Steelers Hazelton wins Squirt division championship

‘Tough as Steele’ concludes

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot All of the nominees for the Mark Steger Memorial Award pose with coaches and program members.

The Tough as Steele hockey tournament concluded on Sunday afternoon with the host team, Fredonia Steelers Hazelton team, topping their rival Jamestown Lakers in the Squirt Championship game, 2-1. The day was full of action, starting early in the morning with a semifinal between Fredonia Steelers Madurski and Fredonia Steelers Hazelton, that came down to late goal heroics that put Hazelton on top, 5-4. The Peewee Championship also took place as the Batavia Ramparts battled with the Lockport Monsters in another tight contest that ultimately saw Lockport take the title, 3-2 in overtime.

In between all the action Mites players stepped on the ice to take part in half-ice scrimmages. There was also the presentation of the Mark Steger Memorial Award, prior to the Peewee Championship. Gabriel Persch of the Steelers Varsity Hockey team was the recipient of this years award.

Here is a look at Sunday’s games:

Steelers Hazelton 5,

Steelers Madurski 4

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers coach Jim Rush (left), Steelers player Gabe Persch (center) and NCCYHA President Shaun Fadale (right) pose after Persch was given the Mark Steger Memorial Award.

(Squirt semi-final)

After losing to Madurski on Saturday morning and there being a trip to the finals on the line, there was a lot on the line in the game. Hazelton ultimately got their sweet revenge narrowly beating Madurski in the final minutes, 5-4.

Madurski came out ready to play, jumping all over Hazelton they controlled possession in much of the games early stages. Early on Hazelton saw their chances generated from one and done rushes into the zone that did not sustain pressure. Their best opportunity came early from David Girdlestone Jr. when he attempted to go coast to coast but was unable to beat the goaltender, resulting in an offensive zone draw. After the ensuing rush, Hazelton capitalized on winning the offensive zone faceoff, when Caleb Kimmerly released a shot from the point that bounced its way into the back of the net, the assist was credited to Emmett Williams. A few minutes later Girdlestone found himself on another rush and this time he made no mistake, beating the goalie on a tricky shot that bounced over the pad, giving Hazelton a 2-0 lead. Despite controlling much of the tempo throughout the opening period, Madurski found themselves behind the 8-ball, trailing, 2-0.

Desperately needing the game’s next goal, Madurski came out flying in the first period. The desperation paid off as within the second minute Amato Fadale found the back of the net on a second effort, cleaning up a rebound from Shane Ferguson’s shot, bringing the score within one, 2-1 Hazelton. Madurski didn’t stop there as they found an equalizing goal off the stick of Ferguson again, this time with a beautiful feed from the corner that found Fadale backdoor.

Hazelton needed a response to the second period revival by Madurski, and they got just that as Girdlestone found his second goal of the game, restoring a 3-2 lead.

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Pictured is the Fredonia Steelers Hazelton Squirt hockey team celebrating after winning the Squirt division championship of the 34th annual Tough as Steele youth hockey tournament at Steele Hall at SUNY Fredonia.

Once again, Madurski found themselves trailing headed into the third period, 3-2. Just like in the second period, they rose to the occasion in the third, getting an early tally from Brady Himelein that evened the score, 3-3. Soon after tying, Madurski was given the man-advantage when a Hazelton player was called for a delayed tripping penalty, before Hazelton could gather possession and begin the penalty kill — Himelein had gone end to end, this time scoring the go ahead goal, 4-3.

Trailing for the first time in the game, Hazelton needed a big response. Five minutes after going down a goal, David Girdlestone stepped up when needed most and was able to score his hat-trick goal that tied the game, 4-4, with two minutes to go. Completely energized by the Girdlestone hatty, Hazelton won the center ice faceoff and sent a tricky shot from beyond the blue that took a crazy bounce, beating the Madurski goalie. Emmett Williams was credited with the eventual game winning goal, his second point of the morning.

Madurski attempted to rally in the final two minutes, but the desperation defense by Hazelton was too much to overcome, resulting in a 5-4 final. The win punched Hazelton’s ticket to the Squirt Championship game against the Jamestown Lakers.

Lockport Monsters 3, Batavia Ramparts 2 OT (Peewee Championship)

The Monsters came out eager to get the win as they controlled possession in the early going. Batavia survived the first period on the back of their goaltender Francesco Falleti, who was called to action on eight occasions in the period — turning them all away with authority to keep it scoreless.

The second period the Ramparts offense began to put more together. It would be Batavia to find the back of the net first, as Jameson Motyka sent a nifty backhander upstairs on the powerplay.

Batavia fed off the early goal — it was all them, flipping the script from the first period. Batavia managed to score another goal before the end of the second, getting a nice goal off a 2 on 1 opportunity. Tyler McClurg was the goal scorer with the assists going to Charles Cummings and Neve Tilley.

Realizing they needed a goal the Monsters picked up the pace, giving Falleti everything they had. After two periods of play, it was 2-0, in favor of Batavia.

Falleti did all he could, stopping the first 21 shots he saw in the game, but halfway through the third period Lockport found life — Lockport’s Lucius Wagner scooped a loose puck home, cutting the deficit in half. After the Monsters first goal they started to pick up steam getting two breakaways before they were able to eventually find the tying goal in the last two minutes of the game. On the tying goal Wagner sent a great pass from Gretzky’s office behind the net to Conner Ernest in the slot, Ernest made no mistake as he sent the puck past Falleti to tie the game, 2-2.

Both teams hunkered down defensively after the tying goal — not wanting to give up anything soft or easy.

Despite three periods of play, the Peewee Championship needed an overtime period.

Having never fully recovered from the momentum swing of the Monsters comeback, Batavia was on their heels. It was all Lockport in the overtime period as they dominated possession and the scoring opportunities. Jackson Hauser capped off the comeback by scoring a nice effort goal in front of the net, giving the Monsters a 3-2 overtime victory and with it the Peewee Championship.

Patrick Ohle was named Peewee MVP.

Steelers Hazelton 2, Jamestown Lakers 1 (Squirt Championship)

The Squirt Championship started off slow with neither team wanting to make the first mistake, taking a cautious approach to the game. In the opening frame both penalty kill units were put to the test and both came out unscathed, allowing the period to remain scoreless.

In the second period both sides began to take more chances offensively with the puck, making plays toward net. However, despite the offensive tempo being picked up, both teams played stellar defensively. Both teams did whatever they could to help their goaltenders — shots were blocked, shots were deflected to safe areas and lanes were cleared to allow each goalie to get vision on the puck.

Penalty killing units were once again put to the test in the second period, this time yielding a different result. While on the penalty kill, Ryan Wegryznowski managed to enter the Lakers zone with the puck and rip off a screened shot from the top of the circles, the screen tricked the Lakers goaltender — beating him blocker side and giving the Steelers a 1-0 lead. Mason Miller was credited with the assist.

After breaking the tie, the score remained the same throughout the end of the second period, Steelers leading, 1-0.

With both teams in desperation mode, the offensive opportunities multiplied in the third period. It was either going to come down to the Steelers getting the all important insurance goal or Jamestown tying the game and taking the momentum.

The heroics continued for David Gridlestone Jr., after scoring a hat-trick in the morning semi-final, Gridlestone rose to the occasion in the Championship and scored the insurance goal.

Despite a significant pushback by the Lakers that included a goal from Blake Milks, the Steelers Hazelton team won the Squirt Championship, 2-1.

David Gridlestone Jr. was named the MVP of the Squirts division.

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