In his pregame speech to the Williamsville girls’ hockey team, head coach Rick Hopkins didn’t talk about the X’s and O’s.
Instead, Hopkins took the time to tell his team about what Friday night’s game meant and the man who helped make it happen.
On December 1st, 2010, Dr. James Rusin dropped the puck for the first ever WNY Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation game, a matchup between Williamsville and Monsignor Martin.
Dr. Rusin was an instrumental part of making girls high school hockey happen in Western New York and served as the league’s chairman before he lost his battle with cancer in 2013. He was also the director of athletics in the Williamsville school district.
“A lot of the girls were unaware of the significance of December 1st,” said Hopkins, who’s now the league chairman. “I told them that we were dedicating the game to him and the history of the league.”
Although very few of them knew who Dr. Rusin was or was around for the very first game, Williamsville took that dedication to heart as they went out took a four-goal lead in the first period on their way to a 7-3 win over West Seneca/Hamburg/Eden.
Williamsville senior Jenna Woods was honored to be part of this game and grateful to Dr. Rusin.
“It was special knowing that the league started on this day and that girls hockey is growing. It’s a huge thanks to Dr. Rusin,” Woods.
Woods showed her gratitude to Dr. Rusin on the ice as she made an already historic night more memorable, breaking the team record for goals in a game.
The senior got to work early with a goal less than 30 seconds into the game. A few minutes later, Woods scored back-to-back goals to complete the hattrick with eight minutes still left in the opening period.
Williamsville converted on their first power play as Amanda Gaffney found Holly Schmelzer for the game’s fourth goal.
In the second period, WS/E/H came out with a new purpose cutting the lead in half with two Emma O’Neil goals. But the run ended, when Schmelzer out-skated the defender and scored on a breakaway shot with six minutes to go in the period to give Williamsville the 5-2 lead.
Woods continued her scoring in the third period as she found and the knocked the puck in a little over a minute into the period. With seven minutes to go, Schmelzer sent a pass to the front of the net that Woods backhanded in for the record-breaking goal.
“It felt like the shot was taking a long time to go in,” said Woods, who also had an assist. “But I was glad I got the record.”
However, Hopkins was most boastful of Woods’ hustle on the ice.
“She has a ‘C’ on her jersey for a reason,” Hopkins said. “She’s very mature and leads by example. She is positionally very smart. But I was more impressed when she hustled down the ice to prevent an icing call late in the shift.”
It was poetic as previous record holder, current Williamsville assistant coach Shauna Clair, took the opening faceoff from Dr. Rusin in that the very first game.
Like Rusin, Clair was another key figure in making the girls high school hockey happen WNY. Clair attended board meetings as an eighth grader in an effort to make it happen. In her senior year, the league was finally created and Clair served as Williamsville’s first ever captain.
Unfortunately, Clair didn’t make Friday night’s game.
“Clair will be excited to find out that someone like Jenna, who’s a great role model for the girls on the team, was the one who broke her record,” Hopkins said.
Schmelzer ended up participating all seven goals Friday night for Williamsville as they move to 3-1 this season.
Elijah Khoury scored exactly one minute into the second period propelling the West Seneca West Indians to a come from behind 3-2 victory over the Starpoint Spartans in Section VI Boys Federation Hockey action.
The Spartans took control of the game as Josh Kelly found the back of the net with a little over six minutes left in the opening period. Luke Kenyon followed it up a few minutes to give Starpoint the 2-0 lead at the intermission.
Chase Chodkowski knocked in West’s second goal off a pass from Matt Myers to tie the game at two apiece.
In the third period, Khoury found Zach Lembke for the game-winning goal with five minutes left.
Tommy Mazgaj had assisted on both Spartans goals.