There’s just something about Adam Batz and the Key Bank Center. In the three games that the Will North forward has played there Batz has scored four goals, won two Section VI Championships, and won two Playoff MVP awards.
In his final game at Key Bank Center, Batz scored two goals, including the overtime winner as the No. 1 seed Williamsville North Spartans defeated the No. 4 seed Lancaster Legends 3-2 in the Section VI Division I Championship game on Monday night.
“I just love the atmosphere. I love coming here every year,” Batz said. “It’s so much fun.”
The Spartans were getting ready to celebrate back-to-back sectional titles as they led 2-1 with less than a minute to go in the third period. But Lancaster’s Shawn Kross had other ideas.
The Legends were still fighting to the very end. Chris Blachowski threw puck to the front of the net and Kross used all his force to push the puck in the net with 5.3 seconds left to bring the game into overtime.
In the few minutes he spoke with his team before the overtime, Will North head coach Bob Rosen just told his to keep their composure and keep fighting, like they’ve been doing all season.
“We’ve been here before why not us?” Rosen told his team before overtime.
“Everything you do up to this point is a teaching experience. We’ve had a couple of tough games this year,” Rosen said after the game. “One of the biggest things we learned from was having to deal with in-game adversity.”
Will North got some major in-game adversity from hard to swallow 5-1 and 7-1 losses against St. Joe’s this year.
Tonight, the Spartans responded to that in-game adversity as they went back on the ice for overtime and worked the puck down ice to a streaking Batz, who scored the game-winner just 16 seconds into overtime.
“It was a great back and fourth game,” Batz said. “Late in the third period Lancaster scored but we stuck together and won it in overtime.”
With the win Will North, won their second consecutive Section VI Championship. An achievement that the Spartans haven’t accomplished since going back-to-back in 2010 and 2011.
“It’s a special feeling,” Will North goaltender Jake Zurat said after the game. “I didn’t want my hockey season to end. I wouldn’t want to do it with any other team.”
After a scoreless first period with many chances, Batz broke the game open as the senior shot a rocket top shelf, with three minutes left in the second period.
Last year in the Sectional final, Batz scored the only goal in the Spartans’ 1-0 victory over Niagara Wheatfield. The forward earned the Playoff MVP award that night too.
“Batz saved his best game of the year,” Rosen said. “Stopping four goals and scoring two more makes him a ‘plus-6’ in my book.”
The lead didn’t last long as Batz went to the box and the Legends took advantage. With less than 10 seconds to go in the period Kross crossed up the Will North defenseman and scored on a beautiful shot to tie the game.
“There’s a reason he’s got a ‘C’ on his jersey,” Lancaster head coach Kevin Miller said. “He comes to play not only in games but also in practice. It’s been a pleasure to coach him.”
The Spartans thought they had the go-ahead goal when leading scorer Brett Sardina grabbed a rebound off a Matt Bielinski shot and put it home with six minutes left in the third.
The Lancaster Legends made it to Super Monday after knocking off No. 3 seed Niagara Wheatfield in the semifinals. Monday was the Legends’ first ever trip to the Sectional finals. Unfortunately for Lancaster it showed, especially early on.
“It was the toughest loss of the year,” Miller said. “We knew they going to be nervous. We hoped it would only last the first five minutes, but it ended up lasting the whole first period.”
One of the biggest reasons for the Legends’ success this year was the guys who came back from playing full-season travel hockey to play for their high school. Jackson Vanserbosch, Chris Blachowski, Mike Shaver and goaltender Justin Stotz left their travel teams and decided to play Lancaster Legends hockey in their senior year.
“It was really big, they were guys that we really relied on this season,” Miller said.
Unlike the Legends the Spartans were making their fourth consecutive trip to Sectional final. Will North took advantage of it.
“We talked about that since we knew it was Lancaster’s first year they were going be nervous,” Batz said. “I remember my first year I was nervous. This year I was pretty confident.”
Zurat had to used his great glove hand throughout the game making 20 saves. Zurat will keep the glove but trade his skates for cleats as he has signed to play baseball at the University at Buffalo next spring.
According to his coach, Zurat’s character is what separates him for others.
“He’s such a competitor,” Rosen said. “We gave up a bad first goal, and he felt like it was his fault, we needed he him to come back and play hard and he did.”
On Saturday, the Spartans will head to Shove Park in Syracuse to take on Section III Champion West Genesee in the NYSPHSAA Division I quarterfinals.