also scored twice. Nathan Nuwer and Spencer Hrynczak each added two assists.

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