Wednesday January 29, 2014 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
WINNING-GOAL SCORER — Junior Mitch Knihinicki, seen here in a game earlier this season, scored the overtime game-winner in Frontier’s 2 – 1 win against Clarence on Monday. Photo by Jeffrey Barnes.
The Frontier hockey team badly needed a victory to get out of a month-long funk. A somewhat unlikely source provided the goal that got the Falcons back in the win column.
Junior forward Mitch Knihinicki delivered the game-winning goal with 2:33 left in overtime, to give Frontier a 2 – 1 victory against Clarence on Jan. 27 at the Town of Hamburg Ice Rink.
This was Frontier’s first win of the new year, snapping a five-game skid and keeping it in fourth place, within striking distance of third, among public large schools in the Western New York Federation.
“We needed this win today and hopefully we can build on this,” said Frontier head coach Bob Klimowicz, whose team improved to 4 – 8 in the large school division. “Wins can do that for you. Any time you win a game in overtime, it’s exciting.”
Typically a third liner, Knihinicki executed the play like a top scorer, as he tallied his second goal in league play. He picked up the puck near the blue line, used his speed to skate into the Clarence zone between the circles and snapped the winning goal high into the Red Devils’ net.
“It was nice for us just to get that win,” Knihinicki said. “I was a little scared I was going to stutter with the puck, but yeah it just felt nice coming together at the end. It’s a lot of weight lifted off our shoulders. Now, I feel like we’re going to come together and string a couple more wins together.”
Klimowicz changed up his line combinations in an attempt to spark what had been a stale offense in this game and during most of the losing streak. One of the new alignments featured Knihinicki with senior standout Phil Stamer, who assisted on the winner, along with junior Will McDonald.
Knihinicki credited Stamer with setting up the play. Klimowicz said he was happy to see Knihinicki use his speed and be patient enough to wait for the goalie to go down before roofing the shot into the top corner.
“We switched a couple of those lines in the third period and the work ethic was much better,” Klimowicz said. “We’re going to stick with those changes and see what happens.”
The teams exchanged goals in the first period, with Mike Hughes scoring for Frontier, on assists from Jared Compise and Tyler Gaglia, and Clarence getting a short-handed tally from Max Herud.
Frontier finished 0-for-7 on the power play and outshot Clarence 14 – 5 during the third period and into overtime, before finally breaking through to get another puck past Clarence goalie Jack Niesyty. Connor Harman earned the win in net for Frontier, as he stopped 20 shots.
“We’ve just got to work on our power play, but I feel like our breakout has come together nice and our forecheck and cycling in the zone have helped us, when their on,” Knihinicki noted.
Inclement weather has been an issue for Frontier, this season. It has caused lack of continuity, due to inconsistent practices, and the cancellations of a few games, according to Klimowicz. Frontier was one of the few Southtown-area teams to get in game action on another inclement weather day Jan. 27.
Klimowicz added that the team has also played a little selfishly. The Falcons have had problems with back checking, coverage and sometimes, communication, the coach noted.
“We’ve played individually at times and that’s what’s killed us,” Klimowicz said. “That and having no flow to the season. It’s the little things that just show you can get rusty when you don’t have time to work on it.”
Williamsville North has taken the lead in the division among public large schools, with early front-runner Niagara Wheatfield in second and Orchard Park just ahead in third. The win puts the Falcons two points ahead of Clarence and three ahead of Lancaster, with Lockport and Niagara Falls, to be the seventh and eighth seeds in the postseason.
Among the four games remaining on its schedule, Frontier still has a pair left with Lancaster.
“If we’re going to stick in the fourth seed and maybe jump up into the three, it’s going to depend on how we do in these games we have left,” Klimowicz said.