The Williamsville North Spartans remain the last team standing without a loss.
In a battle of the unbeatens, the Spartans took down the previously unbeaten Niagara Wheatfield Falcons 3-2 in the Section VI Boys Federation Hockey Division 1 action Thursday night at the Northtown Center.
Will North faced their biggest moment of adversity yet this season as they went into the second intermission down one-goal.
“It was gut check time,” Matt Bielinski said. “We were able to battle back and win. It showed a lot about our character.”
Bielinski and the Spartans came back in the third period and scored two goals to win the game and stay unbeaten.
N-W had their best chance of the first period to score with six minutes to go. Case Woods picked up the loose puck all alone in the North zone and waited for linemate Nick Breier to come in on the 2-on-1 rush. Unfortunately for the Falcons, Woods’ pass jumped off Breier’s stick and missed the net.
The Spartans got on the board as Andrew Bruno got the got the puck along the boards and found Bielinski who buried it home for the game’s first goal with a minute left in the period.
Mike Lotempio connected with an open Chris Tobey who fired it in with seven minutes left in the second period to tie the game for Wheatfield.
The North bench became heated after Brett Sardina appeared to have been hooked while taken down to the ice. The Spartans argued about the no-call and received a bench minor for their transgressions. Niagara Wheatfield capitalized on the power-play when Tobey tipped the puck in to give the Falcons the lead at the break.
Williamsville North had been forcing turnovers and picking up loose pucks in the Falcon zone all night. It finally paid off when Adam Graesser found one and sent it to Kevin Martin who flipped it in to tie the game at two with 12 minutes left in the period. The Spartans scored again less than three minutes later when Bryan Aduddle put it in for the game-winner.
Niagara Wheatfield now falls 5-1-1 with 12 points on the season. According to assistant coach Ryan Coyne, the Falcons couldn’t recover after giving up the first goal in the third period.
“We came out strong to start the third, but North got a quick goal off a defensive lapse and the kids took a big hit,” Coyne said. “We started playing too tight and took ourselves out of the game.”
Williamsville North is in title defense mode as they won the state championship last year. According to Bielinski, the goal is to get right back there.
“We’re aiming for another state title. We’re all committing and we’re all in,” said Bielinski, who is one of 10 seniors that is coming back from last season’s team. “There’s always room for improvement and we have a good core of guys. As long as the work ethic is there we can do great things.”
The defending champs have scored a division-high 53 goals in nine games this season and are on top of the standings with 16 points.
“We’ve never defended our title,” said Rosen, who is now trying to do it for the fifth time in 28 years. “Only three or four teams in the state have ever done that. It’s hard to do.”
Williamsville North will play Lancaster Monday at 3 p.m. at the Northtown Center. Niagara Wheatfield faces Bishop Timon Saturday 5:30 p.m. at Niagara University.