The message is simple: win it for Ziggy.
Nick Peters and Chace Woods each had two points as Section VI’s Niagara Wheatfield blanked Section I’s North Rockland, 4-0, in the NYSPHSAA Division I semifinal game that was played at HarborCenter on Saturday morning.
The win vaults the Falcons in Sunday’s championship game (noon) where they will face Section V’s Victor, which scored a thrilling 4-2 come-from-behind win over Section X’s Massena.
But this was more than just a run of the mill win for the Falcons, who were playing with heavy hearts. When the Falcons hit the ice on Saturday they, and the entire Wheatfield community, were still reeling from the loss of their close friend and classmate, Mikey Ziegler, who passed away unexpectedly this past Wednesday.
“Honestly, it’s an emotional experience. Everything our community is going through right now. Again this win, it’s more than just a game,” Nick Peters said. “Honestly, and I believe that in the toughest times some of the greatest moments can be born from them. A state title for this community would be the greatest thing.”
A heartbreaking loss of this magnitude can do one of two things. Either completely unravel a team, or polarize them as one and strengthen their family bond. This tight-knit team pulled even closer together and vowed to win it all for their brother.
“It definitely brought them together. They’ve been a focused group all year,” Wheatfield coach Rick Wrazin said, as he paused to compose himself.
“They all have that in the back of their mind. When they come out its business as usual, but they have a ‘why’ now.”
The Falcons outworked the Red Raiders at every turn as they maintained more consistent offensive pressure throughout the game.
Nick Peters opened the scoring with 1:17 left in the first to set the tone.
But it was back-to-back goals by Nick Brier and Mike Lotempio 40 seconds apart in the second period that extended the Falcon lead, 3-0 and truly put them in charge.
“That was huge,” Wrazin said. “Any time you can get a couple goals in a hurry it takes the steam out of a team. They’re a good hockey team. They come at you. They’re physical and I think getting those two in a row-had we not gotten both of them I think the game would have been a little different going down the stretch if we were only up two-nothing. The third one was really big in terms of us believing and maybe them falling back and maybe pressing a little more. ”
Chace Woods capped off the scoring.
The Falcons will attempt to win their first ever state title.
This was North Rockland’s deepest run since 1985. Goalie Angelo Zodda made 19 saves including one on Woods late in second to keep his team alive.
North Rockland coach Gary Dworkowitz said that once his boys decompress from the loss they will look back at this season with pride. For now, the reason it hurts so bad is because they care so much.
“I’ll say this. It’s supposed to hurt,” Dworkowitz said. “You do something you care about with people that you consider family, it’s supposed to feel that way.”
Wheatfield goalie Peyton Siegmann made 19 saves for the shutout.