The Fredonia Hillbillies' run to a New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Class B baseball title on June 8, at Union-Endicott High School, in Endicott, has been selected as the top local sports story of 2013.
Extraordinary pitching from Trent Thompson, Cam Voss and Weston Ley in the postseason carried the Hillbillies to Endicott.
In the Far West Regionals, Fredonia got revenge on Section 5's Wayland-Cohocton with a 2-0 victory.
Pictured above are members of the Fredonia varsity baseball team, which won the 2013 New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B?state title on June 8 over Section 3’s Clinton. The Hillbillies won the game 7-0, behind a 1-hit gem by sophomore pitcher Cam Voss, who carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning.
Thompson was the winning pitcher that day as he allowed three hits with seven strikeouts and just one walk.
"Trent (Thompson) pitched out of this world," Fredonia coach Vince Gullo said after the game. "Our defense was outstanding. They made all of the plays behind him."
The win vaulted the Hillbillies into the Final Four at Endicott. In the semifinal game, Fredonia battled Section 10's Ogdensburg Free Academy.
Top 10 sports stories of 2013
1) Fredonia wins Class B state baseball title
2) Silver Creek's Zeddie Williams sets national records in boys lacrosse
3) Silver Creek boys' basketball makes it to Class C state semifinals
4) FHS's Dakota Gardner finishes second in weight class at state meet
5) PVCS?softball team reaches Class D state semifinals
6) PVCS?baseball team reaches Class D state semifinals
7) Local runners compete at state cross country meet
8) Silver Creek boys lacrosse team advances to Far West Regional for fourth year in a row
9) DFSC's Deidra Osula makes state swimming meet as freshman
10) Sabres fire head coach Lindy Ruff after 15 years
Once again, Thompson was the star as he did it all in leading Fredonia to a 9-2 victory.
The Hillbillies fell behind early after a pair of errors led to single runs for Ogdensburg Free Academy in the top of the second and third innings.
Despite its uncharacteristic sloppy play early, Fredonia rebounded and scored six runs on three hits, three walks and a hit batter off Blue Devils' starter Breton LaRose and reliever Seth Pinkerton.
The six runs provided by RBI singles off the bats of Ley, Voss and Thompson, as well as a perfectly executed double steal that chased home Zach Buckley and a sacrifice fly by Matt Coyle, were all Thompson needed as he settled in to lead the Hillbillies into the title game.
Thompson allowed two runs on six hits while striking out one and walking two in the semifinal win while finishing with a combined three RBIs at the plate.
But it was sophomore Cameron Voss who stole the show that day as he nearly pitched a no-hitter as the Hillbillies defeated Section 3's Clinton High School, 7-0.
"I wanted to get to the State finals to be honest," Gullo said. "I was trying to be somewhat realistic, but these kids wanted a State championship. One of my assistant coaches, Charlie LaDuca, from Pine Valley, won a state title. Brian Bongiovanni, one of my assistant coaches, won it on our team in (2006), so there's been a lot of chatter about it. But to go out and actually do it is amazing."
Voss allowed only a leadoff single to Andrew Hayduk in the bottom of the seventh as he finished with four strikeouts and five walks in the biggest game of his high school career.
Through two seasons, Voss has yet to lose a game.
"He comes prepared and he's so loose," Gullo said of Voss. "He doesn't know what pressure is yet and as much as he wanted to win the title, he'll be the first to say he's so glad he won it for the seniors."
"He's made me pitch in big games before," Voss said of Gullo. "I was nervous at the start, but as I got into the second and third innings, I felt really good."
Ley went 3 for 6 on the day with two RBIs and two runs scored. Chris Saden ended his career 3 for 6 with an RBI and a run scored. Voss went 2 for 7 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Jude Gardner was 3 for 6, including a triple and four runs scored on the day.
It was Fredonia's second title in eight years. The team was led by seniors Nick Hart, the New York State Class B Player of the Year, Buckley, Gardner, Thompson, Seb McAfee, Saden and Coyle.
