By TOM GALLAGHER
Niagara Gazette — In what may have been its toughest contest of the season, the Niagara-Wheatfield federation hockey team came up short against Large School Division Two rival St. Joe’s, 3-0, Friday night at Niagara University’s Dwyer Arena.
The defending Section VI Large School Champion Falcons (2-1) fell behind early and were never able to sustain a consistent offensive attack against the Marauders (4-0-1). Coach Rich Wrazin attributed his team’s performance to a poor work ethic, something he called uncharacteristic of the team.
“Usually, the best part about us is that we’re the hardest working team on the ice,” Wrazin said. “We’re very disappointed because that’s a good team we can play with but we never got our legs going. We just had a lazy group of kids today.
“We have to possess the puck more, and to be honest, that’s a function of working harder. They had possession, controlled the game and completely dominated us.”
Senior forward Eric Paradowski put the Marauders in front with his second goal of the season just 2:44 into the game. His slap shot beat Falcons’ goalie Nate Sommers, who finished with 36 saves. Marauders’ co-captain Dimitrios Gogos was credited with the assist.
Though his team gave up an early goal, Wrazin said it shouldn’t have taken his team out of the game.
“We’ve been down by a goal in games before and come back,” he said. “I just don’t think we were focused. We weren’t ready to play.”
St. Joe’s controlled play for much of the opening frame, surrendering just five shots. Early in the second, however, the Falcons came out stronger, forcing the Marauders into taking consecutive penalties. The two-man advantage was killed easily by St. Joe’s.
“We just did not set up our power play,” Wrazin said. “I don’t know if our guys weren’t aware that we were up two men. We just kind of went out there and ran around.”
The Marauders increased their lead to two on junior Harlan LoVullo’s first goal of the season. He capitalized from the slot on a feed from senior Zach Klapp, the team’s leading scorer. Senior James Deakin was given the secondary helper.
Moments later, Falcons’ sophomore Andrew Logar was alone in the slot and had a chance to get N-W on the board, but Marauders’ goaltender Nicholas George turned the chance aside. George finished with 21 saves in the shutout.
“He’s got quick feet,” Wrazin said of George. “He got his pads down and made some really good saves. But we just didn’t get enough pressure. They outshot us by 15. We certainly didn’t get enough pressure, especially on a good goalie.”
Gogos added a power-play goal in the third period to add insurance for the Marauders. Dominic Perna’s cross-crease pass found Gogos, who tapped it in.
The Falcons tough early-season schedule continues this weekend. They play Williamsville South at 7 tonight at the Northtown Center, then face Canisius at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at Dwyer.