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Will. North back in championship, after ousting Frontier in large school semifinal

OFFENSIVE OUTAGE — Mike O’Rourke and Frontier were held without a goal by Williamsville North in a D-1 semifinal. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
Williamsville North’s absence from the WNY Federation Hockey championship game didn’t last long. Bryce Ferrell made sure of that.

The senior scored all three of the game’s goals as top-seeded North earned a 3 – 0 shutout of No. 6 Frontier in the large school semifinal round on Feb. 18 at Northtown Arena in Amherst.

The 2010 and 2011 Federation champion Spartans, who fell in the final the next season before a rebuilding year in 2012 –2013, are back in the final after a one-year hiatus.

“Last year was, obviously, not the best year,” Ferrell said. “We’re definitely a more skilled team this year and everyone works harder. We got the opportunity and so far, we’re doing what we have to do.”

North missed qualifying for the Federation final for the first time in seven years. The Spartans, who fell in the quarterfinals last season, will meet Niagara Wheatfield in the Feb. 24 large school final at First Niagara Center. It will be the fourth time since 2009 the teams meet in the championship game.

“To see this group develop from where they were at the beginning of the year, and watch the game film of Frontier from when we played them earlier this season — they’re a pretty good team, doing the little things that we did well was gratifying for a coach,” said North coach Bob Rosen.

Ferrell scored a goal in each period, the first a tip-in and the next two on loose pucks around the net. He admitted afterward the goals weren’t the prettiest, but he showed off his nose for the puck throughout the game, consistently being in the right place at the right time.

“They just came out right there to me — not really skilled plays,” Ferrell said modestly. “We knew what we had to do — Frontier is a good team — and everyone did a good job, we came out with the victory and the boys are excited.”

Though it played a solid defensive game, Frontier couldn’t muster the same offensive burst in the semifinal that it did during a 5 – 0 win against third-seeded Orchard Park the round prior. The Falcons were without one of their top scorers in Jimmy Gleason, who was lost to a sprained shoulder toward the end of the quarterfinal win.

“We just didn’t put a lot of pressure on them offensively … and in the third period, we sat back too much; you’ve got to have a sense of urgency,” said Frontier head coach Bob Klimowicz, whose teams have lost the past three seasons in the semifinals, after a finals appearance in 2011.

“We limited their really good scoring opportunities. They had a few flurries in the second period, one where we couldn’t get the puck out and they scored. But we battled and that’s all you can ask for.”

Rosen was happy with the way his defense kept Frontier’s shots to the outside and made good decisions for most of the game. North goalie Matthew Ladd benefited from that play, earning the shutout, in making 21 saves. North also beat Frontier 3 – 0 and 7 – 3, during the regular season.

“We got a couple of bounces early on that allowed us to get up on them,” Rosen said. “Talking about maturity and where they’ve come from … the play of our defensemen helped make all of the difference.”

Connor Harman made some big stops during a 26-save performance for Frontier. Klimowicz also lauded the defensive play of seniors Adam Skopinski, Matt Schifferle and Tyler Schwartzott. He said they all battled throughout the game.

Ferrell opened the scoring with 5:39 left in the first period. He struck for a second time, with about six minutes left in second period, and then finished off the scoring with under two minutes left in the game just as the team’s power play was ending. Linemate Brad Bailey assisted on all three goals and Kevin Gramlack added a helper.

Just before the final goal, Matt Kelley, who played in place of Gleason on the top line, was sprung on a short-handed breakaway but Ladd was up to the task. Frontier’s Brandon Galanti also had a chance on a 2-on-1 rush late in the second, but his shot was also stopped.

“They had the last shift change [being the home team] so they were doing everything they could to get their top line against my third line,” Klimowicz noted. “There’s nothing we can do about that.”

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