Four paths. One championship.
The eyes of the girls high school hockey world will once again be fixed on HarborCenter, February 8-9, as the NYSPHSAA Championship returns to Buffalo for the first time since 2015.
The field has been narrowed down to four teams in Section X’s Potsdam, Section III’s Skaneateles, Section VII’s Plattsburgh and Section VI’s Williamsville, who locked up the final spot with their 4-3 overtime win over defending state champion FLOP on Feb.6.
The two state semifinal games will be played on Friday with puck drop for the title game slated for Saturday at 6pm.
Williamsville v. Potsdam – 6pm
The first game will be an interesting match up of two teams that are mirror images of each other. Both Williamsville and Potsdam have veteran leaders sprinkled among very young squads.
“We’re a younger team but we do have some veterans that are juniors and we have some returning sophomores,” Williamsville’s Erin Roland said. “So I think that we’re ready.”
Seniors Kylie Rosen (F) and defensemen Elisabeth Sidorski and Lindsay Powers bring that veteran leadership. Williamsville will do as much prep work as possible, but ultimately the feeling is ‘if we play to our strengths when can beat anyone.’ Junior forwards Emma Roland and Jenna Cavalieri will be needed to spark the offense.
Williamsville, which has seemingly been on the brink of greatness since day one of the WNY Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation, is now two games away from the top of the mountain.
“I was looking over the roster just the other night and said oh my God there’s only two seniors,” coach Rick Hopkins said. “You know what maybe they’re just young and naive enough to not be nervous or uptight.”
Potsdam punched it’s ticket to states after a decisive 9-1 win over Massena in the Section X title game.
“I think that we’re all really nervous,” Potsdam senior forward Erica Sloan said. “We’re a young team so it’s hard. No one’s really been in this position before except for states with travel teams. But it’s a whole new world when you go to states for varsity hockey. I think we’re just gonna go in and play as well as we can every shift.”
Potsdam was paying close attention to the Section VI championship and were somewhat shocked to see Williamsville upset FLOP, but they certainly aren’t looking past their opponents.
“We definitely know that Williamsville is gonna be competition for us,” Sloan said. “No matter what I think, any team there is going to show us what they have and what they can do.”
Sloan and 8th grader Kennedy Emerson give the Lady Sandstoners a formidable 1-2 punch in their top line. 8th grader Isabel Boyd has been another key weapon and Coryn Young has been a rock in net.
The last time Potsdam won the state title was 2014 when they and Skaneateles were declared co-champions after they skated to a 4-4 overtime tie.
Skaneateles v. Plattsburgh – 8pm
The Lady Lakers return six seniors who were part of a 19-0 state title team from two seasons ago. Most notably, Megan Teachout (45 points) and Sophia Burns, who were both key in the 6-3 win over Clinton in the Section III title game, lead the Lakers.
“I’d say our team has grown in confidence, working hard every practice,” Burns said. “We know that if we work as a team we will be able to get the job done. That being said though, despite our record with past wins, we aren’t taking any team lightly and are expecting everyone’s best game.”
Freshman Evie Sheridan has been solid between the pipes for the Lakers all season long giving up just eight goals on 207 shots.
A battled-tested group, the Lakers made it to the semifinal last season before being knocked off by eventual state champion FLOP, 6-3.
“I think it can help,” Lakers coach Andy Rozak said. “Playing in big games does help. I think it helps with the nerves a little bit. It can help settle you down quicker. I think everyone still gets nervous but I think it might help you settle in if things don’t go your way right away.”
Plattsburgh, meanwhile, found its way to Buffalo after posting a 3-0 win over Saranac/Lake Placid in the Section VII title game.
The offense is geared around Avery Holland while Ava Julian is in the crease.
In just their fourth season, the Hornets have taken incredible strides forward in a reasonably short amount of time. Head coach Jamie Reidy said his girls have committed themselves to their team conditioning program and have been skating each week for the past four weeks.
Far and away the youngest team in the final four, sixteen Plattsburgh girls are in either 8th or 9th grade. The leadership of captain Abby Boule has been key all season.
“The girls believe they belong here and look forward to the challenge of competing with the best teams in the state,” Reidy said.
The championship game puck drop is slated for 6pm on Saturday, February 9th at HarborCenter.
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