By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons flew out of the gate Monday at the First Niagara Center, using a quick start to overwhelm the Clarence Red Devils and cruise to a 7-2 win and their second straight Section VI Public School Division I federation hockey championship.
The Falcons set the tone from the opening faceoff. Anthony Veckich, Mike Parisi and Matt Peters each had big hits in an opening shift that ended with N-W taking a lead just 0:51 into the game after Frank Vecchio cashed in a rebound off a shot from Domenic Senese.
"(We) came ready to go today," N-W coach Rick Wrazin said. "(We're) a tough team to read, but (we) brought it today.
"Clarence is a very good team, but I think nerves got the best of them. They're known as a strong, fast, physical hockey team, and we wanted to show them we could be just as physical."
Clarence would tie the game on the power play at the 6:49 mark. With Peters in the box for hooking, Matt Colicchia snuck a rebound through N-W goalie Nate Sommers' legs. It was one of the few times the Red Devils would solve Sommers, who finished with 32 saves.
"We did a good job of keeping them outside and not giving them a lot of chances in tight," Wrazin said. "When he can see it and we can clean up the front of the net, he's a very strong goaltender. He stopped everything he should have (Monday)."
The Falcons retook the lead 7:20 in off the stick of Justin Durkee, who floated a weak shot past Clarence goaltender Devin Paluh from the slot. Ryan Logar and Matt Paonessa were credited with assists.
Anthony Merante scored a goal on a high wrister from the slot at the 10:49 mark, and Senese added a dagger with just 13 seconds left in the period when he made a nice move around a Clarence defenseman and fired a long wrist shot blocker side into the back of the net to give the Falcons a 4-1 lead after one.
The second period started off slowly, until Paonessa knocked in the loose puck after Jeff Janese's point shot got blocked. The Red Devils started to unwind from there, leading to two power-play goals for Senese — both on assists from Vecchio.
Senese, a sophomore, finished with a game-high five points (2+3), while Vecchio added three (1+2).
"(Senese) seemed extremely nervous before the game," Wrazin said. "We knew he wanted to play well, and he did all the little things we asked (the players) to do. When you do the little things and keep it simple, you end up with those multi-point games."
The game was decided by the third period, when the teams combined to take seven penalties.
The Falcons will now play in the regional round, where they lost last season. They'll face Section IV's Ithaca at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at the Northtown Center.Follow high school sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.