It all starts with a belief. In yourself and in each other.
Right now the St. Mary’s of Lancaster hockey team feels like they can accomplish anything.
After Monday’s showing, you’d be hard-pressed to argue the point.
Cameron Ruggerio turned away 36 shots as the No. 5 Lancers shocked top-seed Canisius, 4-0, in the first game of the WNY Federation Private School semifinals doubleheader that was played at HarborCenter on Monday.
The win vaults the Lancers into next Monday’s championship game where they will face St. Joe’s at 8:15 in the final game of the Super Monday triple-header.
The defending Catholic state champion Marauders punched their ticket to Super Monday after cruising to an 8-0 win over Bishop-Timon in the other semifinal game.
What has to be one of the biggest upsets in Federation hockey history, the Lancers, who were a club championship team last year, literally came out of obscurity to win as they didn’t even have a program two years ago.
“Just a great job,” Lancers head coach Mark Dantonio said. “We knew we could do it. We’ve got the team that can do it and, you know what, here’s the best part. Nobody knows who we are. Now they do. Our kids are good hockey players and they can play. And that’s what happened. We just showed up today.”
Junior Danny Pfalzer, the cousin of US Olympian and former Buffalo Beaut Emily Pfalzer, factored into three of his team’s four goals.
Capping off the scoring with an empty-netter, Pfalzer set up Brendan Krawcyzk for the Lancer’s first goal. Then he extended his team’s lead to 2-0 with 6:47 left in the second period.
The first goal was especially crucial for the Lancers as it came just 53 seconds into the second period after a 0-0 first frame that saw the Crusaders outshoot St. Mary’s 15-3. The goal was the result of some gritty work in front of the net and not stopping until the whistle blew.
“We just didn’t quit,” Dantonio said. “I told the boys, be patient. Be patient it’s going to come, and it came. Then we scored that second goal and it was a pretty goal. I just think from there we took over and we had a great game.”
Ruggerio, who turned in the game of his life, stood on his head as he not only stopped every shot he faced, he made those key saves at critical moments when a goal could have swung momentum in favor of Canisius.
Ruggerio credited Dantonio, the founder of the program, for being the one to pull the pieces together and making them a team, a family and a contender.
“I got to give it all to my coach,” Ruggerio said. “He’s been really good about finding great kids to play hockey and getting them to work well together.”
But again, it all goes back to the belief in each other that has fostered a fearless mindset throughout the team. Being the underdog the Lancers know that there is absolutely zero pressure on them because no one outside the walls of their locker room expected them to get this far.
“We’re all like one big family,” Pfalzer said. “We all support and love each other and I think that carries over to the ice.”
After the game, Dantonio told his boys that they made history and now they are rooted in that belief.
“We’ve got a bunch of kids that come together and said we believe in what you’re preaching and we’re gonna follow because we believe you,” Dantonio said. “Guess what? Out there that’s what happened. They believed in each other. I can’t say enough about my kids. They’re fantastic. Fantastic.”
Lucas Prince had two assists for the Lancers and Robert Stoklosa put his team up 3-0.
“First year in the Fed. We’re the underdogs. We’re not supposed to be in it,” Pfalzer said. “Nobody thought we would and look at us now, we’re in it.”