Thursday April 4, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Hamburg senior Max Maxwell will provide leadership and a scoring touch that’s made him a Division I-bound player. (Photo courtesy of Ron Olson)
Losing 12 seniors, many of whom were major contributors on a sectional-title winning team, would be difficult for any team to endure, even perennial-power Hamburg.
But bringing in an even bigger group of upperclassmen the next season (17) mitigates the losses just enough to help make the Bulldogs the favorite once again in Class B.
Coming off a fifth Section VI title in six seasons, Hamburg (18-2) has already proved itself a resilient and not surprisingly, extremely talented bunch, by running away with a 14-5 win in the 2013 season opener against Niagara-Wheatfield, a rematch of the last two sectional finals on Thursday (March 28).
“Losing eight or nine players critical to starting positions is only trumped by bringing in 17 seniors, who I’m hoping will help us continue developing maturity and chemistry,” Hamburg head coach Jerry Severino said. “When you put those things together with experience, it usually translates into good results.”
The Bulldogs will take their cue this season from senior returning leading scorer Max Maxwell, who not only will play at the Division I level next season at UMBC but also drives this Hamburg team with his strong leadership.
Maxwell finished with 51 goals and 52 assists last season. Severino said his star midfielder also demands the team’s attention by asking for their best effort and holding himself accountable to do the same.
“It is Max’s team; he has their attention,” Severino said. “Nobody cares more than Max. I think he’ll be a good example for this team and they’ll respond.”
Also in the midfield will be fellow senior Nick Wilcox, who joined Maxwell in an international competition during the offseason. Add in senior lefty Ben Ott and Severino believes he has a very complete offensive midfield. Wilcox will play at Mercy College next season, while Ott will attend the University at Buffalo.
Hamburg’s top three players on attack, seniors Austin Bishop and Tyler Nicoloff and junior Lucas Shafer, will all eventually be playing at the college level, as well, but first will create a formidable trio of attackmen. Bishop and Shafer, who both return after playing significant roles last year, committed to Division II Lake Erie and Nicoloff will play at Hilbert College.
Severino believes he has two of the best defenders in the state in senior four-year varsity player Adam Gawlak and long pole middie Christian Hollfelder, a senior in this third season with the varsity. Gawlak will play at Adrian College and Hollfelder at Cortland State next year. Senior two-year starter Evan Kuss is also expected to be a big contributor.
Hamburg lost All-WNY First Team goalie Tom Lipomi but Severino believes the depth provided by senior Josh Gibson and sophomore Jordan Kuss adds to that position. Kuss has provided a pretty strong surge, so he should get some playing time. Injured senior goalie Tyler Aul hopes to return later in the season.
Adding to the depth in the midfield are senior long poles Chris Hoover, who will play at Cazenovia, and Kyle Violanti and face-off specialists Mitchell Sobilo, who will play at Utica, Craig Mikida (UB), Mike Ott (UB) and Phil Stormer. Luke Kramer and Jake Wittmeyer will rotate in at close defense.
Looking to make an impact as only a freshman is Evan Hollfelder, who has already earned a spot in the rotation. Severino believes Hollfelder is a special player who can contribute on the attack or help run the midfield.
Adding depth to the midfield are Matt Borgese, Vinny Sardo, Ryan Nemec and Joe Wittmeyer and to the defense, juniors Griffin Ryan and Rob Miller.
In the season opener, Shafer led Hamburg with four goals and three assists, while Maxwell added six points, including three goals, and Bishop, four goals. Hamburg raced out to a surprising 9-2 lead.
Besides a tough Class B slate, Hamburg also plays this week during a spring break trip in Virginia against Madison and Chantilly and then against Section V powers Canandaigua (April 19) and Penn Yan (May 10). The Bulldogs will host defending Monsignor Martin champion Timon-St. Jude on April 26 for the first time since 2006 and cross-town rival Frontier (May 15).
They’ll use that difficult schedule to ready for a sectional title defense and possibly getting a chance to redeem themselves in the Far West Regional, after losing there to Irondequoit last year on Howe Field in Hamburg.
“Whether they’ll be as talented or go further, it will be determined as the season goes on,” said Severino, who’s being assisted by Pat DiMatteo (defense), Mark Muskopf (offense) and Caleb Severino (goalies). “We need to stay healthy and determined. So far, I see a serious attitude and a lot of talent.”