WNY Athletics

Nichols Captures the Niagara Cup

Buffalo, NY- It took overtime to decide the 2022 Niagara Cup finals held Monday at HarborCenter in downtown Buffalo. When it was over, the Nichols Vikings (15-1-0-2) claimed victory after defeating St. Francis 2-1.

It was the third meeting between Fed clubs that saw the Vikings win both rather decisively. In the previous contests Nichols outscored St. Francis 14-1. Nichols strolled into the championship game riding a four game winning streak while the Red Raiders came into the playoffs having lost 3 of their last four.

So it was a bit of a surprise to see the  Red Raiders open up a 5-0 lead in shots on goal and winning virtually every battle along the boards. St. Francis would be rewarded for their efforts thanks to a Brycen Roberts blast from roughly 20 feet out, just above the right faceoff circle. The shot seemed to surprise Nichols netminder Christian Schwartz.

St. Francis would carry that lead into the 2nd period albeit shorthanded.

Trailing by a goal early in the 2nd and with he man advantage you could sense Nichols was starting to turn the momentum. However, after taking back-to-back penalties and being down two men for a full minute, things appeared to be shifting back in Frannies direction. That all came to a halt however shortly after the Vikings killed off both minor penalties.

A roughing call on the Red Raiders at the 7:35 mark gave the Vikings a kick at the can and their persistence paid off. A perfectly placed no-look pass from Christian Bauer onto the tape of Dominic DiTondo triggered the Vikings first goal of the game, tying things at one apiece. Bauer locked eyes with Frannies goaltender Zach Zuchlewski and was able to pull him forward from his net. That prompted the sweet pass over to DiTondo and plenty of room to shoot.

The game featured plenty of good, clean hits and a number of blocked shots. Schwartz turned in one heck of a game between the pipes for the Vikings. Zuchlewski did the same for Frannies turning away 20 shots. After the game, Zuchlewski was presented with the Miguel Rodriguez award, named in honor of the late Buffalo News sportswriter.

The third period featured more big hits, blocked shots and the occasional odd-man rush.

Sudden death was over almost as quickly as it started.

St. Francis went to work right away with a  flurry in front of Schwartz but were unsuccessful in their attempts to put the puck past him. Moments later, Nichols center London Goodwin won a key faceoff deep in their zone that started a Vikings rush towards the Frannies end of the ice.  Christian Bauer carried the puck into the St. Francis zone and flung a wrister towards the net that went wide left. The rebound came off the back dasher board and right to an awaiting Goodwin who then tucked the puck behind Zuchlewski.

“It was a whole team effort,” Goodwin said postgame. “These guys wanted to win this league so bad, I’m so happy.”

The goal handed Nichols their fist Niagara Cup Championship.

It was also the first year Nichols fielded a Fed team.

“We set a goal and we achieved it,” Nichols head coach RJ Gicewicz said after the victory. “I’m very proud of the kids, they didn’t get down on themselves after getting behind, they settled down and fought back.”

Nichols will next play on Saturday against an opponent from Long Island, NY for the New York State Catholic High School Championship, also at HarborCenter. Puck drop is 2:30 pm.


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