At this time of year, the Williamsville North boys hockey team usually has at least a top-two playoff seed nearly, if not already, clinched.
However, that’s not the case this season as the Spartans are in an ultra-competitive five team race for the top seed in the Section VI Large School playoffs.
“I’ve grown up watching this team and it’s usually never close like this,” said forward AJ Ferenczy following Will North’s 4-2 victory over the Clarence Red Devils on Thursday. “We know what we need to do now. Hopefully, this was our first step forward and we can win out.”
The win propelled the Spartans to the top of the Large School standings with 13 points and four games remaining. Right behind them are Lancaster and Orchard Park with 12 points, the Red Devils have 11 points and Niagara Wheatfield has 10 points.
“I equate it to the ‘Mr. and Mrs. Golf tournament,'” Williamsville North coach Bob Rosen said. “One game you think you can’t ever lose again and then the next game you think you won’t ever win another game.”
It’s been an up-and-down year for the young Spartans, who only have five seniors on the roster. They haven’t had a winning or losing streak last more than two games this season.
“It’s doing the little things,” Rosen continued. “Chipping the puck, getting in lanes and being on the defensive side of piles is important.”
Thursday it was the Spartans’ penalty kill, led in large part by Ferenczy and Matthew Scott, that shined.
In the first period, the PK unit successfully killed a full two-minute, two-man advantage for the Red Devils. After a hit from behind, North had to kill off most of a five-minute major penalty in the second period.
“Blocking shots all day has been key,” Scott said. “All those little things add up.”
Will North jumped out to an early two-goal lead with goals from Scott and Ryan Bianchi. The Red Devils cut the deficit to one before the horn as Isaiah Corry scored with 31 seconds left in the opening period.
Adam Zaffram tied the game at two, netting a goal with 2:39 left in the second, but the tie was short-lived. North’s Jeff Cummins responded 15 seconds later to get the lead back for his team. The Spartans got a buzzer beater of their own to end the period as Mason Meggo found the back of the net with six seconds left.
Williamsville North will head back to the Northtown Center Friday as they host Orchard Park in their first meeting of the season.
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