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Live chat is back tonight at 10:15

Our weekly chat returns tonight at 10:15 p.m. as the Section VI basketball champions prepare for the Far West Regionals and two hockey teams get ready for the final four in Utica.

Visit here at 10 p.m. to discuss championship week for boys and girls basketball as well as the rest of the just-concluded winter season. We should also know the Section V boys basketball representatives from Class A, B an C, which will be determined tonight at Blue Cross Arena.

Of course, any questions on high school sports are in bounds. If you can't make it, feel free to throw a question in the comments space below.

Here's a look at our previous live chats of Winter 2009: Feb. 25, Feb. 18, Feb. 11, Feb. 4, Jan. 28, Jan. 21 and Jan. 14.  

---Keith McShea

Hockey & hoops off to states

Do you hear it?

It's the same sound you may have heard on Monday. Actually, it's more like something you didn't hear.

It's the sound of nothing happening in high school sports.

All of a sudden, only a select few basketball champions and two hockey teams are still competing in the winter season. Monday was the first day in a long time on which there was no playoff action.

Niagara-Wheatfield and Kenmore East are heading to Utica for the state final four in hockey this weekend. There is semifinal action Saturday before the state championship games Sunday afternoon.

Which brings us to a question:

There are obviously more basketball teams alive (five in boys and girls), but they all have to win a regional game before advancing to next weekend's state final four in Glens Falls.

Vote and let us know why you voted that way in the comments section below.

---Keith McShea

Monday morning point guard:
What a weekend

In case you missed it, what a weekend it was:

* * *

We at The News sports department concluded our 50th anniversary celebration of the All-Western New York boys basketball team by announcing our all-time All-WNY team.

Your comments are welcome on a blog post which includes a list of the team.

We also compiled a decade-by-decade retrospective of the All-WNY teams, including our all-decade teams as well as which schools dominated those eras.

The entire series, an all-time All-WNY roster and links to your feedback for all the various eras is linked at the top right-hand side of the high school home page.

* * *

The Section VI boys basketball championship weekend was one to remember in every class.

First, check out a great photo gallery of an eventful Saturday at Buffalo State (there are a lot of great shots from throughout the week at the high school sports photo gallery page).

* AA: Niagara Falls outlasted Williamsville North (story and live blog).

* A-1: The most memorable game of the weekend came in the A-1 final as McKinley beat Williamsville South in double overtime (story and live blog). Williamsville South's Mark Coppola left quite an impression on the Macks. 

* A-2: Depew beat ECIC III rival Maryvale for its first title in 42 years (story and live blog).

* B-1: Ryan Carney's last-second three-pointer lifted Olean over East Aurora (story and live blog). 

* B-2: Akron used an unbelievable third quarter to beat Allegany-Limestone (story and live blog; as you'll see, the B-1 and B-2 games were combined in the same story).

The action at Jamestown Community College on Friday night wasn't bad either.

* C: Ashton Brown scored a school-record 47 points to lead Randolph over Westfield (story and live updates). 

* D: Chris Secky became Maple Grove's all-time leading scorer in a win over Sherman (story and live updates; the D and C games are on the same post because our connection was a little weak).

* Meanwhile, Canisius had its season end in the state Catholic semifinals.

* The All-Western New York talk about this year's team has started already -- don't worry, we'll have a post up on that subject very soon.

* * *

In girls hoops, Lockport ended Jamestown's reign in Class AA while Amherst, Olean, Salamanca and Sherman also won sectional titles.

* * *

In hockey, Canisius won its first state title (story, blog entry and photo gallery) ...

... while both Section VI representatives -- Niagara-Wheatfield and Kenmore East -- are off to Utica for the final four.

* * *

We had a big roundup in Sunday's paper for a reason -- there was some serious track and field, bowling and swimming events held far and wide.

* * *

There is no Scholastic Spotlight this week -- it will be back in the spring. The next polls of the basketball season will be the final ones and will be published in our All-Western New York and all-star editions.

---Keith McShea

Live from the state Catholic hockey final: Canisius wins first title

We’re coming to you from the Buffalo State Ice Arena, the site of this year’s New York State Catholic hockey championship game between Western New York Federation Catholic champion Canisius and New York City Diocese champion Monsignor Farrell.

