AMHERST, N.Y. — Buffalo teams were feeling at home in nearby Amherst as five of them won New York state titles at the USA Hockey New York District Youth Tournament. One organization, the Buffalo Jr. Sabres, won three of the four Tier I titles. The other two non-Buffalo champions came from the North Country.
All seven are rewarded with a slot in their respective 2019 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth National Championships.
Tony Pierino, the coach of the Tier II 16U Cheektowaga Warriors, summed it up best for everyone, “It's the greatest feeling in the world. Life is the experience. Now they are going to have a great experience, and that's what I wanted for them because they will remember this for many years to come.”
Buffalo suburbs take two Tier II titles
Buffalo's eastern suburb of Cheektowaga took home the Tier II 16U title with their Warriors Youth Organization, defeating the Syracuse Blazers 6-1.
Cheektowaga beat Syracuse in the first game of pool play, 2-1. The Warriors then won 4-1 and 5-4 before defeating Valley Eagles 4-1 in the semifinal.
“Each game was a nail biter,” Pierino said. ”There were no gimmies in any of these games.”
Meanwhile, Syracuse recovered from that opening loss to work their way back to the final for a rematch.
The game once again started out close, as Cheektowaga only scored a goal in each of the first two periods by Maxwell Richter and Daniel Tocco. Then, the floodgates opened in the third period with goals coming in short bursts.
Ethan Miller scored early in the period to extend the lead to 3-0, but Lucas Hoskin responded just 1:19 later.
Christopher Heitzhaus got back Cheektowaga's three-goal lead while on the power play. Just over a minute later, it was back to two thanks to Stephen Matro on the power play. Twenty-eight seconds later, Michael Marsallo's shot from the left point suddenly cut the lead to one. That lasted 1:31 when Richter redirected a centering pass from Jaden Riley into an open net.
Heitzhaus completed the scoring on a power-play goal from the back door. Joshua Ruffner made 26 saves for the win.
“It's a tough third period because obviously those are the longest 17 minutes,” Pierino said. ”You are just trying to control the game. Unfortunately, the penalties broke our momentum going both ways. But we were able to come back and answer and get a few goals which helped us.”
Cheektowaga is heading to Plano, Texas, for nationals.
Further out from Buffalo, in an east-northeast direction, is the suburb of Clarence. They won the Tier II 18U title with their Mustangs Youth Hockey Organization. They also scored six goals against the Syracuse Blazers in the final while letting up just one.
All the scoring was done in the first two periods with two in the first (Kyle Schneider and William Redding) and four in the second (Hudson Curtin, Schneider on a penalty shot, Redding on the power play, and Nick Messuro).
It was 5-0 before Carter Wisely broke the shutout on the power play.
Alex Sabuda played in goal the first two periods with 20 saves while Trevor Galante mopped up the third period, stopping all nine shots.
“Hats off to the Syracuse Blazers. We saw them earlier in the year, and they beat us,” Clarence coach Chris Bradley said. ”It was a great game between the two teams. I'm so happy and proud of my team for what they accomplished.”
Clarence goes to San Jose, California, for nationals.
Canton tops New Hartford in Tier II 14U
Canton Hockey interrupted the Buffalo party by winning Tier II 14U. The North Country team beat New Hartford, a suburb of Utica, 3-1.
This came after Canton beat New Hartford during pool play, 4-1. Canton also won 7-4 and 5-4 before beating Webster 6-3 in the semifinal.
All the scoring was in the second period. New Hartford's Logan Lachacz broke the ice at 2:07. Just 48 seconds later, Canton tied it thanks to Ryley Ashley. Two goals within 43 seconds later in the period by Connor Terry and Ethan Moulton clinched the game. Drew Piercey got the win in goal.
“We dug deep this weekend,” Canton coach Erik McLaughlin said. “Our group of guys definitely found a way to persevere through some difficult times. That was our goal, to bring something home to the North Country.”