"It's the best feeling," Hart said of the win. "Ending your season with a win, only one team in Class B can say they did that, I mean it's what we dreamed of.
2) Zeddie Williams
sets National marks
Opposing football, basketball and lacrosse coaches breathed a huge sigh of relief this past summer when Zeddie Williams was awarded his high school diploma from Silver Creek Central School.
Now, Williams will take his talents to the University of Virginia, where he will play lacrosse for the Cavaliers on a full scholarship.
Individually, in 2012-13, Williams was named an All-American the last two seasons by U.S. Lacrosse while also being named First Team All-State in football (Class D defensive team), basketball (Class C) and lacrosse (Class C). He was also named one of the top 50 boys' basketball players in the state by the Basketball Coaches Association of New York.
Aside from the national and state honors he's earned, Williams was named to the All-Western New York lacrosse team the last three seasons - the last two as a member of its First Team - and as an honorable mention All-WNY football player. And to top off his senior year, he was named the recipient of the Nathan George Foundation's top scholarship for being the best male athlete in Chautauqua County while also recently being named the winner of the Tom Borrelli Award as the top high school lacrosse player in Western New York.
To earn all the awards and accolades he has, Williams had to amass some serious statistics. And, over the course of the last five years on the lacrosse field, he did just that, as he is now the presumed national record holder for goals scored (444) and points (728) in a career. Williams is also second in school history with 1,240 points scored on the hardwood while rushing for 1,000 yards during football season.
"He was born with ability," Silver Creek basketball coach Rob Genco said. "There's a certain level of it that you can't teach and I think for him to be at the level he's at, it's the hard work that he's put into it. He's never not playing something. If he's not playing field lacrosse, he's driving up to Canada (to play box lacrosse). And if we had a night off we'd practice until 5:30 or 6 and then he'd be off to play in a basketball game."
All of his athletic prowess not withstanding, both Helmer and Genco noted that Williams' best attribute is something you can't train for on the field or in the weight room.
"I think his best attribute is the person that he is and the type of head he has on his shoulders," Genco said. "As well as being a person that cares about other people and getting the big picture about what's important in life."
3) Black Knights make
it to State Semifinals
For the first time in Silver Creek boys high school basketball history, the Black Knights made the six-hour trip to the Glens Falls Civic Center for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association's Class C semifinals.
The Black Knights were led all season by seniors Zeddie Williams and Stephen Marcy, along with sophomore Billy Brooks and junior Kaine Kettle.
The run to Glens Falls began at Buffalo State as Black Knights got the redemption they had been working for all season long with a 67-62 victory over Middle Early College, to bring home the overall Section 6 Class C boys' basketball title.
The Black Knights fell to the Kats in the same game in 2012, 58-57.
"A lot had to happen for us to get back here against them on both sides," Genco said at the time. "Their bracket, our bracket ... For it to come back to it, for us to lose the way we did last year and to come back and get (the win), it makes it extra special. I have noting but respect for their coach and their players."
Williams led the Black Knights with a team-high 25 points while adding seven rebounds and five assists.
"(Coach Genco) has been preaching to me since day one (that) hard work beats talent any day," Williams said. "And that's what we have. We have hard work and heart."
Brooks celebrated his 16th birthday in a big way that day with 20 points and 21 rebounds. He also had eight blocked shots. Kettle finished with 12 points, five rebounds and five assists.
In the Far West Regionals, Williams scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the second half as he helped Silver Creek to a 53-47 win over Section V's Mynderse.
An 18-2 run in the second half propelled the Knights to victory. Williams added nine rebounds and four steals to go with his 16 points. Brooks finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Marcey chipped in five rebounds to go with his 12 points and Kettle hauled down 10 rebounds.
The win sent the Black Knights to Glens Falls as the No. 2 ranked Class C team in the state. Their opponents in the state semifinals were the No. 1 team in the state - the Pine Plains Bombers.
