The visiting Kenmore West Blue Devils took care of business in the third period on Friday night, scoring three unanswered goals to skate away with a well-deserved 5-1 Western New York Federation Hockey League victory over Lockport/Niagara Falls at the Cornerstone Arena.
With the win, head coach Rob Roszak's Blue Devils improved to a noteworthy 7-1-1 on the road this season, and more importantly, kept pace with their goal to earn a higher seeding come sectionals.
“Right now, we're probably in that 5-6-7-8 range, but we hope to get into that top-4-5-6 range for the playoffs,” Roszak said. ”We have four games left and we told the kids we've got 10 points to get and that's two of the 10, so hopefully on Thursday we can come out and get two more points.”
Despite the final score, the game was extremely close throughout. Heading to the decisive third and final period, the Lions trailed by just a 2-1 score, thanks in great part to the outstanding net-minding of their senior keeper Cam Gardner (23 shots, 18 saves), who was peppered throughout.
“I've always done what's best for the team. I've skated out for the team a lot and finally got my chance in net this year,” said Gardner who was honored along with his parents, as well as five other Lockport/Niagara Falls players on Senior Night; Mitch Nation, Justin Smegelski, Dan Ryan, Jackson Connor and Austin Bailor.
“I thought I played pretty well tonight. I was really looking forward to this season my entire career and I finally got to play goalie. I was really happy about that,” Gardner added.
Lockport/Niagara Falls (4-12-2 overall, 3-11-1 Small Schools, 2-5-1 D3) opened the scoring when junior James Robinson beat KW goalie Mark Butler (10 shots, 9 saves) with 6:32 left in the first period, assisted nicely by Smegelski. The visitors tied the game at 1-1 when Joe Collesano scored with 2:45 remaining in the first, assisted by Damien Isch.
The game remained close with both keepers making big saves in the second. The Blue Devils scored midway through the period and took a narrow 2-1 lead heading to the the third. Danny Rulov scored at 10:56, assisted by Patrick Mitchell and Drew Rasulo.
The third period was all Ken. West and they wasted no time when, just two minutes in, Jacob Cichocki scored, assisted by Charlie Connors and Speck.
Kenmore West (9-5-2 overall, 7-4-1 Small Schools, 5-1 D3) then added two late goals to ice it, the first by Tyler Buyea with 3:32 left, assisted by Speck and Patrick Mitchell. Speck then added his second goal of the game with just over 100 seconds remaining, assisted by Rasulo.
Coach Roszak said one thing's for certain, the Lockport/Niagara Falls varsity hockey program continues to improve.
“Lockport/Niagara Falls is a much improved team this season. They're a young team, but they've been playing well in games that they've lost,” Roszak said. “We knew it wasn't going to be (easy). They played hard and took the lead, but our goalie Mark Butler had a good game. We can't ask for more. Getting out of here with a win is the most important thing.”
Added Gardner, “We definitely have a young team and there's a lot of young talent coming back. I think this program is going to be very good in the next few years.”
Lockport/Niagara Falls will close out their 2019-20 regular season with one final Small Schools clash a week from Monday at Grand Island.
Follow veteran Lockport sports reporter/editor John D'Onofrio on Twitter at @JohnD'Onofrio7.