Niagara Gazette

March 3, 2014

Falcons fall in state quarters

By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It took the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons just over a period to hit their stride Sunday in a federation hockey state quarterfinal at Ithaca. That’s all the host Little Red needed to pull out a win.

The Falcons, Section VI’s large-school representative, allowed Section III champion Ithaca to score its third goal just 5 minutes into the second period. From there N-W controlled play, but a late rally fell just short in a 4-3 loss.

“We didn’t have our legs going early,” said N-W coach Rick Wrazin. “One thing we’re really good at usually is getting a lot of puck pressure, but we weren’t getting to them early.”

The Little Red’s third goal seemed to knock the Falcons out of their slump. Wheatfield found its skating game in the second but couldn’t put a puck past Ithaca goalie Aaron Goldberg.

“They played a real tight box after that in their end,” Wrazin said. “We were having trouble getting pucks through.”

The Falcons broke through in the third, though. Anthony Veckich threw a puck toward the net on the opening shift, followed his shot and popped home the rebound.

Minutes later, N-W pulled within one on a power play. James Stenzel camped in front of Goldberg as his teammates peppered the goalie with shots, eventually collecting a rebound goal of his own.

Ithaca opened up another 2-goal lead on the power play with just over 4 minutes left. Wrazin pulled the goalie with 2:50 to go and was rewarded with Matt Paonessa tipped a backdoor pass by Goldberg with 1:50 left.

Wheatfield kept up the pressure as the clock wound down but was unable to find the back of the net a fourth time.

“It’s a shame,” Wrazin said. “When we started playing our game we controlled the game.”

The game marked the end of the high school careers of 15 N-W seniors. While the number sounds high, Wrazin lost the same number two seasons ago before winning the Section VI title last year.

“We have a lot of good players coming back that have been in the program,” he said. “We plan on being right back in the mix again.”

Follow Niagara Gazette sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.