Canisius leads 2-0 after the first period on a pair of wicked wrist shots as Brendon Sorrento scored off a short-handed two-on-one at 8:07 high glove side. Joe Mitchell went to the same spot except from just below the goal crease for the Crusaders’ second goal with 1:31 left in the period. Farrell hasn’t generated much on offense even though it’s had three power plays.

Second period: It took a bit but the dam finally broke late in the second period as Canisius scored twice in the final 3:57 to take a 4-0 lead into the intermission. Ryan Wagner banged in a rebound to make it 3-0. At the moment, Max Hyland has received credit for the Crusaders’ fourth goal for tipping in a screen shot from the point by Sorrento. Shots after two periods in favor of Canisius, 25-6.

Third period: Farrell’s David Defranco had chance to break shutout inside first 2:30 of period but rifled a shot off the post from the right circle.

Farrell had a couple of other shots a minute after that as it is showing a decent burst of energy here in the early going. Farrell goalie Ian McBride robbed Sorrento of a goal on doorstep with Derek Jeter-like diving backhanded glove stop with 10:42 left. With 9:02 left, Farrell’s Nick Thorgersen scores a slam-dunk type of power-play goal on a backdoor play in the crease off a pass by Defranco.

That should pretty much do it. Senior John Brownschidle’s scores off a Ryan Wagner assist with 2:31 left to make it 5-1.

It’s over. Canisius wins its first state hockey title, 5-1, making the Monsignor Martin schools a perfect 8-0 in the state Catholic title game since its advent in 2002.

For further coverage, read Monday’s sports section.

--Miguel Rodriguez

Pining for some old-time (Fed) hockey

Canisius won its first Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation playoff title since being one of eight schools 19 years ago to form the one WNY league in which public and private schools peacefully coexisted in a competitive setting.

Yet as thrilling as the Crusaders' triumph over Bishop Timon-St. Jude was for the Fed's Catholic Schools title -- the fact it was for a Catholic Schools crown and not an overall league championship kind of left Canisius coach Terry Miller wanting. Sure he's happy that the Crusaders won their first postseason title since claiming the Monsignor Martin championship in 1989. But ...

"I feel bad for the kids," he said.

As it's already been well documented, the Fed's expansion in recent years led to the state-playoff qualification for league membership to be tweaked so that the postseason means more than regular-season results, to account for 17 public schools in the 22-team league.

But there had always been an electric atmosphere when the last two schools standing -- regardless of classification -- met for the championship.

It's something Williamsville North's coaching staff missed -- at least before the start of their exciting game against league newcomer Niagara-Wheatfield.

Surely they're not alone.

With the Fed using a state-playoff qualification system similar to basketball for the public and Catholic schools, it's against the rules to have the three Fed winners duke it out before the state tournaments.

But wouldn't it be possible to have an overall championship game or to have a basketball-style Federation tournament in which the Catholic and public schools state champs meet in a grand season finale?

---Miguel Rodriguez

Who'll skate for Federation hockey titles?

It's a superb week of Western New York Federation hockey semifinals at the Amherst Pepsi Center, with doubleheaders Wednesday (Catholic schools), Thursday (small schools) and Friday (large schools). All games are at 7 and 9 p.m.

Should be a great few days at the Pepsi Center.

So who'll be meeting for the championships and who will come out on top? Tell us who and why in the comments section below.

Wednesday's Monsignor Martin semifinals
St. Joe's vs. Bishop Timon-St. Jude, 7 p.m.
Canisius vs. St. Francis, 9 p.m.

Thursday's small school semifinals
1-Kenmore East vs. 6-Williamsville East, 7 p.m.
2-Williamsville South vs. 5-Sweet Home, 9 p.m.

Friday's large school semifinals
6-Clarence vs. 1-Wmsv. North, 7 p.m.
5-Niagara-Wheatfield vs. 2-Lancaster, 9 p.m.

Winners advance to Sunday's finals at Buffalo State: small schools at 1 p.m., large schools 3:30 p.m., Catholic final 6 p.m.

---Keith McShea

Couple of quick wristers

* Jerry Sullivan did his usual great story-telling in writing about Canisius hockey senior John Brownschidle, who battled through a bout with cancer over the summer and is now part of the Crusaders' excellent Federation season.

* I had a note in today's Prep Talk about Nichols' 100 years of hockey celebration this weekend. There's much more information at a Web page devoted to the event.