In a heart-stopping game which lived up to all the hype, a few missed opportunities late in the fourth quarter gave Pine Plains a 52-49 victory.
Trailing 49-46 with 1:48 left, the Bombers made the plays they needed to, and got the calls they needed, to pull out the victory and leave the Silver Creek faithful, who drove more than five hours, wishing the final 24 seconds of the game never happened.
With a 49-48 lead, Silver Creek called a timeout and had the ball in its own end. Pine Plains' Zach Lydon stole the inbounds pass from Williams and forwarded a pass to Justin Cooper, who was fouled on the play with 20 seconds remaining. Cooper drained both free throws for a 50-49 lead.
With 10 seconds left, Kettle missed a 3-pointer and Brooks grabbed the offensive rebound. As he went up with it, the Bombers' Tyler Lydon got his hand on the ball and a jump ball was called in favor of Pine Plains.
On the ensuing possession, Pine Plains' Adam Miller was fouled to stop the clock and hit both free throws to extend the lead, 52-49.
And with two seconds left, Marcey was fouled and sent to the line. After missing his first shot, he purposely missed the second shot in hopes of his team getting an offensive rebound. In fact, Marcey got his own rebound, sprinted to behind the arc and launched a desperation 3-pointer which fell short as time expired to end Silver Creek's memorable season.
But the telling tale was the fact the Black Knights did not make a field goal in the final 3:48.
Marcey led Silver Creek with 18 points while Kettle had 14 - all of which came in the second half.
"We could just not get that one basket," Genco said. "We needed one basket to put it away. We had a drought and could not hit a basket. We just couldn't drive it home.
"Kaine hit some 3s and Marcey was phenomenal," Genco added. "Brennan White was guarding a 6-foot-8 guy and he did a very good job. All five guys, I couldn't be more proud of them. This season could only last one more day. We went on this journey as long as we could. I am happy for them and proud of them. I'm happy for the community. I just wish we could have taken it to another game."
4) Dakota Gardner takes second at state finals
After falling in the finals of the state qualifier, Dakota Gardner was given a ticket into the New York State Public High School Athletic Association championships with a wild card. That loss was Gardner's first of the year.
It was a return trip to the state tournament and Gardner went as far as he could.
Gardner used a 10-1 major decision to defeat Cortland's Zach Alexander (Section 3) in the first round and in the quarterfinals, Gardner was victorious with a 4-3 decision over Ryan Snow of Section 3's General Brown. Gardner had a 3-0 lead in the first period and held off a late rally by Snow to earn the victory and a spot in the semifinals against No. 7 Jake Nicholson, who knocked off No. 2 seed Laken Cook.
"Dakota wrestled a very, very good match," Fredonia coach Alex Conti said after the first day. "He had two tough kids today. We beat the third seed. I was pleased with him. If he wrestles tough, good things will happen."
In the semifinals, after giving up two early points to Jake Nicholson of Section 5 Waterloo, the score stayed 2-0 until the final minute of the third period when Gardner earned a takedown to send the match into overtime.
There, Gardner got a takedown and two back points for the 6-2 victory and a ticket into the championship match.
"It was a gutsy performance," Conti said. "It was a great display. To be down 2-0 in the third period and be on top, he did a great job controlling that match. I was very proud. That overtime takedown was remarkable."
But in the championship match, Gardner fell to William Koll of Lansing, 6-2.
After a scoreless first period, Gardner chose bottom to start the second. He quickly escaped, but Koll earned two takedowns in the second period to gain a 4-2 edge heading into the final period.
With three minutes left, Gardner was taken down one last time and could not recover for the 6-2 defeat.
Koll is now a two-time state champion and placed third in 2012. He is also the son of Cornell University wrestling coach, Rob Koll.
"I thought Dakota wrestled fantastic," Conti added. "He had a great match."
