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Floccare's Santa hat trick leads St. Joe's over Williamsville North

If Mitchell Floccare wasn’t yet in the holiday spirit, he is now.

A flurry of Santa hats flew from the Marauder Rowdies section after Floccare scored his first career hat trick to lead St. Joe’s in a 5-1 win over Williamsville North on Thursday night at Northtown Center.

“That was hilarious,” St. Joe’s goaltender Joe Fronczak said. “It’s amazing for Mitch. I’m really happy for him. We played a great game and we have the best student section in Western New York. They were really buzzing up there and it’s a lot of fun to get the win in front of them.”

St. Joe’s improved to 7-0-1 overall and 5-0-1 in the Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation with the victory. But winning the annual Thursday before Christmas matchup with their Original Eight rivals before estimated crowd of 1,000 was more meaningful for the Marauders.

“That’s what high school hockey’s all about,” St. Joe’s coach Rich Crozier said. “It was a lot of fun for everyone.”

After the game, Crozier invited two dozen former players into the dressing room to celebrate the occasion.

“We took such pride in seeing our boys come back and want to be a part of it and cheer on our family,” Crozier said. “Win, lose or draw, this is a hockey game. But these relationships, this brotherhood, this family that we are a part of is so special, and it makes it bigger than a hockey game.”

When the St. Joe’s hockey alumni gather for future games against North, Floccare will have quite the story to tell.

A junior defenseman who entered the night with two goals on the season, Floccare scored on a power play in the first period, at even strength in the second, and on a shorthanded breakaway in the third.

St. Joe's fans cheer on their team in the first period. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

“The first one really caught me by surprise and I got going after that,” Floccare said. “It was a huge jump for the boys and especially for the people in the crowd.”

Crozier expected a strong performance from Floccare but was surprised by the scoring surge.

“Mitch is a very strong all-around hockey player,” Crozier said. “For his offensive game to come around tonight, awesome, we’ll take that for sure. But that’s not Mitch. He’s a guy, late in the game, if we have to shut someone down, we’re going to call No. 9.”

Joe Tobia and Kyle Schneider had the other goals for St. Joe’s and Fronczak made 33 saves in his third varsity start.

“It’s a great feeling to be able to beat North in a big game,” said Fronczak, who was the leading scorer and an All-Western New York selection for the St. Joe’s soccer team that reached the Catholic High School Athletic Association state semifinals.

Before heading out on the ice Thursday, Crozier told Fronczak, “you’ve got big game experience. It might not necessarily be in hockey, but you’ve got it. Just play your game and focus on that.”

Matthew Scott beat Fronczak for the Spartans’ lone goal to cut St. Joe’s lead to 2-1 with 1:07 remaining in the first period.

Floccare restored the two-goal lead on a partial breakaway 1:04 into the second. Williamsville North failed to score on a 5-on-3 power play shortly thereafter.

“We got the shots we wanted, a couple backdoor looks, and we missed,” North coach Bob Rosen said. “That’s a killer."

Evan Wolfson stopped 42 of the 47 shots he faced for the Spartans (3-2, 2-2), who graduated most of last year’s Section VI finalist team.

“We’ve got a young team. We only have a handful of kids returning,” Rosen said. “From where we were Nov. 8 and where we are now, I’m really happy. We’ve come a long way.”

The Spartans' next game is against reigning Section VI large school champion Niagara-Wheatfield on Saturday at Dwyer Arena. North won the first championship game rematch of the season, 5-3.

“To me, that’s our big rival now,” Rosen said. “We can beat Joe’s and it’s two points in the standings. It doesn’t carry the same weight as when there were only eight teams and it was one league and one champion. And the end of the year, we need to win three games in February and two games in March. That’s what our target is. Winning a state championship is our ultimate goal.”

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