Williamsville is on top until someone else says otherwise.
But my no means are they expecting an easy path to their third consecutive Section VI title.
It’s a new season and anything can happen.
The WNY Girls Varsity Ice Hockey Federation playoffs begin March 18 with a triple header of quarterfinal action at the Northtown Center. Williamsville earned a bye to the semifinals by finishing as in second place overall.
Monsignor Martin by virtue of its first place finished was crowned the Federation playoff champions.
Williamsville has always been consider a solid program and legit contender since day one of the league.
For whatever reason they weren’t able to get over the hump until 2019 when they claimed their first-ever sectional title en route to the NYSPHSAA championship. Last year they repeated as Section VI champs and were state runners-up.
“I told the girls the challenge now is to live up to the No.1 seeding,” Williamsville coach Rick Hopkins said. “Right now I’d say their mental make-up is real good to do that. They’ve had a quiet focus all year and they realize this is it.”
Hopkins noted that the past two seasons they captured the sectional title as the No.2 seed. Prior to that, they were top seed three years in a row and came up empty in the title chase.
Williamsville will be led by senior goalie Ellie Timby who went 4-1. They also have plenty of firepower as sophomore Aizah-Rose Thompson (14 points), junior Vanessa Willick (12 points) and senior Ellie Schau (11 points) all finished in the top 10.
Hopkins feels the great value his veteran girls bring is the experience of knowing anything can happen in the post season.
“The seed is just a number before your team name,” Hopkins said. “So whether it’s one, two, three, four, five, six, seven. The girls know the history of just last year. We were at the rink and before our semifinal game against (FLOP); they saw the upset of KenGI beating LID and (HEWS) knocked off Monsignor Martin last year in the Federation playoffs. That was just as big an upset. So the girls are aware of that.”
QF match-ups will see
No.2 CASH v. No.7 KenGI (4:30pm) –
CASH will no doubt be looking to atone for last year’s struggles, which included a 7th, place finish and first round exits in sectional and Federation playoffs.
Senior captain Lilli Aidemy said last year’s bump in the road was due to the fact they were very young.
“Last year we had no seniors so we were a very young team,” Aidemy said. “This year we have five seniors including me so we’re really just determined, with the short season and everything. It’s finally our year where we have a chance to win it. So I think we’re going to use all the skill that we have on our team to win it this year.”
Aidemy said even though it was a long haul last year no one ever quit. They played hard game in and game out. Those hurdles strengthen everyone’s character and resolve to come back with even more determination this year.
Clarence/Amherst/Sweet Home’s success is rooted in strong defense and dependable goal tending
Aidemy and fellow senior Emma Guzdek anchor the D that also includes junior Jane Carney.
CASH can’t go wrong between the pipes no matter whom they go with.
Senior Hannah Barrett (1-1) is a veteran leader, while freshman Kylie Paige (3-1) and seventh grader Melissa MacLeod (2-0) can also win big games.
KenGI has built a reputation on strong post-season runs.
That, combined with winning its only regular season game in an OT thriller over HEWS in the final game of the regular season, makes KenGI even more dangerous.
Underclassmen Emiliana Cassillo, who scored the game winner against HEWS, and Isabelle Bourgeault lead the offense.
Carolyn Bourgeault will more than likely get the start in net.
Aidemy said even though they beat Kenmore/Grand Island twice, once in regular season and again in non-league play, that means nothing come post season.
“I’m gonna say to the team just because we beat them twice that doesn’t mean they can’t come back and beat us because we had close games with them,” Aidemy said. “It’s hard to beat a team over and over again.”
No.3 NiCo v. No.6 HEWS (6:00pm) –
A two season trial by fire has created a contender as the Warriors went from last place finished their first two years to the top half of the league this season.
“Definitely this year we’ve got some confidence. We’ve been playing pretty well this season,” said head coach Greg Grosskopf.
“So we’ve just got to mind of stick to our game and know that at any point any one of these teams can shut you down or put a few in. We see upsets every year in the playoffs. We don’t want to be one of those.”
Senior co-captains Amanda Jackson and Natalie O’Brien who finished fourth in scoring will lead Niagara County.
Freshman Madison Mallone has also proved herself a scoring threat.
Eyes will also be on junior puck moving defenseman Kayla Persinger, who also finished in the top 10 in scoring.
Does Hamburg/Eden/West Seneca have anything left in the tank? That’s the reasonable question that most will ask as HEWS enters post season on one day’s rest after playing three games in three days to complete its schedule after Covid pause had them on hold for 10 days.
So will HEWS be mentally and physically exhausted, or come in pumped and looking to take out its frustration on NiCo?
Grosskopf doesn’t have a doubt which team to expect.
“I’m going in with the mindset, and I’m gonna have the mindset for the girls, that (HEWS) is coming hungry,” Grosskopf said. “It was a rough end to the regular season for them.
Its all new now regular season is over. All the stats, all of the standings none of it matters. That’s how we have to take it. One game at a time.”
HEWS will look to Riley Anziel, Olivia Wade and Jackie Supples to generate some offense while Emma Cooper leads the defense.
No.4 LID v No.5 FLOP (7:30)
Lancaster will lean on veterans like Morganne Dee who finished second in scoring in the regular season.
Sydney Radecki, Hailey Keppener and Sara O’Donnell are also part of the Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew offensive attack.
LID will look to rebound after being upset by KenGI in the sectional semifinals last year.
Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park knew this would be a learning year for its young squad that mainly ranges from seventh to ninth grades.
Along with a productive year from senior Gabby Messing and junior Kathleen Dougherty, youngsters Lilly Kushner and Taylor Joyce have already shown incredible growth and a strong sense of compete.
FLOP is in no way a pushover. Especially when you factor they beat LID by a 2-1 score on March 11.
“For us to beat FLOP we have to be on our A game and not come out flat like we did a week ago,” Morganne Dee said.
“They are a good team and they were definitely the better team last game. However, we learned from the mistakes we made and as a team, we know never to doubt anyone and just play our game. It’s hard to beat a team twice and I’m excited to play them again and hopefully come out victorious so our seniors can play a few more games in their career.”
Hopkins, who also serves as league commissioner said beyond every team’s desire to claim the sectional title his hope is win or lose every team can get through the remainder of the year without any Covid issues.
“Like I’ve been telling them all year maybe more important than being a good hockey right now is being a good, healthy citizen,” he said.
Semifinals will be held at NTC on March 23.
Williamsville will play the lowest surviving seed in one game (3:00) while the other two QF winners will meet in the second semifinal game at 4:30.
The Section VI title game slated for a 7pm puck drop at Cornerstone Arena in Lockport on March 25.
Featured Image Courtesy of Janet Schultz/NYHockeyOnline.com