BUFFALO, N.Y. — The 2020 NYSPHSAA Boys Ice High School Hockey State Championships return to HARBORCENTER in Buffalo this weekend.
The field for the New York Division I and II state semifinals have been set with four games on Saturday, March 14. The champions will advance to the state finals slated for Sunday, March 15 at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.
The road to the final four has been daunting, but now, two teams are just two wins away from hoisting titles in the Empire State.
NYSPHSAA State Semifinals
2-Bethlehem Central vs. 10-Massena, March 14 at 9:30 a.m. at HarborCenter
6-Williamsville North vs. 5-Victor, March 14 at 11:45 a.m. at HarborCenter
State Finals: March 15 at 12 p.m. at HarborCenter
AL3-Whitesboro vs. 2-Queensbury, March 14 at 2:15 p.m. at HarborCenter
5-Webster Thomas vs. 3-Skaneateles, March 14 at 4:30 p.m. at HarborCenter
State Finals: March 15 at 3 p.m. at HarborCenter
*The NYSPHSAA state semifinals and finals will be closed to the public
“This is certainly not the type of championship atmosphere our association strives to provide our student-athletes and their communities,” NYSPHSAA Executive Director Dr. Robert Zayas said. “This decision is being made at the recommendation of the Erie County Department of Health out of an abundance of caution as we address the coronavirus.”
The NYHSPHSAA Ice Hockey Championships will be streamed LIVE on the NFHS Network as originally scheduled. Other news organizations such as WNY Athletics, Icing the Fed, Five Minute Major and HockeyClan will be on hand to live provide coverage as well.
State Semifinal Previews
Division I — Bethlehem Central vs. Massena
Saturday March 14th, 9:30 am
As Bethlehem Central comes off their shutout win over Suffern, the group moves ahead to face off against the Section X powerhouse of Massena. Both teams will play in the first semi final game of the Division I bracket that will be held at the Harbor Center. The back to back Section II Sectional Champions are led by sophomore William Bievenue who lead the Eagles with 33 points (10 goals and 23 assists) in the regular season. The forward has 7 points (2 goals and 5 assists) in the four games played in the post season so far. In between the pipes, senior goaltender Michael Kurdziolek has started all of Bethlehem’s playoff games so far this season. The 6’ 5” netminder received the shut out last game in the regional rounds and currently holds a 1.81 goals against average in the post season.
On the other side of the ice, the Massena Red Raiders have a powerful offense with a solid goaltender tandem in between the pipes. Nicholas Morrell leads the Red Raiders this season with 35 points (16 goals and 19 assists) in the regular season. However, the senior did not tally a point in their regional game against Monroe-Woodbury, but Massena can expect a huge weekend from the team captain. The Red Raiders have two solid goaltenders as Dakota Allen and Ben Rogers split time this season between the pipes. On the statistics table, Allen proves to be the better netminder posting a .902 save percentage and a 2.57 goals against average. However, Rogers did get the start in the regional game for the Red Raiders and secured the win to head to the state tournament. Either could start come Saturday, but Rogers has been the starter the past three games for Massena.
Division I — Williamsville North vs. Victor
Saturday March 14th, 11:45 am
The Victor Blue Devils are set to do battle against the hometown team on Saturday in the Harbor Center. Section VI, the host of the state tournament, has a team representing the section in the final four as the Spartans defeated Ithaca in the Harbor Center this past weekend. The 3-1 win came with 13 saves from goaltender Henry Braun as the netminder limited the Little Red from scoring multiple goals. The Spartans are looking for their sixth state title as the group advances to its second state championship tournament in the past four years.
The Victor Blue Devils are also looking for more success at the state level as the group was the 2018 Division I State Champions. The Blue Devils have been led by Jack McCandless this post season as the senior has tallied 8 points (4 goals and 4 assists) which includes a hattrick in the regional game. However, senior Sam Bresson led the Blue Devils this regular season with 27 points in 20 games played and has 6 points so far this post season. In between the pipes, netminder Pieter Bartelse has started a majority of games in the net as the senior had a 1.57 goals against average with a .915 save percentage. The goaltender has only given up six goals this post season and has made a total of 73 saves in their four games played.
