Thursday February 7, 2013 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
Hamburg and Frontier players jostle in front of the Frontier net as Falcons senior goalie Cooper Soto readies for a shot. Frontier won 7-2 on Feb. 3. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
Frustrated by only scoring once despite playing on the open ice of Northtown Center in a big division loss to Clarence two days earlier, Frontier found some relief after plenty of pucks hit the back of the net when it met rival Hamburg in the non-league opponents’ annual rivalry game.
Nick Ortiz and Mike O’Rourke each scored twice for Frontier which received goals from five different players in the Falcons’ 7-2 win over the Bulldogs on Saturday (Feb. 2) at the Town of Hamburg Ice Rink.
“Yeah, it is nice to put the puck in the net, for sure,” said Frontier head coach Bob Klimowicz, whose team improved to 14-5 overall. “The Clarence game was frustrating. I give them credit — they were flying and they hit; we didn’t get help from the officiating and Clarence was very physical and took it to us.”
Also off a disappointing 6-4 loss to West Seneca West, which finished the game with five unanswered goals, Hamburg continued to play too sloppy in its defensive zone in falling to 8-8-1-1 overall.
“We battled hard but we’re struggling in our own end right now,” said Hamburg head coach John McFall, whose team has allowed 22 goals in losing three of its last four games. “We’ve given up a lot of goals lately, so we’re playing around to try to find the right combinations.”
Ortiz opened both the first and second periods with goals. His linemates Gavin Evancho added one goal and Bobby Piotrowicz, three assists. Adding goals were seniors Jacob Macchioni, an unassisted goal to give Frontier a 2-0 lead after one period, and Ian Woods. Tyler Gaglia, Alex Buczek and Sean Kelly each added assists. Frontier led 5-1 after two periods.
Tom Coyle replaced Cooper Soto in goal midway through the third period as Klimowicz got all nine of his seniors into the game. Coyle made a handful of nice saves, including stopping a breakaway. Soto, who started, has been the team’s workhorse in net.
“It was an emotional one for our nine seniors. We’ve got bragging rights for one more year,” said Klimowicz, whose team is now 3-0 against Hamburg in Federation games. “I thought the game would be a little closer. They have some good young talent and are on the upswing, but we did a nice job. We buried our chances.”
The Bulldogs got on the scoreboard in the second period with a goal from senior captain Austin Bishop and then cut Frontier’s lead to 5-2 early in the third as Brendan McFall hit the back of the net on the game’s only power play tally. Alex Peters, Chris Moses and Colin Coppola all earned assists.
Hamburg is in third place among 12 small schools going into the final week of the regular season at 8-3-1-1 but in out-of-league games, playing mostly WNY Federation large schools like Frontier, the Bulldogs are 0-5.
“When we play against large schools, our team seems to get a little uptight, maybe thinking that we’re overmatched” McFall noted. “But we’ve played the best of our league very tight and played tough against (large school) Niagara-Wheatfield, so there’s no reason for it.”
After meeting one last large school in Clarence on Feb. 5, McFall is looking to get back on the right track playing against fellow small school Kenmore East in the Feb. 9 regular season finale. Hamburg has already clinched a first round bye to the quarterfinals, but will need to beat East to hold on to the third seed and not fall to fourth.
Though the game did feature some rough and tumble at times between the rivals, Klimowicz admitted that the rivalry was not as physical as he had expected and the veteran coach was fine with that. He has his team working on a penalty kill that he feels must improve with the playoffs starting next week.
“We’ve got to iron out this penalty kill,” Klimowicz said. “We gave up four to Clarence and another one today. We can’t go deep in the playoffs, first of all, if we can’t stay out of the box, and secondly, if we don’t do a better job killing them. We’re giving teams way too much room in our zone. We’re practicing on trying to be more aggressive and getting in shot lanes better, but still, today, I’m asking, ‘who wants the job, who’s stepping up.’”
The Falcons will finish their regular season Feb. 9 against Wheatfield with a win putting them in the second or third seed and a loss as pitting them low as fourth. Wheatfield is also competing for one of the top two spots but also can’t fall farther than No. 4. “That’s a big game Saturday,” Klimowicz noted.