Niagara Wheatfield\'s Dominic Senese (right) attempts to tie up Orchard Park\'s Tyler Riter as the teams played to a 3-3 tie Thursday at the Northtown Center in Amherst. (Photo by David Marino)
The Orchard Park hockey team refused to go away, and because of it, the Quakers earned a 3-3 tie with Niagara-Wheatfield in a game that pitted the third- and second-place teams, respectively, among public large schools in the Western New York Federation.
The Quakers had an answer three times for Niagara Wheatfield goals on Thursday, Jan. 30 at the Northtown Center in Amherst. The Falcons finished a game tied for a third time this month and are now 1-3-3 in January, after such a hot start to the season.
“We can’t afford to sit back on our heels and just play defense when we get a lead,” Niagara Wheatfield head coach Ryan Coyne said. “We have to continue to be aggressive. When we lay back and just play defense, we give up goals.”
Forward Andrew Logar finished with two goals for Niagara Wheatfield and defenseman Troy Pulli also chipped in a goal. Zachary Biasillo, Mike Kline and Ryan MacCarrick all had goals for Orchard Park, which is now 5-7-1, good for 11 points in the division. At 8-5-3 overall and 6-4-3 in the division, the Falcons are four points ahead for the two seed in the upcoming postseason. The Falcons are also four points behind front-runner Williamsville North.
Orchard Park tied the score up for a third time with just 2:59 left in the game, as MacCarrick pounced on a rebound. The teams went scoreless through the five-minute overtime.
“This month hasn’t been a great month for us,” Coyne said. “But we have some key guys out of the lineup, and the guys who are playing are improving every game. We’re going to get there; we just have to be patient.”
After an early Orchard Park penalty, the Falcons grabbed an early 1-0 lead off a slap shot from Pulli on the power play. Niagara Wheatfield controlled the majority of the period, but with only 4:58 left in the first the Quakers tied the game with a rebound goal from Biasillo.
“I think we did a lot of things well today,” added Coyne. “We did really well on the power play and we created a lot of chances. We just have to figure out a way to close the door on some of these games.”
After a scoreless second period, the Falcons made it a 2-1 game less than five minutes in to the third with a goal from Logar off a wrist shot. It took Orchard Park less than 30 seconds to answer, as Kline knotted the score up with a rebound goal that Falcons goaltender Nate Sommers could not get a handle on.
“The second goal they had tonight should have never went in,” said Sommers, who netminded the Falcons to a sectional title last season. “Nine times out of ten I make that save. I let it come out of my glove, and that’s a mistake that shouldn’t happen.”
With 8:09 left in regulation the Falcons capitalized on a 5-on-3 power play, with another wrist shot goal from Logar, but, again, Orchard Park had a response.