"I am happy, but not satisfied," Gardner said afterwards. "I want to be a four-time state champion. I thought I was capable of doing it, but in the end, you learn more from a loss. Two weeks ago I lost and I worked harder in practice. Now this summer I will work more and more so I can win states the next three years. It would have been nice to win it, but we have the next three years. I am going to train a lot more and I don't see anyone stopping me next year."
As for Gardner's determined demeanor to get back and win next year, Conti said that's what makes him a champion.
"A true champion is going to be upset when you lose, but realize the bigger picture," he said. "I believe he sees the bigger picture. I think he is prepared. I was pleased with the match. I was very proud of Dakota's entire tournament."
And that determined demeanor will hopefully help Gardner make the Top 10 list in 2014 with a state championship to his name.
5) Pine Valley softball makes magical run
to state semifinals
In one of the most magical - if not improbable - playoff runs in recent memory, the Pine Valley softball team came out of nowhere to advance all the way to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D semifinals.
The upsets started early as the Lady Panthers advanced to the Section 6 Class D championship game against two-time defending Sectional champions Forestville.
A major upset, an improbable comeback and most definitely an instant classic were just a few ways to describe how the Lady Panthers won 4-3 in extra innings.
The Lady Panthers scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh in dramatic fashion to knot the game 3-all and send it into extra innings.
After a lightning delay, the Lady Panthers once again scored in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth to clinch the team's first Class D Section 6 title since 2005.
"It's been like this all year long," Pine Valley coach Danielle Arnone said. "We struggle in the beginning and things just kind of come together for us."
Pine Valley got an outstanding pitching performance of their own from freshman Jessica Wilcox.
Wilcox struck out nine as she pitched in the biggest game of her young career.
"Jess played at the jayvee level most of the season," Arnone said. "We brought her up with three league games left in the season. We've been saying that she is our secret weapon and she pitched outstanding. She showed strength and talent well above her experience level."
In the Far West Regionals, Wilcox shined once again as she drove in the game-winning run with a double and was masterful in the circle for a 2-1 victory over Andover.
"It's been crazy," Arnone said. "I feel like out of body right now."
While Wilcox provided the offense, she also provided the Lady Panthers with a pitching performance seen from a crafty upperclassman - not the freshman she is - as she fanned 11 and allowed just four hits and three walks.
"She is our secret weapon," Arnone said with a laugh. "She has been outstanding; honestly outstanding. She has improved immensely in the few games she has been with us. She is bringing more life to this team, which is what we needed. She made big plays. She is so young. We are putting a lot of pressure on a freshman, so we were hoping the bats would come along better, but it worked out."
Pine Valley got the equalizer run in the third inning when Kayla Mansfield reached on an error, stole second, moved to third on a fielder's choice by Alex Bentham and scored on a wild pitch.
In the sixth inning, with Nichole Rinehart on first, Wilcox hit a ground ball between the shortstop and third baseman. With the left fielder playing up, the ball rolled into the outfield. But as the ball left the infield and entered the grass, it took a huge bounce and went over the left fielder's head and rolled all the way to the fence, allowing Rinehart to race home for the winning run and send Pine Valley to the state semifinals.
There, the Cinderella season came to a close as Fort Ann was victorious, 5-2.
The Lady Panthers committed three errors in the loss - accounting for two of the five runs - but their real difficulties came at the plate against Fort Ann starter Molly Bailey, and the defense behind her.
"Their defense really (hurt us)," Pine Valley assistant coach Mark Mansfield said. "Their shortstop, their second baseman and their whole infield is just, it just didn't make a mistake. We hit the ball hard, and they made the plays perfectly. (Fort Ann) didn't help us at all."
Despite the disappointing outcome, however, it was an outstanding season for a squad that, by most accounts given its 4-8 league mark heading into the sectional playoffs, wasn't supposed to get this far.
6) Pine Valley reaches state semifinals
Of course the boys couldn't let the girls have all the fun, as for the second straight year, the Pine Valley Panthers baseball team made it to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class D semifinals.
