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Harboring rivalries: Fed hockey foes face off downtown

Crosstown rivals took a trip downtown Monday for a quintuple-header of Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation games at HarborCenter.

“It was really great to have all these games here during the entire day, a lot of entertainment, a lot of fun,” St. Joe’s senior William Redding said after scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Canisius in the final game of the day. “There’s an attraction to it. Big crowds at every game.”

This was the third year the Federation has showcased some of its top rivalries on Martin Luther King Day. The schedule featured games between Lancaster and St. Mary’s of Lancaster, St. Francis and Bishop Timon-St. Jude, West Seneca West and West Seneca East, Kenmore West and Kenmore East, and St. Joe’s and Canisius.

“There’s nothing like it,” said West Seneca West senior Billy Coughlin, who scored the overtime winner in the Indians’ 6-5 victory. “You always have a big crowd show up and it gives you that extra boost in the tank at the end of the game.”

“It’s amazing,” West Seneca West goaltender Griffin McAndrews added. “When you hear the crowd after every time you score or make a save, a big hit, it’s what gets the heart rate going.”

The West Seneca faceoff drew the largest audience and loudest student cheering sections of the day.

“Normally I don’t pay too much attention. I can kind of tune out the fans,” Indians coach Kevin Rozo said. “But you can see the fans and the kids up there going nuts and you could hear how loud it was.”

The rivalry matchup rendered pregame motivation tactics redundant, Rozo said.

“It’s East-West,” he said. “Obviously, you try to go to your bag of tricks and your best rah-rah speech. But these guys, it’s the first thing they look for when the schedule comes out. They’re fired up.”

West Seneca East celebrates a goal against West Seneca West. (Robert Kirkham/Buffalo News)

Unlike past years, Monday’s rivalry game was the only regular-season meeting between the West Seneca teams.

In the other East-West matchup, the rivals competed in an exhibition during the Ken-Ton WinterFest on Saturday. But the intensity increased when the Bulldogs and Blue Devils met again at HarborCenter.

“It’s one of the biggest games of the year,” said sophomore Dominic Cassillo, who scored twice in Kenmore East’s 4-1 victory that ended with a postgame scuffle.

“Rivalry game is always going to be chippy. There was a lot of talking on both sides,” said Kenmore East senior Aidan Bova, who had a goal and an assist. “You want to win every game, whether it counts or not. But you’ve got to go hard, especially, against your rivals.”

St. Joe’s maintained its lead atop the Federation Division I standings by beating Canisius. But it will be Sunday’s rematch at Buffalo State that counts toward Niagara Cup seeding in the Monsignor Martin standings.

“I think there was a little feeling out today,” St. Joe’s coach Rich Crozier said. “It’s a big win any time we play them. I know people like to suggest underdogs and favorites, but as far as I’m concerned, the 11 years we’ve played them, you throw that out the window.”

St. Francis picked up its first Monsignor Martin seeding victory as Pierce Greene scored twice on the power play and Ryan Young netted the winning goal with 8:44 left in the third period of the Red Raiders’ 5-2 defeat of Timon.

Defending Niagara Cup champion St. Mary’s improved to 5-4-2-1 in Federation play with its 6-0 win over Lancaster. Daniel Reif scored two goals and Alexander Miller had three assists.

In a sixth rivalry game Monday at the Hamburg Nike Base, Kyle Flynn scored four goals to lead Orchard Park in a 7-0 victory over Frontier.

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