Weekly Feature



2017-03-01 / Sports

Batz scores game winner in overtime as North hockey repeats in large schools

PATRICK NAGY
Sports Reporter


Brett Sardina of Williamsville North celebrates after scoring and putting the team ahead 2-1 in the third period of Monday’s Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large Schools final at KeyBank Center. The Spartans won 3-2 in overtime to repeat as large schools champions. 
Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Brett Sardina of Williamsville North celebrates after scoring and putting the team ahead 2-1 in the third period of Monday’s Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large Schools final at KeyBank Center. The Spartans won 3-2 in overtime to repeat as large schools champions. Photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The ending to Monday’s Section VI Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation Large Schools final at Key- Bank Center was memorable.

Williamsville North, making its 15th section final appearance in 20 years, including its 10th trip in 11 years, appeared to be in control against Lancaster after junior Brett Sardina, assisted by junior Matt Bielinski, put the Spartans up 2-1 at 6:13 of the third period.

Then the unthinkable happened. Lancaster, making its first appearance in a section final, pulled its goalie for an extra attacker with under a minute left and senior Shawn Kross jammed a puck past North senior goalie Jake Zurat with five seconds left in regulation, tying the game at 2-2.

Momentum was on the Legends side heading into overtime, but North senior Adam Batz squashed Lancaster’s championship dreams, scoring 16 seconds into the extra session and lifting the top-seeded Spartans past fourth-seeded Lancaster, 3-2, and repeating as large schools champions.

Batz’ shot went off the goal post and trickled into the net as two Lancaster players tried to stop it from crossing the line.

“Their goal five seconds left hurt but everyone stuck together in overtime and we got a quick one to win it,” Batz said.

It was the Spartans’ fourth large schools title and eighth Federation title in school history.

North (19-4) moves on to Saturday’s Division I state quarterfinal against Section III champion West Genesee at 6:30 p.m. at Shove Park in Syracuse.

The winner plays in the state semifinals at Harbor- Center at 2:30 p.m., Saturday, March 11. West Genesee also won in overtime to win the Section III title, beating Syracuse, 2-1.

North coach Bob Rosen said all of the team’s experiences throughout the season, especially overcoming in-game adversity, prepared them for the ending.

“I told the kids in between the third period and overtime, ‘Why not us?’” Rosen said. “The thing about overtime games is there is no such thing as a bad shot.”

Batz has a knack at scoring goals in the large school championship game. He scored twice against Lancaster, also tallying the first goal of the game at 3:49 of the second period, assisted by juniors Tyler Durfee and Griffin Green.

Batz also scored the only goal in the Spartans’ 1-0 win over Niagara-Wheatfield last year and also scored in the title game in 2015 when North lost to the Falcons 6-4.

Batz became only the second player in the 27-year history of the Federation to earn back-to-back MVP honors in a championship game. The other player was Joseph Carosa of St. Francis in the 1997-98 and 1998-99 seasons when there was only one Federation champion.

“I just love the atmosphere,” Batz said.

“He scored two goals but it was his best defensive game and best all-around game of his career,” Rosen said. “He probably stopped three or four goals on defense so he was probably a plus-six in my book.”

The win also tied Rosen with John Orlando for third all-time in the state in career victories with 456.

Kross finished with two goals for Lancaster. His first goal came on a beautiful unassisted power-play goal with 10.6 seconds left in the second period when he faked low and placed a high back-handed shot past Zurat.

“There is a reason why he has a ‘C’ on his jersey,” Lancaster coach Kevin Miller said. “He comes to play in games and practice. He’s a true leader. It was a pleasure coaching him the last three years.”

Zurat finished with 20 saves on 22 shots. Lancaster goalie Justin Stotz made 25 saves on 28 shots for the Legends.

While the Legends have a lot to be proud of, the loss hurts.

“It’s the toughest loss of the year,” Miller said. “We knew it was going to be a close game. I hope North does well against West Genesee. We’ll start from square one again and prepare for next year.”

North advanced to the finals for the ninth time in the 10 years there has been a large school championship with a 5-0 shutout over seventh-seeded Niagara Falls in the semifinals Feb. 21 at Harbor- Center.

A big question for the Spartans heading into the game was if they could generate enough offense to beat Niagara Falls goalie Pat Sisler, who was coming off a 49-save performance in the team’s 3-1 upset over second seed Orchard Park in the quarterfinals. Sisler made 43 stops against North.

“I think they were prepared,” Rosen said. “It was a good team win. Everyone contributed.”

North outshot Niagara Falls 18-1 in the first period and only scored on its first shot of the game when junior Andrew Bruno tallied with an assist to Sardina 2:25 into the first period.

It was the only goal the Spartans scored in the period.

“Andrew Bruno made a nice play down low to take the puck from their defenseman and while he was being hooked, beat the goalie,” Rosen said.

The Spartans outshot the Wolverines, 18-4, in the second period and scored twice.

Green extended the Spartans’ lead to 2-0 when he perfectly placed a shot in the high slot over Sisler’s shoulder 1:25 into the period.

“That goal gave us a big sigh of relief,” Rosen said. “It took away the one crazy bounce goal if they scored. Our forwards did a good job of backchecking. The few opportunities they did have getting it into our zone we took care of it.”

North’s third goal came off an odd-man rush with 41.4 seconds left in the second period when Durfee took a pass from senior Daniel Mosher, faked a back-handed pass and took a great backhanded shot right underneath the crossbar.

Green added two more goals in the third period to complete his hat trick, scoring an unassisted power-play goal during a five-on-three advantage 3½ minutes in and with 36.6 seconds left.

It was Green’s first hat trick in the Federation.

“Griffin let the game come to him and he really did a good job of that,” Rosen said. “He has made tremendous strides from where he was a year ago to where he is now. It was nice to see him get those goals.”

Zurat made 12 saves for the shutout.

Return to top