* One of the best matchups every year in Federation hockey is Williamsville North and St. Joe's, and the two teams go at it at 7 p.m. Thursday night at the Amherst Pepsi Center.

---Keith McShea

More on Federation hockey

Here's a link to today's Federation hockey story, but we've got a lot of additional information here.

• • •

Here's a link to this season's day-by-day schedule (which has a permanent home at our high school home page).

Some games to watch this week at the Amherst Pepsi Center include those involving Kenmore schools. Kenmore East takes on Sweet Home on Thursday at 9 p.m. and battles Williamsville South at Saturday at 5 p.m. On the adjacent rink on Thursday, Kenmore West meets Canisius in a 9 p.m. faceoff.

The Canisius-St. Joe's showdown in the Federation's Division II is one of nine Fed games being held on MLK Day (Monday) across Western New York.

• • •

Williamsville North's Bob Rosen learned very quickly that his young team was ready to play. The Spartans opened the season at a tournament in Utica (annual site of the state championships, by the
way) and won it by beating Albany power Shenenedehowa and Rochester power McQuaid.

"The first game was against Shenenedehowa and we were losing going into the third, but we came out and really outplayed them with five goals in the third to beat them, 7-3," said Rosen. "The next day we had a real gritty game against McQuaid and won, 4-2. The whole road trip, the bonding that went on, everything -- we knew we were in for some good stuff."

• • •

The only loss for St. Joe's was to defending Rhode Island Division 1 state champion Mount St. Charles Academy (by a 4-1 score) in that team's annual holiday tournament in Providence.

In 13 of the Marauders' 15 games, they've either recorded a shutout (seven) or allowed just one goal (six).

Offensively, St. Joe's is led by senior Cory Dawson (seven goals) and sophomores Alex Bonito (eight) and Dave Seward (six).

• • •

A big part of why Canisius has joined North and St. Joe's among the league's undefeateds has been the penalty-killing work by Brendon Sorrento, Frank Polino, Brian Raab and Paul Steing.

• • •

First-year program West Seneca West and coach Kevin Rozo have lost close ones to St. Joe's (2-1) and Canisius (3-2). Scoring contributors include Mike Deppeler (six goals, seven assists) and captain Tony Marchitte (eight goals, six assists).

• • •

Clarence, in its second Federation season, has had to deal with the loss of 16 players from last year's roster.

Coach Rick Brooks called returning junior goalie Harrison Civin (1.87 GAA, .923 save percentage) "a workhorse" while crediting defensive leaders senior captain Greg Molfese and juniors Tim Godin and Jake Ledyard.

Junior Reid Zaccagnino leads the team in scoring with seven goals and three assists.

• • •

Division I leader Orchard Park's breakthrough season has been aided by great two-way defensemen in seniors Josh Gura and Art Marapese and junior Bryan McParlane (24 combined points) while senior goalie Dennis Elsenbeck has played in every game but one for coach Derek Gilham.

• • •

Frontier and OP might be setting up a football-like rivalry in the rink as the Falcons are off to an 8-5 start overall and 5-3 in league play.

Great two-way play from forward Ryan Damstetter (two of his eight goals are short-handed) and scoring from Josh Baker (15 goals) has led the way up front. Seniors Connor Ventura (eight points, plus-10) and Chris Burke (plus-6) have made the most of their loads of ice time on defense in front of junior goalie Nick Tuttle (2.72 GAA, .910 save pct.).

• • •

Lancaster is right in the middle of the race thanks to players like forwards Nick Berst, Justin Hussar, and P.J. Brown and defensemen Jarrett McGraw, Andrew Sherwood and Josh Gramza.

• • •

Kenmore West has five one-goal losses in its 5-8-1 record, with senior goalie Nick Fyvie helping lead the team with 152 saves on the season along with a 1.77 GAA and .894 save percentage.

Leading up front have been junior Rob Mooney (10 points), senior Jesse Shaw (eight) and senior Darroch Moorhead (eight) while senior captain Christian Panepinto (five) has anchored the defensive pairings.

• • •

Hamburg coach John McFall says, "our month of December was one to remember." The first-year Bulldogs went undefeated with wins over Williamsville East, Kenmore East and Sweet Home.

