Youth is often seen as a hindrance for a team as the games begin to take on more importance.
But rather than trying to overcome that lack of experience, the Williamsville Girls Hockey team embraced it as they prepared for their first semifinal game in program history.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Jenna Cavalieri said. “Our biggest competition was FLOP before this game so coming into this game we were expecting to play our game and do what we do best.”
Williamsville did exactly what they’ve been doing all season long Friday night, starting with strong defense before having their high-flying forwards take care of the rest.
Section VI’s top scorer, Emma Roland, netted a hat-trick while Cavalieri had two goals as Williamsville blew past Section X’s Potsdam Sandstoners, 6-1, in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Girls Ice Hockey Regional semifinal.
Williamsville will take on Section III’s Skaneateles, who beat Section VII’s Plattsburgh 3-0 in the other semi, for the NYSPHSAA championship game. Faceoff is Saturday at 6 p.m. at the HarborCenter.
“We’ve had teams in the past that maybe get uptight,” Williamsville coach Rick Hopkins said. “This team is young and they believe in themselves. Maybe they don’t know and they’re just playing a game they love. They’re passionate about the sport and passionate about one another.”
Will-ville took a 2-0 lead into the locker room in the second intermission before piling it on in the third period.
“We knew (at the beginning of the season) that even though we had two seniors, that we had good players and had fight in us,” Roland said. “That has shown at the end of the season.”
Williamsville opened the game up midway through the first period when Cavalieri grabbed a rebound and slipped it in short side.
In the second, Will-ville added to their lead as Ella Huntley sent a pass back to Roland, whose shot deflected into the net with 7:44 left in the period.
Despite being two days removed from playing three games in as many days, Williamsville came out even stronger in the third, a period highlighted by three goals in a span of 1:49 to put away the Sandstoners.
Elisabeth Sidorski added a power play goal before Roland scored shorthanded and then again during even-strength play to complete her hat-trick.
After Potsdam got on the board, Cavalieri put home her second goal with under a minute left in the game.
“It’s so hard to believe that we’ve got this far,” Cavalieri said. “Many people thought that we were going to come in second place in our section but we won and now we’re in the finals.”