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Williamsville North, Niagara Wheatfield advance to DI hockey final

Williamsville North and Niagara Wheatfield have combined to win the last nine Section VI Division I hockey championships.

The two programs will face off for another title on Monday at HarborCenter after their decisive semifinal victories Tuesday night at HarborCenter.

Having needed overtime to outlast Lancaster in last year’s sectional final, the defending state champion Spartans separated themselves from the Legends in the span of a minute in this year’s postseason meeting, scoring three quick goals early and skating to a 5-1 win.

Niagara-Wheatfield netted two first period goals and didn’t allow a shot on its own net until the second period in its 3-0 defeat of Orchard Park.

Top-seeded Williamsville North, the No. 3 team in the state Division I rankings, established its dominance early on, peppering 12 shots on goal in the first nine minutes and scoring three times in 59 seconds midway through the first period.

“We feel really good about the way we played,” said senior Andrew Sardina, who added a pair of breakaway goals after the Spartans skated to an early lead. “Losing 11 seniors from last year’s team has been tough, but we come ready to practice every day and have a really strong team this year.”

David O’Donoghue started the goal rush when he poked in the rebound from Matt Bielinski’s shot at the left edge of the crease. Andrew Bruno scored unassisted 39 seconds later and Kevin Martin’s individual effort made it 3-0 with 6:32 remaining in the first period.

“If you can create turnovers and get the odd-man rushes like we did, it puts a lot of pressure on their D,” Spartans coach Bob Rosen said. “We had some grade-A scoring chances in the beginning of the game. After that, we didn’t need to score again.”

North goaltender Reilly Moyer made the best of his 21 saves on the preceding delayed penalty, kicking out his right pad to thwart Tyler Oddo on a breakaway before standing up to stop a pair of rebound chances to keep the Legends off the board.

“With Reilly, it’s like Grant Fuhr, you don’t look at the save percentage,” Rosen said. “He’s made the big saves on odd-man rushes and breakaways at key points in the game. He’s done that for us all year long.”

A trip to the penalty box couldn’t even slow down the Spartans’ attack. The Legends received the game’s first power play early in the second period, but that quickly led to Sardina scoring on a shorthanded breakaway. Bruno created a turnover in the corner of the defensive zone to set up Sardina and tally his second assist.

Noah Machlowski ended Moyer’s shutout bid 38 seconds into the third period, punching the puck in from the right slot. Ryan Voight set up the goal from behind the net.

Sardina went top shelf to bury his second goal in the final two minutes.

In the second semifinal, Chace Woods fed Chris Tobey for the opening goal 3:40 into the first period and scored on a power play three minutes later. Zack Belter assisted on both goals.

“The first period, we were all over them,” Woods said. “We got pucks deep and they couldn’t get out of their own zone. Every time they got out we just hit it back in.”

Falcons goaltender Peyton Siegmann didn’t need to make a save until the second period but came up with a string of stops while the Quakers had consecutive power plays, including 31 seconds of a 5-on-3. Siegmann finished with nine saves.

Dominick Pulli came out of the penalty box to score the Falcons’ third goal with just under five minutes remaining in the third.

Niagara Wheatfield beat Orchard Park for the first time this season, following one loss and one tie in the regular season.

“We’ve struggled against them all year for some reason,” Woods said. “We just came out strong and made them not want to play with us any more.”

Niagara Wheatfield also went 0-1-1 against Williamsville North in the regular season. The loss came by one goal.

“It’s usually a good one when we play,” Niagara Wheatfield coach Rick Wrazin said. “We know what to expect. They are very offensive and we are very defensive.”

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