Greetings hockey fans.
The last of the club league championship games just wrapped up at 4 p.m. and was followed by the traditional awards presentations, which means the three Fed championship games will likely begin later than originally scheduled (4, 6 and 8 p.m.).
Can't tell you who won the first three club finals (but if I see Larry Ott, who's covering the first four of games I'll pass them on), however Hutch-Tech won the Explorer League title with a 5-1 triumph over Akron. Hutch-Tech is coached by my old youth hockey coach Dale Marrs.
St. Joe's enters Fed Catholic final as top seed and went 10-1-2 in league games during the regular season with the lone loss coming to Williamsville North. The Marauders are trying to win their first Fed title since 2008 - the last time the league's Catholic and Public Schools played each other in the playoffs before the Fed changed things up so that its league teams that win playoff titles advanced to states instead of the in-season state playoff qualification system it had used in the past.
St. Joe's is vying for its eighth Fed playoff title.
St. Francis returns to the title game after falling to Canisius last year, 4-0. St. Francis hasn't won a Fed title since 1999, but there's a huge asterisk that goes with that because that was before Frannies started fielding a prep-level team, which is considered the school's top team. The Fed team is considered the prep team's quasi farm team.
Still, Frannies went 10-3-1 in the league - losing to Bishop Timon, Small School finalist Williamsville East and last year's Small School champion Amherst. However, St. Joe's did beat Frannies, 4-1, during the season in a game used to determine seeding for the Catholic playoffs.
Frannies has won four Fed playoff titles.
It's is now 4:22 p.m., the teams have just finished warmups, we'll return in about 10-15 minutes for puck drop once they resurface the ice.
4:45 p.m.: The puck has been dropped.
10:41 left: St. Francis holding its own. It has had the better of the play in the early going and had a glorious opportunity to take a 1-0 lead 14 seconds ago when a St. Joe's defenseman fell while chasing a loose puck in neutral zone but goalie Marc Mallare stoned Frannies' Richard Larkin on the breakaway with a nice sprawling blocker/stick save. That came seconds after Frannies goalie Robert Bloomfield stopped James Deakin on a 2-on-1, St. Joe's only good chance thus far.
4:43: Mallare has been quite sharp, turning aside several quality chances by Red Raiders. Made nice stop on tricky screen shot during Frannies power play on a Christian Matthews blast earlier. Also made two fine stops on Richard Larkin in the slot to keep it scoreless.
3:40: Bloomfield hasn't been as busy as his St. Joe's counterpart but when he's been tested, the shots have been some glorious chances. He saved Frannies bacon with a stop on Zachary Klapp off a turnover in the Red Raiders zone and then appeared to either get a piece of a rebound chance or forced Dimitrios Gogos to fire wide.
End of 1st: Tied 0-0. St. Francis has done fine job using its speed and tenacity to hem St. Joe's in its zone. When Marauders have had chances, they've come off Frannies turnovers.
TIme Warner Cable broadcast on jumbotron in arena reports the shots were 8-6 St. Joe's in that period even though St. Francis had more of the territorial edge.
5:16 p.m.: And we're off with another puck drop.
12:54 left: Eric Paradowski splits defense of Frannies and fires high and wide. Thus far St. Joe's has much more jump than it did in first period.
8:23: St. Joe's will go on the power play.
6:37: Good penalty kill by the Red Raiders. St. Joe's Robert Neff had a couple chances stopped by Bloomfield. St. Francis' Alexander Vacco nice work along wall near St. Joe's bench to take puck away from defenseman and clear it during the kill.
4:03: If St. Francis wins this thing, remember these two saves by Bloomfield. He denied Kyle Moslow point-blank range and then denied rebound follow-up during scramble by Gogos.
3:04: St. Joe's finally scores and it took a perfect shot off a 2-on-1 feed to do it. Tyler Mills fires it in under the bar off feed from Connor Hagner. St. Joe's leads, 1-0.
1:36: This qualifies as floodgates opening at this point. Kyle Moslow on doorstep stuffs it between Bloomfield's legs as it barely trickles over the goal line on the power play. Moslow received chance after initial pass from Gogos to Klapp in slot hit a Frannies defender with Klapp whacking it toward net and Moslow as other Frannies defenders reacted to the deflected puck. St. Joe's leads, 2-0.
End of 2nd: St. Joe's leads, 2-0. St. Joe's played like one would expect a top seed to play like in that period. They skated better, were more physical and generated more chances. Maybe they were nervous in the first period. Maybe they just needed to get punched a few times before waking up. Whatever, they're 15 minutes away from earning a shot at the state Catholic title next Sunday at Buffalo State.
5:52 p.m.: The puck has been dropped.
10:17: St. Francis buzzed around St. Joe's zone in first minute but couldn't bully a shot past Mallare. Red Raiders also misfired on a glorious 2-on-1 chance.
Meanwhile, here are scores from the other club games: Southtowns: Iroquois/Alden 6, St. Francis 5 (OT); WNY Club Small: Starpoint 3, Maryvale 2 (2 OT); WNY Club large: Lancaster 4, City Honors/O'Hara 1.
7:59: Frannies kills off St. Joe's power play.
5:55: Mallare makes fine stop on Kennedy Monaco to keep it 2-0 for St. Joe's. Some buzzing in the zone after the stop but that's about it. Good shift, no reward. It's hockey, that happens.
3:07: Monaco denied again on doorstep by Mallare off nice set up by Shawn Hanley.
:52: Timeout St. Francis with faceoff in St. Joe's zone. Frannies pulling goalie for extra skater in hopes of pulling out a miracle.
End of 3rd: Mallare made nice stick save with 20 seconds left but that's it. Sticks and gloves all over ice in St. Joe's zone as celebration begins. St. Joe's wins it 2-0 to claim Federation's Catholic/Private/Monsignor Martin title and earn a bid in next Sunday's State Catholic title game at 3 p.m. at Buffalo State against a downstate foe.
We'll return for the second game.