Weekly Feature

2017-07-13 / Sports

Girls hockey named Team of the Year

Sports Reporter

Brooke Becker of Orchard Park/Frontier/Lake Shore takes a slap shot from blue line in the team’s 3-2 win over Kenmore/Grand Island in the Section VI Championship Game. The team had its best season to date and was named the Orchard Park Bee Team of the Year. 
File photo by Jake French Brooke Becker of Orchard Park/Frontier/Lake Shore takes a slap shot from blue line in the team’s 3-2 win over Kenmore/Grand Island in the Section VI Championship Game. The team had its best season to date and was named the Orchard Park Bee Team of the Year. File photo by Jake French This was a year of firsts for the Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park girls hockey team. The team featured players from Lake Shore for the first time. They won their first sectional title, appeared in the state championship game and then came back and won the Federation all for the first time ever. They’ve also been named Orchard Park Bee Team of the Year for 2016-17.

It was clear almost right away that this was going to be a special season for FLOP. In fact, the first tryout stood out from previous years.

“I think we realized right from the tryouts before the first game that the girls were playing at a different pace and speed,” assistant coach Lucian Forcucci said. “It was apparent this group was special. The girls worked hard and hustled. They focused on their skating. The core group had been with us for a couple years, so we knew they would be good, but the addition of Lake Shore was huge. The Kromer sisters really made a huge difference. The speed and skill set we brought to the ice through the season was great.”

The addition of Mary and Emily Kromer from Lake

Shore along with head coach Bob Klimowicz taking over provided a boost early on for the team. FLOP opened the season with a 7-0 win over defending sectional champion Kenmore and a 5-1 win over defending Federation champion Monsignor Martin.

“The last few seasons, we’ve played Kenmore in the first game of the seasons and they were the top team for a number of years,” Forcucci said. “It was always a tough game. This year we beat them 7-0 in that game. That just confirmed what the coaches had seen in practice. It was a statement game. We knew we had a special group and if we just worked hard and stayed focused, we would go pretty far. We had good numbers offensively. That allowed our confidence to build.”

The offense jumped up a level from years past. Megan Roche, Frangelica Bautz, the Kromer sisters, Riley Johnson and Jess Peters led a ferocious attack. Rolling with just three lines allowed the team to keep players with more scoring punch out on the ice a higher percentage of the time.

“In years past, we’ve had a lot of girls come out for the team, so we’ve kept four lines. Generally, the third and fourth lines are more defensive and don’t produce as much offense,” Forcucci said. “But this year we didn’t have as many girls try out. We only kept three lines and all three could really play. Our top two lines was like have two first lines. They were as good as any two lines in the league. Two-thirds of the time we had a chance of putting the puck in the net.”

Additionally, the top two defensive pairs were helpful in creating offense. Brooke Becker, Gabby DeMeo, Tori Mariano and Sirena Fitzery were all good at moving the puck up the ice to start the rush.

“Our top four on defense were also very good at starting the transition and getting the puck through the neutral zone,” Forcucci said. “They were also important in creating offense. Brooke Becker was an all-league player. Sirena Fitzery, Gabby DeMeo and Tori Mariano also chipped in. Tori is one of the best defenders in our league, and she helped contribute to the offense.”

FLOP tore through the regular season, losing just three games. They then defeated Clarence/Amherst/Sweet Home in the sectional semifinal and Kenmore/Grand Island, 3-2, in the final. They advanced to the state semifinals, where they got a 5-1 win over Beekmantown. That win sent them to a state final match-up against Skaneateles, where they finally fell. They returned home for the Federation playoffs, beating Lancaster/ Iroquois 7-1 and defending Federation Champion Monsignor Martin 2-0. That set up a championship game against Williamsville, to whom they had lost twice and tied once. They never trailed, skating to a 4-2 victory at the HarborCenter. It was a perfect way to cap off a memorable season.

“There were a lot of great moments this season,” Forcucci said. “Our record in the regular season, only losing three games, was an exciting thing for us. The sectional playoffs and championships, going to states and then capping it all off with the federation playoffs was special. We played Monsignor Martin, which was the team to beat for years. We beat Kenmore, who had been one of the best. Then beating Williamsville in the HarborCenter for the Federation championship was the icing on the cake. That finished off a great year for these kids.”

While Klimowicz and Forcucci coached this year’s team, Forcucci believes some credit should go to Jim McCarthy, who served as head coach for the first six years of the program’s history. But even more credit should go to the talented group of girls who made up the squad.

“Some of the credit needs to go to coach McCarthy. He really instilled the hard-working, defense-first mentality,” Forcucci said. “He got the girls to focus on the little things that can win games for you. He was really great about instructions. He got the girls used to practicing and competing at a high level. Coach Klimowicz brought in a different style, but it was just as effective. He kept the team-first approach. It’s a credit to him that he didn’t change too many things. He knew how to run practices and games. He was very good at statistically thinking about the game, positioning girls and putting them in the right spot.

“We like to say ‘it’s not all X’s and O’s, it’s about the Jim’s and Joe’s.’ We try to do a lot of things to be a successful program. But we’ve done that for seven years and haven’t always had results. So a lot of the credit has to go to the players. Megan Roche, Riley Johnson, Frangelica Bautz all did a great job leading the team as seniors. They understand the type of style we like to play.”

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

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