Senior captains Matt Springer -- who is also a standout lacrosse player -- and Steve Milley have been excellent on defense to help lead the Bulldogs, which was the Southtowns Club champion last season with a victory over West Seneca East on Super Sunday.

With both teams moving to Federation this year, the rivalry has continued, with Hamburg winning twice, including a 3-0 win over the weekend in which senior goalie Ryan Tilley had 19 saves.

Junior forward Sean Gregoire has jumped from the club-level JV team last year to this year's Federation team and is leading the squad in scoring with 11 points and is tied for the lead in goals with five -- two of those were third-period game-winners. Other offensive contributors include senior Michael Sage, junior Ryan Feuerstein (another lacrosse player) and sophomore St. Francis transfer Nate Dake, all of whom have five goals.

• • •

Kenmore East has a 6-1 record in the Federation's small schools league (Division III), is ranked sixth in the state's small school poll and is 10-2 overall after repeating as champions of the Geneseo Tournament this weekend.

KeneasthockeyThe outstanding line of senior Brett Rogers, junior Mark Arnone and sophomore Chris Chapin (pictured in that order, left to right) has the kind of chemistry that has filled up the stat sheet for the Bulldogs. Arnone (11 goals) and Rogers (nine goals) both have 24 points while Chapin (seven goals) has 22.

East's goaltending has been top-notch also as P.J. Bluff has a 2.17 GAA in the Fed and a
1.77 GAA overall in nine games.

• • •

Williamsville South (9-6-1, 6-3-1) and coach Sean Green has won five straight league games and is coming off a finals appearance at the Skaneateles Tournament, where the Billies lost to McQuaid.

Senior goalie Eric Winnert leads the way with a .923 save percentage and 1.72 goals against average, while the team's top scorers are juniors Darren Powers, Leo Schultz and Trevor Clark -- all of whom have 12 points.

The Billies have been the recipients of the Federation's Ralph Galanti Sportsmanship Award three of the last four years.

• • •

Sweet Home is led by seniors and three-year players Chris Covel, Dominic Puntillo and Ryan Gutt. Coach Dave Gerspach said "all have an outstanding work ethic and playmaking ability, they lead in all offensive and defensive categories."

Junior Pat McMahon provides the Panthers with physical play and scoring while senior defensemen Ricky Brooks and Cameron Hollander have been strong on the blue line. Gerspach also credited sophomores Mike Puntillo and Matt Beaudet with "tough, smart hockey" while sophomore Adam Titanic "is coming into his own and has become a force to be reckoned with."

• • •

West Seneca East has a 5-2 mark over its last seven games thanks to strong goaltending by senior Paul Wojcik. The team's top point-getters are senior Kyle Chase and juniors Brian Osieja and Ryan Struzik.

• • •

Traditionally strong Williamsville East has only four seniors this season. Captain Eric Esposito and linemate Joey Cantafio have been leaders up front, as have been Matt Notaro and James Faran. Max Fogel and Donny Frauenhofer have helped control the defensive end.

• • •

Amherst first-year coach Mark Mobus -- who replaced Crozier when he went to St. Joe's -- and the Tigers are already off to a better Federation season than last year, having started 1-4-1 after going 0-13-1 last season. Amherst has also been competitive in many more games this season (largest goal differential has been three).

Junior goalie Sean Smith is the team leader with one shutout, 148 saves a GAA of 2.18 and a .919 save percentage. Senior defensemen, captain and three-year player Kevin Denny plays on the first power play and penalty kill unit. Defensemen T.J. Kaszubski is the team's power play quarterback despite being a freshman. Senior Stephen Mugel and and junior David Rubach are the top forwards.

• • •

Nichols is a school which has its top varsity team in a prep school league and is finding its first season in Federation play (0-11) a bit of a struggle so far. St. Francis, which has a prep team, had similar struggles when it joined the league a few years ago.

Said coach J. Tim Vanini: "We have 15 freshmen on the team this year. They are learning about the league, and what it means to come to rink prepared both mentally and physically everyday. We have been getting better as the season has progressed.

"A solid core of players is at the focal point: Peter Borgesi is doing an outstanding job in goal; Brad Bourne, Sean Hughes, Thaddeus Kucharski and Brandon Kaczmarz on defense; and Lucas Walsh, Tom Mediak and Michael Gates at forward."

