AROUND THE NET — Frontier defenseman Matt Schiferle and his team have won four straight, starting with a 4 – 3 win against Orchard Park. Photo by Jeffrey T. Barnes.
A key divisional win over rival Orchard Park on Dec. 23 has ignited a four-game winning streak for the Frontier hockey team.
After that win, the Falcons defeated Timon, to move toward the top half of the Western New York Federation large school division with a 3 – 3 mark, and then won their second tournament of the season, icing a title to repeat as the Cortland Holiday Tournament champions.
The Falcons pulled away from Orchard Park 6 – 3 and then Timon 4 – 1, three days later, before beating Cortland 4 – 0, to start out the tournament on Dec. 27. They beat Fayettville-Manlius 5 – 4, in the final the next day.
“We played very well against O.P. and Timon and it puts us back in the mix for one of the top three seeds [in the public large school playoffs],” Frontier head coach Bob Klimowicz said. “The kids are always up for the O.P. game and to be able to blow the game open, in front of the big crowd, was even better.
“We were the better team than the others in Cortland,” he added. “Whenever we travel outside our section, you come to realize just how good are league is.”
Senior forward Phil Stamer has caught fire during the winning streak, scoring five times, and being selected to the all-tournament team in Cortland.
“He’s very talented, but he was getting a little frustrated with not being able to score to begin the season,” Klimowicz said. “He’s started putting pucks in the net and that’s very good for us.”
The Falcons also have been helped by the return of senior Zach Eberhardt, who has solidified the third line and the penalty kill. He was also selected to the all-tournament team over the weekend. Klimowicz noted that Frontier’s special teams have been much improved, during the winning streak.
Connor Harman stood out in goal against Timon, as the game was tied 1 – 1 into the third period, and was the winning goalie in the tournament final. Ryan Kaska recorded the shutout the night before.
Frontier left Leisure Ice Rinks last Monday night, happy to have ended a three-game skid, but those positive feelings were not mirrored by the Orchard Park team.
The Falcons used a second period explosion, in which they netted four goals in a two-minute span, to down rival Orchard Park, with a large number of students and fans in attendance.
“Once we got a lead, we started building up with confidence,” said Frontier senior captain Tyler Gaglia, who scored twice. “Our coach said we can’t have any inconsistent play. We had to play a very calm game, a very calm, cool, and collective game and I think that lead to our success.”
Orchard Park head coach Derek Gillham blamed a lack of effort and the inability to execute as reason’s for the loss.
“There [were] bad mistakes, no competitive effort [and] no fighting adversity at all,” Gillham said. “It was a bad effort all around.”
The Falcons led 1 – 0, after the first period; defenseman Alex Buczek got the scoring started in the second, when his shot deflected off an Orchard Park defender and into the top right corner of the net. After Orchard Park cut the deficit in half with a goal by Tyler Riter, Gaglia answered with his second goal of the game and fourth of the season, to seize the momentum back for the Falcons.
Matt Kelley and Jimmy Gleason each scored in the second period for the Falcons, to push the advantage to four, entering the final period. Klimowicz noted that Gleason has centered what has become a hard-working and producing second line.
Buczek and Gaglia finished the game with three points for the Falcons, while Stamer notched two assists. Riter finished with a goal and two assists for the Quakers in the loss.
The Quakers seemed to be mustering up a comeback in the early stages of the third period, as goals by Mike Loughran and Tim Duffy closed the gap to two, with 9:13 left. That is all Orchard Park was able produce in the final period.
After a loss to Clarence, another rival, on Dec. 21, the opportunity to redeem his team was atop Klimowicz’s holiday wish list.
The Falcons had scored the first two goals in that game, before allowing the final four in losing 4 – 2 to last year’s large school finalist.
“We had a very good effort today,” Klimowicz said. “Much better than we had the other night and that’s what we were focusing on. We weren’t taking the body, and we played soft the whole game against Clarence and it showed. We needed to come out today and be more physical because we knew they were going to be physical.”
A total of 22 penalties were called in the game, most of which were referred to as “feel-good” penalties by Klimowicz. They were a result of the high energy levels displayed on the ice.
“We knew there was going to be a lot of people there and we were afraid the kids would play into the fans and that’s exactly what they did,” Gillham said. “We took some bad penalties.”
Klimowicz said that he was happy with the effort as a team, especially the performance of his Harman, who stopped 26 of the 29 shots he faced.
“I don’t want to pinpoint any particular person because this was a huge team win,” he said. “I think all five defensemen were physical today, and handled the puck well.
“When they started creeping back into the game, Connor came up with some big saves,” he added. “And we won a lot of battles. Offensively we won a lot of battles, and that’s how you win games.”
After taking on Canisius this week, Frontier will begin a slate of four consecutive Mondays playing home game at the town of Hamburg ice rink. The Falcons will begin there at 6 p.m. on Jan. 6 against division front-runner Niagara Wheatfield.(Michael Petro, sports editor, contributed to this report.