Kenmore East takes home Small School title
The Bulldogs claimed the Federation Small School championship on Super Sunday with a dominating, 9-2 victory over Williamsville East, the team that defeated them in the Small School final one year earlier. The victory sends Kenmore East to the state Class B pre-quarterfinals, where they will face Batavia’s Notre Dame High School on Saturday at Faletti Ice Arena in Batavia.
Kenmore East and Williamsville East were neck and neck with each other all season in the Small School Division II standings. Eventually, Kenmore East came out on top and earned the top ranking in Division II in all of New York State. Still, the Bulldogs needed to prove they were the top dog when they matched up against the Flames with the Federation title on the line once again.
“I know it was a heartbreaker last year,” Kenmore East head coach Kyle Pray said. “We had a team that we felt was good enough to go win states last year, and that was a tough loss. So, I think it was fitting. I think the best two teams were here again.”
The Bulldogs took control of the game right from the start. Anthony Amoia got the Kenmore East party started early, as he scored the opening goal four minutes into the game. Just 37 seconds later, sophomore Taylor Davis converted a two-on-one after receiving a pretty pass from linemate Andy Robinson to put the Bulldogs up 2-0.
The two quick goals ended the night for Williamsville East goaltender Tucker Weppner. The junior was pulled just 4:37 into the game and replaced by sophomore Adam Dentico. The goalie change briefly gave Williamsville East life as Cole Weppner, Tucker’s brother, scored to make the deficit 2-1 at the end of one period. Kenmore East blew the game open in the second period, though, as they scored four goals in the period.
“I think it was a good move by them to try to make a change at that time,” Pray said of the goalie change. “We came in at the end of the second period and just told our boys to use controlled intensity. You got to play hard, but you have to stay mentally focused. I think we did that in the second and third period.”
Davis added his second goal of the game to make the score 3-1, and Robinson found the back of the net two minutes later to make the score 4-1. Williamsville East’s Hunter Dee scored to cut the margin to 4-2, but the Bulldogs closed the period with goals by Andy Sturtz and Don Battista.
Sturtz and Battista both added goals in the third period, and junior forward Mike Diliberto closed out the scoring with a goal of his own.
Davis took home game MVP honors with his two goals and an assist. It was a big moment for the sophomore, who was moved from defense to forward earlier this season and joined a line with Robinson and Amoia. That line has been of the team’s best in the second half of the season and combined to score four of Kenmore East’s nine goals on Sunday.
“It’s very exciting,” Davis said of winning the MVP award. “It’s always great to be an individual, but I’d like to thank my teammates for helping me out. It feels great after losing last year. It took a team effort out there. I give a lot of credit to my linemates.”
Sturtz gave the team a big boost as he returned to the lineup for the first time since early in the season. Sturtz left the team to play junior hockey with the Buffalo Blades and later the St. Catharines Falcons. He also battled an arm injury and illness during his time early in the season with the Bulldogs. His return added another explosive element to the Kenmore East lineup.
“We’re already a very talented group, but you throw him into the mix as well along with the five or six guys we had at the top of the scoring ranks all year, it makes us a tough opponent to stop up front,” Pray said. “We knew that if we took care of our own end, which we did pretty much, we felt confident that we were going to get the goals up front.”
The results of adding Sturtz to the lineup showed up on the scoreboard, as Kenmore East lit the lamp nine times. It was a vastly different outcome compared to last year’s final against Williamsville East, when the Bulldogs struggled to get the puck past Weppner. Pray was a little bit surprised his team was able to pile up so many goals on Sunday, but he knows his team always has the potential to be that explosive.
“Iknewourboyswerereallyready this year. I knew we had the explosive offense,” Pray said. “What we did this year compared to last year a little bit more is take the puck to the net or run traffic in front of the net. I think that helped us explode for the nine goals we had, plus we were really good on the power play.”
Davis said driving to the net is something the coaches have stressed in practice.
“Everyone does it well,” Davis said. “We all drive the net hard. We have a lot of strong kids on this team.”
Williamsville East head coach Mike Torrillo was impressed by what he saw from the Bulldogs and expects them to keep playing for a while in the state playoffs.
“They have five or six forwards that are ranked in the top of the league,” Torrillo said. “I don’t think it was our best game of the year, but they’re good. We played hard all season and have nothing to be ashamed of. We lost to a better team. I’ll be surprised if they get beat.”