Thursday December 12, 2013 | By:Matthew Ondesko, Community Papers of WNY Editor | Sports
AWAY FROM THE ST. FRANCIS NET — Cory Schneid clears the puck from in front of the St. Francis net during a recent game with Lockport in the early-season. Photo by Jeffrey Barnes.
Tom Murphy knew what he was getting into, when he took over for Craig Fattey as head coach of the Saint Francis High School Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation team, but he said that it has been an even tougher start to the season than he first thought.
Murphy has taken over a very young team that has opened the 2013 – 2014 hockey season with lopsided losses to Aquinas and rival Bishop Timon-Saint Jude. The Red Raiders also dropped a 3 – 2 loss to Lockport and suffered a 5 – 1 setback to Lewiston Porter.
“We are young,” said Murphy, who was Fattey’s assistant, before taking over for the retired music teacher and hockey coach. ‘We have a lot of guys that are in their first year in the Federation. We only have five returning players.”
The biggest thing to try to instill in a young team is confidence, he said. And, when a team comes out of the gate like St. Francis has done, that confidence can take a hit.
Instead of getting down on itself, however, Murphy said he hopes his young team takes some of these hard lessons to heart and builds a foundation that will help the group later in the season.
“If you don’t measure yourself, than you can’t improve,” Murphy said. “I have all the respect in the world for Gene [Overdorf] and his team [Timon] and I wanted them to come at us hard. I don’t think the kids were prepared for this. It’s a work in progress.”
While it takes its early-season lumps, Murphy said that his team will get better and be able to compete with some of the smaller schools in the Federation.
“You just have to take it one shift at a time and try to win that shift, and measure yourself against that opponent,” Murphy explained. “Somehow, you have to find the motivation to become a better player. We have our work cut out for us, but we are up for it.”
With the team’s being so young, Murphy will rely on the senior leadership of defenseman Ryan Stefaniak. Stefaniak is the cousin of Cooper, who was a standout hockey and lacrosse player at Saint Francis, before moving on to a college lacrosse at Division-I Hobart.
Stefaniak will be looked upon to lead this young team from the blue line. He is one of four seniors on the team. During the loss to Lockport, Stefaniak gave an end-to-end rush and roofed a short-side goal past the Lockport goaltender.
The Red Raiders’ lone goal against Lew-Port was scored by Stephen Gosciak, with an assist from Cory Schneid. In addition to Stefaniak, also returning to the St. Francis lineup are senior forwards Jonathan Flores and Schneid and junior forwards Joe Ryan and Gosciak.
St. Francis was eliminated in last year’s playoff semifinals by eventual private school champion Saint Joe’s. The year prior, the Red Raiders earned a Federation title.
Note — St. Francis continues to field a prep hockey team, along with three club teams, two at the junior varsity level and one at the varsity level. The school also added a Prep junior varsity team, as well.