The Kenmore West Blue Devils started the 2016-17 season with a big win Thursday night out at the Northtown Center. Senior captain Adam Pray’s 3rd period goal broke a 3-3 tie with Sweet Home to give Kenmore West a 4-3 victory.
Coach Rob Roszak called it a momentous victory for his club, “2-0 down is a big mountain to climb, but our guys won’t quit and we showed it tonight,” the 2nd year coach of Ken West said. “It was a well-deserved victory for us.”
The Blue Devils trailed twice in this game. Midway through the 2nd Sweet Home led 2-0 thanks to goals by junior defensemen Andrew Czyz and Daniel Lund. Czyz’ s goal came with the man advantage. The Panthers almost made it 3-0 when Tyler Edholm raced in for a breakaway but goaltender Matt Bogacki was there to turn the attempt away.
Kenmore West really started to turn up the heat, beginning with several close opportunities in the closing minutes. The first real scoring chance came when sophomore Ethan Yotter clanked a backhand off the crossbar. Moments later Sean Degnan nearly beat Sweet Home goaltender Michael Lisman that led to a big scrum in front of the Panthers goaltender. The puck eventually crossed the goal line but the official blew the whistle after losing site of the puck.
Frustrated but not down the Blue Devils regrouped and continued to pour on the pressure. Alex Militello’s relentless fore-checking paid off, as he took a nice saucer pass from Degnan off a two-on-one and buried a shot past Lisman to cut the deficit in half. Less than 35 seconds later Yotter banged home a loose puck tying the game up at two. It was Yotter’s first Fed goal. Another sophomore forward Mike Barker assisted along with Anthony Alvear. “It was cool to score in my first game. There’s definitely more in me,” Yotter said. “I was pretty comfortable playing and know I have what it takes.”
The Devils were unable to carry that momentum into the 3rd and Sweet Home sensed it. The Panthers took a 3-2 lead when Colin Regian, also a sophomore, threw a point shot at the net that found mesh for his first Fed goal. Moments later Ken West forward and senior captain Ben Serrano took a major penalty for checking from behind.
However, the Panthers were unable to convert during the 4-minute man advantage. Soon after the successful Blue Devils penalty kill they had a chance on the power-play of their own. Defenseman Owen Green’s slapshot from the point went in and once again the Blue Devils rebounded from being a goal down. Serrano and Tom Seyfang set up Green’s goal with 7:45 left in the 3rd period.
Pray’s game winning goal came exactly four minutes later with Barker picking up his second assist of the night.
“Killing off the major penalty is why we won this game. That was the turning point in my mind” coach Roszak said. “Picking up the “W” is a great start to the season.”
Militello’s aggressive play fueled the Blue Devils for much of the game. Listed at 5’5, he plays like he’s 6’5, often taking bigger players off the puck. He plays fearless but disciplined. “I thought our team played really well for the most part. We didn’t get down on ourselves. I thought our physicality matched them” Militello said. Playing in his 2nd year on Varsity the senior was named captain prior to the season.
Serrano didn’t like the whistle for checking from behind but it was an easy call for the officials. The captain maintained his composure after serving the double minor and played a vital role down the stretch, assisting on Green’s goal and winning 2 key faceoff’s inside the Ken West zone. “Very happy we got the win tonight that’s what we work for. We want to have a great season,” the senior said.
“This isn’t the start we wanted obviously. We did well at the scrimmage fest but we didn’t bring that to the game tonight,” Edholm said after the Panthers loss. These two teams finished 3-4 in Division 4 in 2015-16, separated by a game with West on top.
“We are a little disappointed to not start the year with a win,” Panthers head coach Dave Gerspach said Thursday. “We did not play our best game, definitely have a few things to work on this week. I knew Ken West was going to be very good and they deserved to win the game.”
Speaking with a number of Panthers prior to the season this was a game they had been looking forward too. The Panthers will have to sit on this until next Thursday when they meet Lockport. Kenmore West is in action Sunday at Harbor Center as they take on North Tonawanda.
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