Division II — Queensbury vs. Whitesboro
Saturday March 14th, 2:15 pm
The first Division II semi final game will take place upon completion of the semi final round of the Division I tournament. This matchup featuring teams fromSection II and Section III will have two offenses that put up numbers in their regional games. The tenth ranked team in the state, Queensbury, is the only Division II team in Section II, which allowed for the Spartans to have a much shorter path to the state tournament then others. Brendan Duffy led the Spartans in points this season as the senior tallied 31 points (18 goals and 13 assists) in his 20 games played. But teammate Trevor Vogel would tie his fellow upperclassmen in points with 9 goals and 22 assists. Five other Spartans would hit double digits in points with two of those players being defenseman. In between the pipes, both goalies for the Spartans have split time this season. Sophomore Blake Powers got the start in their regional win against Saranac Lake/Lake Placid who has a 1.84 goals against average and a .924 save percentage during the regular season. But both goaltenders kept a .900 save percentage or above as Chase Korol held a .901 save percentage in the regular season.
The team that will face Queensbury, the Whitesboro Warriors, were the Section III Sectional finals who were rewarded a bid to the regional rounds due to the odd number of sections with teams in Division II. The Warriors lost to the number one team in the state, Skaneateles Lakers, at the Syracuse War Memorial in the Sectional Finals. But the Warriors took care of business in the regional round to put themselves in the position to play Skaneateles in the state finals. Whitesboro was led by Troy Chamberlain who tallied 32 points (14 goals and 18 assists) in his 16 games played. Chamberlain added one goal in the 4-0 victory against Rye in the regional round. The Warriors have goaltender Cameron Manley posted a 1.69 goals against average and a .921 save percentage in the regular season. The netminder secured the shutout in the regional round and will most likely be the starter come Saturday.
Division II — Webster Thomas vs. Skaneateles
Saturday March 14th, 4:30 pm
The last semifinal game of the state tournament is set to be a thriller as the top two teams in Division II are set to meet to decide who will move on and who will head home. The Webster Thomas Titans head back to the state tournament for the second straight year as the group will have a familiar opponent once again in the semifinals, as both of these teams met at the same spot one year ago. The Titans are a team full of a lot of offensive depth which has recently led them to two sectional championships. Kevin Gabalski tallied 21 points (9 goals and 12 assists) to lead the Titans this regular season. Junior Zack Wolfe leads the team this post season with 8 points (1 goal and 7 assists) in the team’s four games played. Goaltender Connelly Springer held a 1.61 goals against average with a stellular .924 save percentage this season as the netminder also only letting in one goal during the regional game.
On the other side of the rink stand the defending state champion Skaneateles Lakers who have been ranked number one overall in the state for a majority of the season. The Lakers have already traveled to Buffalo once this year as the group defeated Starpoint this past weekend 6-1 at Buffalo State. Garrett Krieger tallied 44 points (21 goals and 23 assists) in 18 games this regular season to lead the Lakers in points. The forward would also secure four points (3 goals and 1 assist) in the regional game against Starpoint. Starting goaltender, Adam Casper, would make 13 saves in the win to record a .929 save percentage. The netminder has the lowest goals against average of any goaltender in the tournament during the season as the junior maintained a .95 goals against average. Casper would record four shutouts during the regular season and secure a .926 save percentage. Casper is most likely the starter as the goaltender started a majority of the season.
Regionals State Recaps
Division I – Section I: Suffern vs. Section II: Bethlehem Central
The Section I versus Section II regional match up that took place at Union College in Albany featured a tight matchup between the two teams representing this match up. The Division I bracket featured many state ranked teams, which this game featured the number one Suffern group against the number four Bethlehem team. However, this game would be tied through regulation and head to overtime before Bethlehem Central would complete the upset and win.
