Weekly Feature



2015-12-09 / Sports

Grand Island bolsters strong Kenmore girls hockey lineup

by LEVI TRIMBLE Reporter


Kenmore’s Lina Mirabella fights off a Williamsville defender Friday at the Northtown Center of Amherst. Kenmore lost the game, 4-0, but currently sits at 1-1-1 on the season and 1-1 in Federation play. 
Photo by Patrick McPartlandPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Kenmore’s Lina Mirabella fights off a Williamsville defender Friday at the Northtown Center of Amherst. Kenmore lost the game, 4-0, but currently sits at 1-1-1 on the season and 1-1 in Federation play. Photo by Patrick McPartlandPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com After four years at the top of the league, Kenmore appears to be in a rebuilding year.

The Kenmore squad, which has won four straight Section VI championships and finished second in state play last season, lost four-year starting goalie Lauren Pray to graduation. Pray, a two-time MVP in the WNY Hockey Federation, was a valuable member of the team and possibly the best player in program history.

Despite the look of the team on paper, the Devil Dogs are ready to compete for that fifth straight title.

To help them out, the Kenmore squad got a little help from Niagara Frontier League members, Grand Island.

According to state rules, each team is allowed to combine players from up to three schools. Kenmore already combined Kenmore East and West high schools. Adding Grand Island, which has a rich hockey tradition, added much needed depth and a lot of youth for this team that is chalked full of seniors and juniors.

Six seniors will play this season for the Devil Dogs.

“Well, numbers is what it came down to. We have a very old team right now. The future is what we’re looking at. Next year we would have been defunct without them. I lost four seniors last year,” said Kenmore coach Jeff Orlowski. “We are losing another six this year. The state allows to combine with three schools so Grand Island was looking for a match up, but we needed to get it done. We needed to get some extra girls.”

Grace Simmons, a senior defenseman, leads the charge as the team’s captain. Simmons will provide valuable stand-up play along the blue line, has the ability to rush in on offense and keeps a calm, level head when it comes to pressure situations.

Simmons was named a captain for this season for her outstanding play and even stronger leadership.

Replacing the big shoes of Lauren Pray is Cara Klopp. Klopp, an outstanding field hockey goalie, made the transition to ice hockey at the request of her former field hockey coach Orlowski.

Since then, Klopp has been working on taking her talents from the field to the ice, training to replace what was the most sure thing on the ice for the Devil Dogs each season.

“Cara, I recruited from the field hockey team and I recruited her and knowing we had no Kenmore goalie in the system. Everything she has learned, she has learned from us. We are real proud of her and she is getting better and better as an ice hockey goalie,” said Orlowski. “Her first game this year she shut out Orchard Park. We won, 5-0, but her second game, we lost, 4-0, to Williamsville. It’s her first time in the starting role and she will look to get better every day.”

Luckily for the Devil Dogs, they did not graduate any forwards from last year’s team. The team returns the top three forwards, Taylor Story, Emily King and Olivia Smith. King and Story are both seniors. Smith, last year’s leading scorer, is a junior.

Those girls will be joined on the top two lines with Lina Mirabella, Hannah Gallivan and Tori Bidicello.

Up-and-coming center and Grand Island native Abby Blair will take the ice for the Devil Dogs. Blair is an eighth grader but has impressed the coaching staff enough to earn a spot on the third line for the Kenmore squad.

Blair will jump up into the top two lines when needed. She is a skilled offensive player, fast and unselfish. She will be one of the primary girls looked to to score on the powerplay.

Joining the team on defense is 5-foot-9 defender LeAnn Wright. Wright is a tall and strong defender that will be able to clear the net and get in front of shots.

She will be on the second pairing for the Kenmore defense.

If the Devil Dogs want to win that fifth straight title, they will have to find consistent play, get consistently good goaltending and have their top lines find the back of the net.

They will face tough competition again this year as the league looks even. Kenmore will have their hands full with Amherst/Sweet Home/Clarence’s McKenna Rushford and their stellar offense. The overall skill of the Williamsville team will also be a big factor for when the girls meet. Williamsville already won the first game the two teams played, 4-0.

In federation play, the Monsignor Martin Team will be the biggest threat as they return most of their lineup from their championship season and a very strong coaching staff led by Buffalo Beauts General Manager Linda Mroz.

“This league is always so close. We have been lucky enough to be on top of it. Every game, any team can take it,” said Orlowski. “The girls are so competitive.”

email: ltrimble@beenews.com

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