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Live from the Federation hockey Division I semifinals: Will North, Niagara-Wheatfield win

It's the Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large School playoff semifinals.

So long as the wireless keeps working, we will provide updates of the showdowns between Williamsville North and Clarence and later on Niagara-Wheatfield versus Lancaster.

Both games are rematches of last year's semifinals. North beat Clarence in double overtime last year, while Niagara-Wheatfield stunned Lancaster en route to the title.

Williamsville North vs. Clarence

First Period

Williamsville North leads 1-0 through 15 minutes.

North had the better of the play but didn't cash in until the 11:10 mark of the period when Matt Bauman slipped a loose puck in the crease into the net during a goal-mouth scramble. Chris Marsack and Ian Moskal earned the assists on the goal.

The Spartans outshot Clarence, 12-4, and didn't allow the Red Devils a quality chance until the final seconds of the period. Off a faceoff to the right of North goalie Parker Gahagen with 26.5 seconds left after an icing call, Mark Armstrong fired a low, hard shot through traffic that almost slipped between the arm and body of Gahagen.

Second period

North carries a 2-1 lead into the locker room. The Spartans have carried the play against the spunky Red Devils but have failed to cash in on transition chances as well as quality scoring opportunities from the slot when they've been buzzing around the Clarence zone. Shots off those chances have either sailed wide or over the net.

At the 7:13 mark, North cashed in on a 5-on-3 power play to make it 2-0 with Jeff McAndrews firing in the rebound of a point shot by Darrin Trebes.

But 58 seconds later, Reid Zaccagnino snuck behind Spartans defense and Tim Godin found him with a long pass near the North blue line. Zaccagnino's shot from the left circle had just enough mustard to dribble through Gahagen and over the goal line.

North outshot Clarence, 15-6, in the period and holds a 27-10 edge. Red Devils Devin Paluh has made some nice saves but the Spartans inability to cash in on their chances leaves the door open for Clarence to steal a win with one good period.

The Red Devils almost caught North's defense napping late in the period when another long pass to Zaccagnino at the Spartans blue line was just a little too hard for him to corral and slipped close enough to the circle where a charging Gahagen pounced on it for a faceoff.

Third period

Both teams have had chances although North more of them with six minutes left. Clarence goalie Paluh stopped North's Jake Rosen on a nearly three-quarters ice breakaway after Jeff McAndrews blocked a Clarence shot with 6:59 left.

It's a 2-1 triumph for Williamsville North. North goalie Parker Gahagen wasn't busy too often but he made the saves of the game with 1:07 left - the first stop on a nifty redirected point shot by Nick Gay and then somehow keeping a rebound stuff shot attempt by Sean McCarriagher out.

Shots for the game favored North, 34-16.

Time to do the post-game show. We'll be back in a few.

Niagara-Wheatfield vs. Lancaster

Tied at 1-1 after one period. N-W had shot advantage 10-7 but Falcons goalie Vinny Merante came up with two huge stops in the final 35 seconds to keep it tied. First he stopped Lancaster's Adam Oetinger's point-blank shot and then stoned Sean Brown's breakaway chance just before the horn sounded to end the period.

Brown scored with 5:31 left to give Lancaster the lead, but N-W tied it 54 seconds later when Kieth Haseley fired in a loose puck during a goal-mouth scramble with the goalie down and out for Lancaster.

Sorry guys, some deadline issues needed to be addressed (I needed to write game story for first edition), but Niagara-Wheatfield beat Lancaster, 4-2. Vinny Merante made 27 saves in the win for the Falcons, who have won 10 of their last 11 games and are seemingly getting hot at the right time of the season.

This is second-year Fed member Niagara-Wheatfield's second title game appearance as the Falcons have 14 players returning from last year's state semifinalist squad.

Mike Hardy's goal early in the third period broke a 2-2 tie and Jordan Matos iced the win with an empty-netter with seven seconds left.

North is ranked fifth in the state in the latest New York State Sportswriters poll, while Niagara-Wheatfield is sixth.

It should make for an interesting championship game Sunday night at HSBC Arena.

---Miguel Rodriguez


Clarence | Hockey | Lancaster | Niagara-Wheatfield | Williamsville North
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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

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