Niagara-Wheatfield hockey with big shoes to fill coming off state finals appearance
By David Yarger
The 2017-18 Niagara-Wheatfield hockey season can really be summed up in one word - historic.
The Falcons finished the season 19-3-3-1, won the program's sixth Section VI title, and reached the team's first-ever state title game.
Coming into the 2018-19 season, the team has some holes to fill after losing key scorers such as Nick Peters, Chace Woods, Michael Lotempio, Chris Tobey and Dom Pulli, as well as defenseman Zack Belter and Nick Breier.
Despite the losses, the Falcons return 10 players from last year's state final team, including Caleb Lee, Peyton Siegmann, Chris Cacciatore, Peter Lysiak, Ben Foster, Cam King, Dylan Woods, Jake Halleen, Joel Hocking and Owen Hayes.
Siegmann returns as the team's starting goaltender after winning All-Federation and Second Team All-State honors a season ago.
Lee returns as one of the team's top defenseman, and Cacciatore will look to take over some of the scoring left behind from the departure of last year's seniors.
Despite losing some key players, Falcons coach Rick Wrazin didn't see this season as replacing anybody, but more of "getting some new parts, revamp and recycle."
"You can't replace guys that you lose, especially personalities and things like that. We don't want guys coming in to say, 'I have to be somebody else,' we just want them coming in and playing their own game. And as a team we need to find our own identity and that's what we're in the process of doing," Wrazin added.
The team started off slow with a 7-1 loss to Canisius, but the Falcons bounced back versus Lancaster in a 3-2 victory. See Page __ for a full recap of the game's action.
Off of such a season with a lot of history behind it, some would think Wrazin's bunch may face pressure to be as good as last year, but Wrazin insisted that's not what is being instilled into the team.
"I think it's important for them to know that last year is last year and it's gone and it's time to start something new," Wrazin said.
Although the Falcons were no offensive juggernaut last season, N-W will still have to replace 80 out the team's 91 goals last season. Wrazin admitted, the team will have to play a different brand of hockey to get the puck in the net.
"We did lose a lot of scoring," he said. "The guys we have, though, we kind of refer to them as the lunch pal bunch. ... I've used the Sabres as an example, because they're scoring a lot of dirty goals and that's how we're going to have to score. We're not going to get the pretty goals that we got (last year). We might get some here and there, but we're gonna have to grind it out. To be honest, you love coaching teams like that."
Niagara-Wheatfield is not the only team that had to bear with roster changes this past season, as Wrazin called the large schools division of Section VI "pretty wide open."
"From what I've seen from the scrimmage carnival and the first couple games it's anybody's league and it's gonna be whoever gets it together and goes," Wrazin said.
The Falcons are looking for their first back-to-back Section VI titles since the 2012-2015 dynasty, which won four years straight.