• • •

Another place for info is the league's own Web site -- which changed from a dot-come to a dot-org this year if you need to update those bookmarks like I did.

• • •

Every team that supplied info to us is now accounted for on this blog. As we discovered with providing more info on the Web for the boys basketball preview, while there is no limit to space on the Web, there are only so many hours in the day to put it all together.

• • •

So how do you think the league is shaping up this season? Surprised at some of the rookie teams' solid performances? Do you think the young teams at Williamsville North and St. Joe's can continue their success?

---Keith McShea

WNY Federation skates at full strength tonight

The Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation season's league schedule officially started Tuesday when Williamsville East blanked newcomer Nichols, 5-0.

But Thursdays and Saturdays still are the days when most Fed games will be played. Tonight is no different as 10 of the Fed's 22 teams are scheduled to play -- including eight at the Amherst Pepsi Center. The biggest game of the night is the first: the Canisius-St. Joe's rivalry takes center stage on the feature rink at Pepsi at 7.

St. Joe's, the two-time defending Federation and six-time defending state Catholic champion, will open the season with a new coach behind the bench in former Amherst pilot, Richard Crozier -- the son of former Sabres head coach Joe Crozier. Crozier takes over for Pete Schneider, who succeeded Joe Wolf as St. Joe's Director of Athletics.

Regardless of who's behind the bench, Canisius is looking for a measure of revenge against a Marauders crew that ended its championship dream in last year's semifinals, 6-0. The Crusaders went 0-2-1 against St. Joe's last season.

While old friends get reacquainted, West Seneca East makes its league debut against Kenmore East at 7 on the olympic rink. The 9 p.m. games at Pepsi also include a pair of newcomers to the league with Niagara-Wheatfield, which won four straight Western New York Club League Large School titles and lost in last year's state club final to St. Anthony's of Long Island, facing perennial power Williamsville North on the feature rink. Lockport makes its league debut against Lancaster, the Fed's representative in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Tournament last year.

At Bud Bakewell Rink in Riverside Park, Southtowns rivals Orchard Park and Frontier battle at 7:30 p.m.

West Seneca West and Hamburg make their Fed debuts Saturday.

• • •

Amherst's Patrick Quigley scored with 11 minutes left to give the Tigers a 1-1 tie with Sweet Home in Federation action on Wednesday. Amherst's Sean Smith had 26 saves while Sweet Home's Tom Sciovtino had 20. Chris Covel had Sweet Home's goal.

• • •

The St. Francis Prep hockey team is off to an 8-0-2 start to the season and is in first place in the Midwest Prep Hockey League.

The Red Raiders won the Shady Side Academy Thanksgiving Classic in Pittsburgh by going 5-0. St. Francis beat Hoosac Academy (from Hoosick, north of Albany) twice, including in the championship game, and also had a 7-2 win over local rival Nichols, which plays a similar prep school-caliber schedule. The Red Raiders also beat The Lawrenceville (N.J.) School and University School (Ohio).

Stfprepteam_2The line of Anthony Day, Jaime Vona and Nick D’Agostino combined for 29 points in the five games for St. Francis, which got standout goaltending from Scott Diebold and Josh Hathaway.

The Red Raiders play host to Shady Side Academy Saturday and Sunday at Leisure Rinks.

(Click on the photo -- provided by St. Francis -- to get a better look)

• • •

Club hockey teams from six different states will participate in the third National Invitational Scholastic Showcase Friday through Sunday at the Jamestown Savings Bank Arena.

Local power Cheektowaga as well as Grand Island will be part of a field that includes 10-time and defending Maryland state champions Dematha Catholic, 2008 Tennessee state champions Pope John Paul II. Illinois is represented by, among others, 2008 Blackhawk Cup Red Champions Glenbrook North and 2008 finalists New Trier Green. Western Pennsylvania will be represented by five-time state champions Bethel Park while 2008 Flyers Cup finalist Holy Ghost Prep is traveling from Eastern Pennsyvlania. Also participating is Hamilton Southeastern, the 2008 5A Indiana finalist.

The Governor’s Cup final will be 1:15 p.m. Sunday. Fans can buy passes to the event or can subscribe to video feeds from the tournament at

---Miguel Rodriguez & Keith McShea

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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.

@KeithMcSheaBN |