The Panthers began their run with their fourth straight Section 6 title with a 6-2 victory over Brocton.
Leading the way for the Panthers was Tyler Swanson, who tossed a complete game as he fanned 10 Brocton batters while allowing just five hits.
The Panthers' recent run of success wasn't overlooked as Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek recognized the significance of the Sectional title.
"This is our fourth Section title in a row and sixth in the last seven years," Buczek said afterwards. "A lot of people look at a State championship as the measuring stick for success, but it takes so much to win a Section title. After losing two first-team All-State pitchers last season, I could not be more proud of what this team has accomplished."
In the Far West game, Swanson once again hurled the Panthers to victory. He tossed a complete game while delivering the eventual game-winning hit in the top of the sixth inning, as the Panthers beat Section 5's Lyndonville, 3-2, in the NYSPHSAA Far West Regional at Dwyer Stadium, in Batavia.
"I think Tyler wanted that role," Buczek said. "He's cherished it like, 'It's my time,' and 'I want to step in and take care of it and I want to do work.'"
Swanson allowed two first-inning runs on two hits and three walks before shutting down the Tigers the rest of the way on four hits. He finished allowing five hits and five walks while striking out seven.
Down 2-0 in the top of the fifth inning, Talon Snyder delivered two-out RBI single to get the Panthers on the board, but ended the rally after being cut down at third trying to advance on a wild pitch.
Spencer Sticek reached on an error to begin the sixth, before stealing second and moving to third on a fielder's choice off the bat of Winfred Nelson. Lucas Trombley followed with an RBI groundout to score Sticek with the tying run, before Thomas Raiport and Josh Kilburn singled to put two runners on. Swanson then delivered his biggest hit of the season as he lined a clean single to center field to chase home Raiport with the eventual game-winning run and a trip to Binghamton.
There, for the second year in a row, Pine Valley ran into a dominant pitcher in the NYSPHSAA Class D semifinals.
And like 2012, the Pine Valley Panthers came up two wins short of a state title with a 4-0 loss to Fort Ann.
Fort Ann pitcher George Lehoisky allowed just one hit, struck out 11 and walked two Pine Valley batters.
"If we could have got one hit early and someone on base to change the momentum a bit, I think it would have been huge," Pine Valley coach Chris Buczek lamented afterwards. "That's what didn't happen today. All playoffs long, we had that one hit that changed the momentum. We just couldn't flip it today."
Of Fort Ann's four runs, three were unearned as the Panthers committed three errors.
7) Local runners compete in NYSPHSAA cross country championships in Queensbury
Friday, Nov. 8 was one long day for a select group of high school cross country runners.
After leaving Chautauqua County at 8 a.m., area runners took an eight-hour bus trip to Queensbury High School for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association cross country finals, which were held Saturday, Nov. 9.
Once in Queensbury, the runners took to the course to familiarize themselves with it before the championship races.
Northern Chautauqua County was represented by Dunkirk's Ethan Francis, Fredonia's Gwen Stokes and Michaela Tramuta, Silver Creek's Hannah and Emma Seiders and Gowanda's Matt Kruszka.
"We have to get there early enough to run the course to get a fair idea of what it looks like," Dunkirk head coach Kurt Warmbrodt said at the time. "(Friday) was a long day. It gives kids a day before the race to familiarize themselves. I think it's very important they get a feel for what they are up against."
Francis was the first Dunkirk cross country runner to qualify for states since 2010 when Alex Gonzalez competed. Francis qualified for the meet with a sixth-place finish in a time of 17:29.9 last week at the state qualifier.
"Ethan's ready," Warmbrodt declared at the time. "He is pretty good in bad conditions. He ran well last week when it was wetter."
For Tramuta, the trip to the state meet marked the fifth time she would compete at the biggest race of the season.