Canton travels to South Bend, Indiana for nationals.
Buffalo Jr. Sabres dominate in Tier I
The Buffalo Jr. Sabres organization continues to benefit and take advantage of a great relationship with its NHL big brother and the ability to use the HarborCenter ice, training, workout and coaching facilities. Its Tier I 14U, 15-Only, and 16U teams tore through the competition.
In 14U, Buffalo breezed through pool play with 4-1, 4-0, and 19-0 victories followed by a tight 5-4 semifinal win over Midstate Nationals. This set up an intra-city battle against the Buffalo Regals.
The Jr. Sabres came out on top, 6-1. The lone first period goal came from a difficult angle as it snuck in from Ryan Conmy.
They jumped out to a 3-0 lead early in the second when Quentin Musty put in a rebound which got behind the goalie and Beau Jelsma took a quick shot off the face off.
Carter Lukowski briefly stopped the bleeding on the power play by flipping it from behind the net off the goaltender's back. However, Ryan Novo answered with a power-play goal a minute later, deflecting a centering pass from Musty.
Nate Rivet (on the power play) and Jaden Helm wrapped up the scoring in the third period. Austin McNicholas made 22 saves.
The 14U team is making the relatively short trip to Pittsburgh for nationals.
The 15-Only team clobbered the competition in pool play, 14-1, 6-1 (against Rochester Youth), and 3-0. Then an 8-0 win over Midstate Nationals in the semis set up a rematch with Rochester.
The finals were even easier with an 8-0 shutout on all even-strength goals. Buffalo finished with 39 goals for and just two against.
In the final, Mason LaCivita got a hat trick and Ty Broad got a pair of goals. Jacob Kraft, Patrick Cole, and Jacob Napier also scored. Nicholas Anderson stopped all 20 shots.
They head to Plymouth, Michigan, for nationals.
The 16U team opened up with a massive 18-1 victory. This was followed with a win over the PAL Jr. Islanders, 6-1, and then a 6-3 win. They beat the host Amherst Knights 5-2 in the semifinal. This set up another rematch against the Jr. Islanders.
This time, the Jr. Sabres got the shutout, 6-0. After scoring just once in the first (from Austin Robinson), they exploded for four in the second, followed by a lone goal in the third. Dalton Wright got a hat trick with Anthony Agostinelli and Matteo Costantini also scoring.
Luke Pavicich made 15 saves.
This team is also heading to Michigan for nationals, but to Grand Rapids.
Northwood spoils Buffalo sweep bid in 18U
In 18U, not only did the Buffalo Jr. Sabres not make the finals, but no team from the Buffalo area got that far. The Jr. Sabres lost to Rochester Youth, 6-2, in the semifinal.
Rochester faced Northwood Prep from Lake Placid in the championship. Northwood easily took care of business in pool play by scores of 11-1, 10-0 and 10-1. They had it tougher in the semifinal, edging Clifton Park 4-3.
The closest Tier I final saw Northwood take a 3-1 win.
Finlay Ulrick completed a two-on-one after receiving a pass from Jerkko Ramo. This was all the result of a turnover in Rochester's zone. Sixteen seconds later on a quick rush, a rebound to the slot was one-timed by Nate Boak, giving Northwood a 2-0 first period lead. In the waning seconds of the first period, Ryan Wilson stopped a breakaway.
Daniel Calabufo scored early in the second on the power play for a 3-0 lead. Mason Beecher broke the shutout also on the power play with two seconds left in the middle stanza.
Despite Rochester pressure in the third, including a late breakaway, Northwood hung on for the win. Wilson finished with 26 saves.
Northwood also goes to Grand Rapids for nationals.
2019 USA Hockey New York District Youth Tournament Champions
14U: Buffalo Jr. Sabres
15-Only: Buffalo Jr. Sabres
16U: Buffalo Jr. Sabres
18U: Northwood Prep
14U: Canton Youth
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.