While Brooke Becker of Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park has received national attention, the All-USA preseason defenseman is not the only talented player in the Western New York Girls Hockey Federation.
It seems like each of the eight teams has a go-to player a coach can tap on the shoulder to send over the boards in a time of need.
In no particular order, here are some of the other top players in the Federation.
Emma Faso, Clarence/Amherst/Sweet Home: The senior is a goal scorer for all seasons. She’s a first-team All-Western New York pick for soccer after leading ECIC I in scoring for Clarence. She’s also a second-team All-WNY pick in lacrosse. The All-Federation returnee is the active leading career scorer in the league with 77 goals and 136 points. Her point total ranks tied for third in league history. West Seneca alumnus Erin Gehen holds Fed records for career goals (112) and points (189).
Emma Roland, Williamsville: The junior is the runaway leader in goals (22), points (38) and points per game (3.17) this season. Coach Rick Hopkins said she has an amazing set of hands and a quick release on her wrist shot. She and twin sister Erin helped Williamsville North reach the state final in field hockey last fall.
Jersey Phillips, LID: Junior forward is the whole package. She’s a great skater, handles the puck well and has great vision. Forty-four goals in 43 career games. Third year on the Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew combined team. She’s also a past state tournament participant in golf.
Alexa Groh, Monsignor Martin: It’s hard to pick just one player from the Association’s team, but the sophomore who attends Buffalo Seminary is a tenacious, fast forward who works hard for everything she gets on the ice. She surpassed last year’s goal total in just nine games this season and is averaging 1.44 points per game.
Natalie O’Brien, Niagara County: The Starpoint sophomore has good hands, a nice shot and is a good skater. Though the combined first-year team with players from Niagara Wheatfield and Starpoint is winless through nine starts, O’Brien averages more than a point a game. She has seven goals and 12 points in nine games.
Sissy Harman, Hamburg/Eden/West Seneca: There are many top-end goalies in this league, including returning first-team All-Federation pick Grace Harrington of the Monsignor Martin team. Even though she’s winless on the season, Harman, an Eden senior, belongs in this group. She set the Fed record for saves in a game last season with 69, yielding just one goal in a game against FLOP.
Year one growing pains
Niagara County is going through just that under coach Gregg Grosskopf in its first year as a program. It’s off to an 0-9 start. The combined team consists of student-athletes from Niagara Wheatfield and Starpoint high schools. Lewiston-Porter is set to join the outfit next season.
Half of the 20-player roster features players in either seventh or eighth grade. There are just four seniors on the team.
The team is showing signs it might be ready to break into the ‘W’ column.
“It’s taken some time to get them to jell but now that they know how each other plays, they’re getting a little bit better,” Grosskopf said. “We’re hoping to get one or two wins. We’ll see.”
The latest reminder that anyone can beat anyone in this league comes courtesy of LID, which earned its fifth win of the season Monday by handing Monsignor Martin a 5-1 loss — just the latter’s second defeat of the season.
LID is fourth behind Monsignor Martin, FLOP and first-place Williamsville in the eight-team league standings.
FLOP is the two-time defending Section VI and Federation playoff champion and reigning state champion. Though it remains the lone unbeaten team in the league, it graduated six who are now playing college sports — athleticism which is always tough to replace.
“It’s wide open this year,” FLOP coach Bob Klimowicz said of the postseason race.
Speaking of the postseason, the Section VI Tournament begins Jan. 29. The top public school in the standings earns a bye into the semifinals. Semifinals are Jan. 31 with the final slated for Monday, Feb. 4, at 6 p.m. at Northtown Center.
HarborCenter is the host site for the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Tournament Feb. 8-9.
The Federation playoff tournament, which includes Monsignor Martin, begins Feb. 12 with the title game slated for Feb. 24 at HarborCenter.