Division I – Section X: Massena vs. Section IX: Monroe-Woodbury
This Section X and Section IX match up featured two teams with high power offenses that both came out of their Sectional tournaments. Massena, a past state champion, came into the match up as the only team in Section X to be ranked statewide. But, Monroe-Woodbury would be the only team in the Division I regional round that was not state ranked. The game was held at the Ice Time Sports Complex, which was hosted by Section IX. The final score would be 5-4 as Massena would once again punch their ticket to the final four of the Division I tournament. The Red Raiders tallied all five of their goals in the first period to secure the victory.
Division I – Section IV: Ithaca vs. Section VI: Williamsville North
The one game that would be held at the Harbor Center before the state tournament would take place was between Ithaca and Williamsville North. The Section VI team, Williamsville North, would win their Sectional tournament a week before just across the street at Key Bank Center, the home of the Buffalo Sabres. Ithaca however would have an easier path to their regional match up as the group gets an automatic bid to the game due to the lack of competition in Section IV. The Buffalo-based team would get it done on home ice as Williamsville North would defeat Ithaca 3-1 and move on to play again at the HarborCenter this coming Saturday.
Division I – Section III: Syracuse vs. Section V: Victor
The Victor Blue Devils would host the defending state champions from Section III, the Syracuse Cougars, on Saturday. The game that took place at the Gene Polisseni Center located on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus, featured the number three team in the state of Victor battling the new number 7 team in the state of Syracuse.
Head Coach Neal Purcell of Syracuse, who has been with the program for the past six years, discussed on how the group got to the regional game after defeating West Genesee in the Sectional finals.
“We didn’t want to get caught up with the bright lights of the War Memorial or the crowd and noise,” he said.
Purcell’s group had the same mindsetheading into their next matchup.
“We are going to play in a beautiful facility at RIT so we can’t get caught up again in the bright lights.”
Unfortunately, the Cougars could not repeat with Victor pulling a 4-0 upset over the defending champs.
Division II – Section II: Queensbury vs. Section VII: Saranac Lake/Lake Placid
The first match up from the Division II regional round would take place at SUNY Plattsburgh between Queensbury and Saranac Lake/Lake Placid. The game hosted by Section VII would feature another high scoring game as two state ranked teams faced off. Queensbury, the number 10 team in the state, would defeat the number 13 team in the state 6-4 and move on to the state tournament at the Harbor Center.
Division II – Section III: Whitesboro vs. Section I: Rye
Section III received the extra bid that would go to the team that lost in the Sectional finals, which would go to the Whitesboro Warriors who were defeated by Skaneateles. Since Section IV does not have a Division II team, Whitesboro would get a chance in the regional round as the group would face off against Rye. The game that took place at Brewster Ice Arena, hosted by Section I, featured the Warriors shutting out the Section I Champion 4-0. This would be the only shutout so far in the Division II bracket as the number 4 team in the state would move on to the state tournament.
Division II – Section X: Ogdensburg vs. Section V: Webster Thomas
The high power offense of Webster Thomas played Ogdensburg in the regional round to see if the Titans could go back to the state tournament in back to back years. The game that was played at the Gene Polisseni Center at RIT as Section V hosted both Division I and Division II match ups. Webster Thomas, who is currently third in state rankings, would get the victory of the Section X team as the Titans would win 3-1. The Blue Devils would fall as a Section X team has not defeated Webster Thomas in back to back years in the regional round.
Division II – Section III: Skaneateles vs. Section VI: Starpoint
The number one team in the state, Skaneateles, would face off against the team from Buffalo, Starpoint, in the regional round. The game that took place at Buffalo State College, hosted by Section VI, would feature a dominating performance from the Lakers out of Section III. Skaneateles would defeat Starpoint 6-1 and move on to face off against Webster Thomas, the group that Skaneateles defeated last year in the State semi-finals. Both teams from Section III would move on to the state tournament with both teams possibly facing off in the Division II State Finals which would be a rematch of the Section III Sectional Finals that took place at the Syracuse War Memorial.
Written by Zachary Case @ZacCase6
Special to HockeyClan
Photos by Ashlyn Haynes @PCDeezy
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Main Image:Syracuse in action against West Genesee in the NYSPHSAA New York Section III, Division I state sectionals at Syracuse War Memorial on March 2, 2020. (Photo by Ashlyn Haynes)
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