Orchard Park High School is known for its athletic prowess.
The Quakers have more than their fair share of sectional titles in various sports over the years, but they’ve never reached the precipice in boys hockey.
They took a step toward changing that Tuesday night.
Orchard Park edged traditional power Williamsville North, 5-4, at HarborCenter to earn their first-ever trip to the sectional final.
“It’s a big deal for us,” said Jack Kinsman, who had a goal and an assist. “We’ve been grinding and battling all season to get to this point. It’s huge for our organization.”
The Quakers will take on the Niagara Wheatfield Falcons in the Section VI Boys Hockey Large School Championship game on Sunday at 7 p.m. at KeyBank Center.
“I think they’re great representatives of their school,” OP coach Josh Dannecker said. “They’re very classy. We’re excited for the opportunity to put Orchard Park on the face of Western New York hockey.”
Jake Echeverria pushed in what came to be the game-winning goal with 12:40 left and the Quakers were able to hold on to pull off the historic win.
“There were chills the whole way,” Kinsman said. “To have that big block at the end was huge. As we got off the ice, we were just so happy.”
The Quakers took the early lead as Kyle Flynn chipped in the puck four minutes into the contest. Later, Carson Senfield and Bryson Miller perfectly executed a 2-on-1 breakaway resulting in Senfield scoring to give OP a two-goal lead.
The Spartans responded only 31 seconds after the Senfield goal. Mason Meggo’s shot from the point was deflected in by Connor Schwartz with 2:24 left to cut their team’s deficit to 2-1 going into the second period.
OP got two goals 19 seconds apart to take a three-goal lead in the second. Kinsman quickly fired a shot in the short side. The second coming in similar fashion with Joseph Redlinski putting a laser in from the point.
Will North once again answered back as Sam Gattuso tipped in the puck, just 14 seconds after the fourth Quaker goal. The Spartans came back within one a few minutes later when Ryan Powers scored and Orchard Park took a one-goal lead into the locker room.
Echeverria’s third period goal put OP ahead 5-3.
The Spartans didn’t go away without a fight. AJ Ferenczy knocked the puck in with 1:03 left, but Will North couldn’t get the tying score.
The Quakers’ opponent on Sunday is all too familiar with being in the sectional final.
Defending state finalist Niagara Wheatfield earned their ninth trip in eleven years to the home of the Buffalo Sabres after beating top seeded Lancaster, 4-1, in the other semifinal.
“We have kids who are very experienced in the playoffs,” goalie Peyton Siegmann said. “I’ve been to two sectional finals. It’s nice that we have older guys that can lead the way and show the younger kids what to do.”
The Falcons were outshot 35-22, but it was the quality of chances that made the difference.
“We used to consider ourselves in the past of being a very efficient team,” NW coach Rick Wrazin said. “It was never uncommon that we were getting outshot and winning hockey games. I think we’ve gotten back to that late in the year.”
Wheatfield got on the board just 50 seconds into the game. Ben Shapiro took the puck off the faceoff and shot it in. The Legends tied things up halfway through the period with Ethan Jurkowski finding the back of the net.
NW increased its lead to 3-1 with a pair of goals in the second period.
Austin Durandetto put it home less than three minutes into the period. Later, the Falcons took full advantage of their first power play. The puck went off a Legend skate back toward the net where Ben Foster tapped it in with 6:16 left in the period.
In the third, Niagara Wheatfield tightened up. After a late Falcon penalty with 3:46 left, Lancaster pulled the goaltender for a 6-on-4 skater advantage. NW stood tall before Foster sailed the puck into the Legends net.
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