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High School Hockey: Hamburg matches last year win total, in first after late OT goal

Brett Ross has been a big contributor to Hamburg’s penalty killing unit, which had a number of key shifts in the Bulldogs overtime win over Sweet Home.

Hamburg has already matched its win total from the year prior and did so in dramatic fashion, beating Sweet Home 4-3 with the game-winner being scored as time expired in an overtime thriller of Federation league play on Jan. 3 at the Northtown Center.

Jon Liberatore scored his first career goal as time expired in the five-minute extra session to lift Hamburg to the victory over its small-school rival. The win raises Hamburg’s league record to 4-1-0-1 after six games and lifted them into first place in Division III.

“We’ve been working hard all season and this was a game where we needed everyone to be on the top of their game,” Hamburg head coach John McFall said. “Having Jon step up and have the vision to go to the net with only seconds left in the game was huge. There was a mad scramble in front of the net and Jon grabbed the loose puck, swung around, and threw it to the net. We needed a hero and he was the guy.”

The game did not start out as one that would appear to be headed to overtime. Hamburg held a 3-0 lead late in the second period on two power play goals from league-leading scorer Chris Moses and opened the game with a tally from Brendan McFall, who continued his hot play up front.

Moses now has 12 goals and his linemate, Brendan McFall, has eight.

The Bulldogs also killed a 5-on-3 power play for Sweet Home earlier in the second, thanks in part to the hard work of Brett Ross who helped create a penalty that ended the Panthers’ two-man advantage early and would lead to Moses’ first goal of the game.

Moses’ opening goal was set up perfectly on a 3-on-2 rush by Austin Bishop, who was playing in his first varsity hockey game in nearly two years. The fellow senior missed all of his junior season last year as the result of a knee injury suffered in a summer of 2011 lacrosse game.

“Having Austin back in our lineup was a huge boost to our team,” coach McFall said. “He is such a great athlete and his motor never stops running. His No. 23 jersey already had the captain’s “C” on it and it was just waiting for him to pull it back on. He is a true leader for this group of guys.”

After Moses increased the lead to 3-0 with 4:04 left in the period, Sweet Home began its rally at the end of the second period with consecutive goals from their top player Randy Dinatale. He scored at 2:48 and then again with only 15 seconds remaining in the second to decrease Hamburg’s lead to 3-2.

Sweet Home evened the score at 9:39 of the third on a power play goal as Hamburg continued to incur penalty trouble that evening. The Bulldogs were put into three different 5-on-3 situations to kill off in the game.

Junior Brendan Bartoo made a clear difference for Hamburg in goal, especially as Sweet Home mounted more and more pressure. During an overtime that was evenly played with both team recording three shots, Bartoo again came up big.

“He made some great saves for us when we needed it the most,” coach McFall noted.

Like many in the arena watching, McFall thought the game would end in a tie after Sweet Home cleared the zone after a Hamburg shot with 25 seconds left. But the Bulldogs had one more rush left in them.

“We were able to get control at their blue line and I remember looking at the clock and seeing nine seconds to play,” coach McFall said. “But a pass went into the corner. We thought the game was over. Somehow it was sent in front and Liberatore was able to find the net.”

Hamburg next plays three games four days as its takes on fellow small schools St. Mary’s of Lancaster on Thursday, Jan. 10 at the Northtowns Center, Kenmore West, a division rival, two days later at Holiday Twin Rinks and then West Seneca East on Jan 13 at Buffalo State College.

“We have a lot of hockey coming up,” McFall said. “This will be a test for us against some tough league competition.”

Hamburg will host the first of four games this season at the Hamburg Town Arena on Monday Jan. 21 in a 1 p.m. tilt against Lew-Port.

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