"Michaela has been a team leader for quite a few years and she is someone who can be counted on to give her all every day in practice and every meet," Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle said. "We know that she is going to run very consistent and when she is having a bad day, her bad day isn't going to show up in her time because she just works through and pushes herself to the limit."
Silver Creek's representatives, sophomore Hannah Seiders and her sister Emma, a freshman, were no strangers to the state meet either, as Hannah made her third trip to the meet and Emma her second.
"Emma has taken her leadership role and has really increased it," Black Knights' head coach Mike Janisch said. "She is really running some great races at this point in time. She's gotten better as the season has gone on.
"Hannah has been (to states) three times so far and she has a lot of experience running big courses," Janisch continued. "So we're hoping she too can have an excellent finish."
Kruszka, a freshman, was making his first trip to the state meet.
"I'm really happy that his efforts have paid off," Gowanda coach Tim O'Donnell said. "He has done a couple half marathons in practice and speed work. He has been working really, really hard. He deserves whatever comes to him. Even if he doesn't do terrific, just getting there was his goal, so he is satisfied."
Emma Seiders turned in the best performance of any of the local competitors as she finished 22nd in the girls Class D race in a time of 19:53.3 while Hannah finished 48th in a time of 20:55.5. Tramuta, competing in the final race of her high school career, finished 56th in the girls Class C race in a time of 20:13.2 while Stokes was 104th in a time of 21:34.1. Francis was 63rd in the boys Class C race in a time of 17:39.9 and Kruszka was 43rd in a time of 17:06.6, the best time of any of the local runners.
8) Black Knights make it back to lacrosse Far West Regional
For the fourth-straight year, the Silver Creek Black Knights boys lacrosse team matched up with Section V's Penn Yan for the right to advance to the NYSPHSAA semifinals. And for the third time in four years, the Black Knights fell to the Mustangs, 11-7.
"I will remember every journey and every year," Silver Creek standout Zeddie Williams said after the game. "Every year I was proud to be part of Silver Creek. I guess it's time for a new beginning."
However, things looked good for Silver Creek early on.
The Black Knights built an early 3-1 lead in the first quarter on goals by Frank Wolf, Zeddie Williams and Brennan White, before the Mustangs' Andrew Perl and Williams traded goals to leave the score, 4-2, heading into the second quarter.
Williams' third goal of the half helped the Black Knights build a 5-2 lead, but the Mustangs were able to cut the lead to 5-4 before halftime.
With a short bench, the heat took its toll on the Black Knights in the second half as they scored just two goals in the third quarter and were shut out the rest of the way.
"It kind of got away from us," Williams said. "Their goalie is good and we settled for outside shots. We are too good for that. We should have kept doing what we were doing in the first quarter."
Black Knights' head coach Bill Brennan agreed.
"We got tired and it set in and it showed at the end. All we had was one guy coming off the bench. We made a lot of shots from outside. We took some poor percentage shots from the outside. He made a lot of good saves. I think they forced us to take some bad shots and we took some bad shots. We tried to do too much as an individual and not enough as a team."
The Mustangs tied the score at the 8:47 mark of the third quarter on a goal by Ryan Maciejewski and took the lead for good on a goal by Sean Emerson less than two minutes later.
"I think we started out and were sold on the zone," Brennan said of the first half. "They were going to beat us on the outside. It was an aggressive zone. We know how they attack. We decided to pack it in, and it worked well. We just ran out of gas."
The conclusion of the game also brought the conclusion of one of the most outstanding high school careers by any athlete in Section 6, if not the entire state of New York, as Williams played his last game as a member of the Black Knights.
"I just loved having him," Brennan said of Williams, who has since gone on to the University of Virginia where he will play lacrosse for the Cavaliers on a full scholarship. "I was blessed to have him for five years. He will have a great career. I told him I was very proud of him. It was an honor to coach him and I love him.
"The season was great," Brennan concluded. "A lot of teams didn't expect us to beat Akron. Now we came here and played Penn Yan, so mission accomplished. I'm just proud of the boys for giving me 100 percent all season."
