Defensive-minded all season long, the Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park girls hockey team drew on its strength to defend its Section VI championship.
Emily Kromer scored twice off assists from her younger sister, Mary, and Gabby DeMeo buried an insurance goal in the third period as FLOP came back to defeat Williamsville 3-1 before an estimated crowd of 250 in the feature rink at Northtown Center.
“It’s an unreal feeling,” Emily Kromer said.
FLOP advances to face Section III champion Skaneateles on Saturday at SUNY Oswego in the state semifinals. Skaneateles defeated FLOP 5-1 in last year’s state championship game.
“We wanted to get back to states and we wanted to play Skaneateles and get another shot at them,” DeMeo said. “We’re going for a state title. That’s been our goal all along.”
Williamsville out-shot FLOP in the first period and took an early lead when seventh-grader Ella Huntley deflected in Rachel Juneau’s shot from the point 8:45 into the game.
FLOP tightened up around its own net from there, killing 10 penalties while limiting the opportunities for Williamsville’s top scorer, Holly Schmelzer.
“Our defense was really the key,” Emily Kromer said. “It gave the forwards confidence to put a lot of pressure on them in the offensive zone because we had the confidence that they were there to support us.”
Maggie Spyche made 22 saves, 11 during the second period when Williamsville spent nearly half of the 15-minute frame on the power play. Spyche entered the game with a 1.47 goals-against average, the lowest in the Western New York Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation.
“We knew it was going to be a low-scoring game,” Williamsville coach Rick Hopkins said. “Great goaltending on both ends and it came down to special teams. Their goaltender was great. She took away the lower part of the net. Their defense is very mobile and strong. They really protect the net well.
Jenna Lukomski stopped 26 shot for Williamsville. She had 15 saves during the scoreless second period.
Mary Kromer set up her sister for the tying goal with two minutes left in the first period. The scoring rush came after Williamsville’s Amanda Gaffney hit the crossbar on a straightaway wrist shot.
“If that thing drops in the net, it’s 2-0 and it changes the complexion of the game,” Hopkins said.
Emily Kromer scored the winning goal on a power play 26 seconds into the third period. With Juneau in the penalty box for roughing to start the period, the Kromer sisters connected again.
“That give-and-go from the corner is a set play that we really know how to do well,” Mary Kromer said. “There’s no better feeling than playing with your best friend and your sister.”
DeMeo came out of the penalty box to score her goal on a shot to the top right corner on a power play with 10:12 remaining in the third period.
FLOP now turns its attention to redemption in the state playoffs.
“We have our hands full on Saturday,” FLOP coach Bob Klimowicz said. “This time around, we know a little bit more about them.”
Williamsville will regroup for next week’s WNY Girls Ice Hockey Federation playoffs. After the physical sectional title game, Williamsville congratulated the sectional champions and wished them well this weekend.
“They are a great team,” Hopkins said, “and hopefully they can bring back the state championship to Section VI.”