It was only fitting the Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers were led by their seniors Sunday evening on Senior Night in a 9-1 blowout of Wilson-Newfane in Western New York High School Club Hockey action at Steele Hall
Of the nine goals, seven were scored by the upperclassmen while they also accounted for six assists - one of which came from senior goaltender Jared Hebner.
The offense was led by senior captain Matt Sheridan, who finished with a hat trick and two assists. Senior defensemen Connor Graves netted two goals while seniors Matt Szalkowski and Adam Dziduch also netted a goal each. Underclassmen Nick Formanowicz and Mike Johnson also scored a goal each for the winners.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Dunkirk-Fredonia’s Kyle Leysath follows through on a shot during his team’s Western New York High School Club Hockey League game against Wilson-Newfane, on Sunday, at Steele Hall. The Steelers won, 9-1.
"The kids did everything we asked them to," Dunkirk-Fredonia coach Jay Bishop said. "They stuck to the gameplan. Everyone contributed on the team. It was a nice night for the seniors. like I told the juniors, in a blink of an eye, it's going to be their turn next year. It was a team effort (Sunday). I can't say enough of how the team played."
The Steelers peppered the Wilson-Newfane goalie with 18 shots in the first period. Szalkowski got the home team on the board first just 3:06 into the game off a feed from Sheridan. Graves made the score 2-0 as his slap shot from the point found the top corner of the net.
However, the North Stars cut the deficit in half at the 10:02 mark. After being outshot 8-0 in the opening seven minutes, the visitors got their first shot on goal, which happened to find the back of the net, to make the score 2-1.
"I feel sorry for Jared," Bishop said. "He is a tremendous goalie. That's just an inactivity goal right there. With the score 2-1, I am saying it's a whole different ball game."
Dunkirk-Fredonia responded as Mike Johnson gave the Steelers another two-goal advantage after Formanowicz's shot from the blue line bounced off the post and Johnson got the rebound and the goal.
With less than a minute remaining, Hebner guided a shot wide of the net, where Sheridan picked it up. The captain then took the puck coast to coast and backhanded the puck into the net for the 4-1 lead and giving the goaltender an assist.
"I was encouraged. We played most of the first period in their end," Bishop said. "We didn't want to get in a shootout with these guys. We wanted to get a commanding lead and maintain it."
The Steelers did not let up on the gas in the second period as Sheridan scored two consecutive goals for the hat trick.
Dziduch, Formanowicz and Graves each scored a goal before the second period finished for the 9-1 lead.
The Steelers outshot the North Stars, 32-6, and a key reason for the visitors not getting many shots on net was the fact the Dunkirk-Fredonia defense packed in the middle of the zone, not allowing many shots to make it to Hebner.
"The best defense is a good defense," Bishop said. "The strength of our team is our team defense. I don't want to get in a shootout with any team.
"I think all cylinders are running," Bishop continued. "I think we are a very close team. At the beginning of the year, we set individual goals and team goals. Our goal is to get to Super Sunday. They haven't lost that."
Without looking past their last regular season game of the season, the Steelers also realize they will most likely by playing South Park in the first round of the playoffs on Feb. 9, at Riverside. And with 11 seniors on the team, the team's goal of playing for a trip to Super Sunday is still fresh in their minds.
"Their motivation is they never want to play their last high school hockey game," Bishop said of his seniors. "They keep bringing it every game, so they can prolong the season as long as possible. A lot of these guys were very successful at the jayvee level (where they made it to Super Saturday). It's easy to coach when the lines were already familiar with each other. That's a big advantage. These seniors are really a great group of kids with a lot of class. Senior Night is an emotional time for me. We are a close-knit family. I am always encouraged when I get to see these guys 5-10 years down the road and to see where their life has taken them."