9) Osula makes state meet as freshman
Fredonia freshman swimmer Deidra Osula qualified for the NYSPHSAA state swim meet as early as she could this season - her team's second meet - in the 100-yard butterfly in Dunkirk-Fredonia-Silver Creek's 107-73 win over Panama on Sept. 17, months before the state meet was to be held in Ithaca.
"She met the goals that we mutually set for her (as a swimmer) and me as a coach," DFSC's head coach Joanne Lotter said. "She met them and exceeded them. She's only 13, so she's got a lot of years to really go somewhere."
Osula touched the wall in :59.33, a time that was good enough to set the Fredonia High School record previously held by Michelle Heary, who swam a 1:00.6 in 1984.
Nearly a month later, Osula qualified for the state meet in the 50 freestyle. On Oct. 10, after winning the event in :24.51 while swimming against Panama again, Osula secured her spot in Ithaca in yet another event.
Her time in the 50 freestyle was .33 faster than the :24.84 qualifying standard set by the state while in the 100 butterfly, her time was .69 faster than the 1:00.2 needed to qualify for the biggest meet of the high school season.
"She wanted to break some school records for Fredonia, which she did," Lotter noted. "And she wanted to beat Michelle Heary's 50 freestyle record, but she's three 100ths (of a second) off."
At the state meet, Osula finished 13th in the 50 freestyle in a personal-best time of :24.48 seconds. And with three years left in her high school career, her future certainly seems bright.
"I guess time will tell," Lotter said. "Honestly, I think she has huge potential. Not only as a New York State champion, but maybe even further."
10) Sabres fire head coach Lindy Ruff after 15 years
On Feb. 20, after a 6-10-1 start to the Buffalo Sabres' strike-shortened season, owner Terry Pegula gave general manager Darcy Regier the OK to fire long-time head coach Lindy Ruff after 15 years on the Sabres bench and replace him with Rochester Americans' head coach Ron Rolston.
"The hockey world knows how I and the entire Buffalo Sabres organization feel about Lindy Ruff," Pegula said after the firing. "Not only as a coach, but also as a person. His qualities have made this decision very difficult. I personally want to Lindy to know that he can consider me a friend always."
Ruff finished his time with the Sabres as the franchise's all-time winningest coach with a 532-400-151, including a trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 1999 and consecutive trips to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007.
For Regier, the writing was on the wall for Ruff's firing after a 2-1 home loss to the Winnipeg Jets.
"I think the last game was quite honestly a tipping point," Regier said. "And it was evident to me that we were searching for answers to too many questions. I think we were making some strides, but in the end, for every two steps forward, it was one step back, and sometimes not that."
At the time of his firing, Ruff's tenure at the helm of the Sabres was second only to San Antonio Spurs' head coach Greg Popovich, who has been the team's head coach since 1996.
"Ah, God, I miss it already," Ruff said at a press conference held on Friday, Feb. 22. "Most people wouldn't, but I watched hockey the first night. It's hard. It's a tough feeling. It's been a strange feeling. But I've got to keep going. I love the game.
"It's a place I always will call home," Ruff added of Buffalo. "I don't feel like I have anything to be ashamed of or any regrets. I've had a lot of great memories."
In no way, Ruff said, did his players let him down during the rough start to the 2013 season.
"They gave me what I asked," Ruff said. "The leadership from Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek on down, I know how they feel. I feel their pain at the same time. It's hard right now. But I think better days are right around the corner."
Since his firing, those better days Ruff spoke of haven't come the Sabres' way as they continued to struggle the rest of the season and missed the playoffs. Then, another slow start to the 2013-14 season led the Sabres' management to fire both Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston. They were replaced by Sabres' great Pat LaFontaine and the head coach that Ruff himself replaced, Ted Nolan.
As for Ruff, he found another job, as he was hired during the summer to be the head coach of the Dallas Stars, the same team that beat his Sabres for the 1999 Stanley Cup.