Woods and Siegmann lead Falcons to sixth championship in program history
By David Yarger
It's been four days shy of three years since the Niagara-Wheatfield Falcons hockey team raised their last Section VI championship. On Monday evening, the Falcons got back to the top, as they defeated unbeaten Williamsville North, 2-0, in the Section VI large schools title game.
The rivals, competing against each other in the finals for the seventh time in 11 years, played a tightly contested game throughout, but in the end senior Chace Woods and junior goaltender Peyton Siegmann came through with big plays to preserve the Falcons championship.
In the first period, it was a slowly paced game, unlike the two teams, but with 5:50 left, Nick Breier found Woods for a one-timer that got past the North goalie and gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead.
North had some opportunities with under two minutes remaining in the period, but Siegmann was there all night to make the big time saves.
Siegmann's biggest period came in the second, as he faced 17 shots from the Spartans and didn't let one by. The biggest of the 17 came late in the period, as Siegmann was beaten by a Spartans forward. Siegmann stretched his left pad out and made a tremendous toe save to keep the game at 1-0.
Siegmann didn't know how to react to the save, saying "I don't know, I was happy. I won't lie he got me I just kind of stuck my leg out and got it. I was shocked, but it was a great feeling.
In the third period, Woods put the game on ice.
After a scrum in front of the North net where nobody other than the refs knew where the puck was, Woods was granted a penalty shot.
Woods went in on net from the left, faked a wrist shot glove side and deked to the backhand side, sliding the puck into the net for his second goal and sending the Falcons and the N-W Black Hole fan section into a frenzy.
Up 2-0, the Falcons defense and Siegmann continued to bottle up Spartans forwards, limiting them to 7 third period shots on goal.
As the clock ticked down to all zeros, the entire Falcons bench stormed out to Siegmann, who had just pitched a shutout in the team's biggest game of the year.
Coach Rick Wrazin has won on the big stage before and said the familiar feeling was great.
"They all feel the same. It's great to win them. It's a great feeling, the boys are speechless, it's just awesome," Wrazin said.
Wrazin praised Siegmann's game after making 31 big saves for the Falcons.
"We had a letdown in the second period," Wrazin said. "He came up big. He kept us in it at that point. It was nice to have a lead going in, but he came out and made some big saves and we came out and played the exact third period we wanted to."
Siegmann, Woods and Zack Belter were all named to the All-Federation First Team following the win, an award given out to the top players from the Section VI tournament.
The second time the Falcons played the Spartans, they carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, but eventually lost the game 3-2. Wrazin said his team played a much better game Monday night.
"In the third, I think we played exactly how we wanted to. Our D-zone was strong; I think positionally we did a better job of picking up pucks in the slot and getting them to the wall rather than push them up the middle. ... Against them last time we had some bad giveaways in our defensive zone and we didn't have those today," Wrazin said.
Wrazin added he was happy for the seniors and said they wouldn't have wanted it any other way playing North in the finals.
Williamsville North scored 82 goals during the regular season, so shutting the Spartans task is no easy task. Siegmann said for it to happen in the championship was surreal.
"I don't even know how to describe it, it's just a great feeling. You win it for all the seniors. Only three seniors have won it out of this group, so it felt good," Siegmann said.
For the senior Woods, contributing to a sectional title was a great feeling, but he credited his teammates for the job they did.
"A lot of the other guys did a lot of work for those goals. Nick Breier gave me a nice pass twice across the ice and I didn't put the first one in but I ended putting the second one in," Woods said.
Another big part to the team's success was the presence of the Black Hole cheering section. Siegmann said the section definitely had an influence.
"I heard them," Siegmann said. "They were getting rowdy. They were fighting with North a little bit. They're a good fan group. ... This was definitely the loudest game this year, so they helped us out."
With the win, the Falcons move on to regionals, just three wins away from a Division 1 large schools state championship. The Falcons will have home-ice advantage, as the state tournament is being played at the HarborCenter.
The Falcons will play the winner of the Section III championship between Syracuse and Baldwinsville. Wrazin admitted the Falcons know little about their possible opponent, but said he believes the team is currently at its best.
"I don't know a lot about them and hopefully they don't know a lot about us, so we're going to try and figure it out, Wrazin said. "I think we've been playing our best hockey of late, so we're right where we want to be."
Woods said playing close to home and in front of the Black Hole will be entertaining.
"It's going to be really fun," Woods said. "It's going to be nice playing in front of everyone."
The Falcons will look to continue their successful season and begin a road to the state finals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the HarborCenter.
The Falcons storm the ice to celebrate after defeating Williamsville North. (Photos and videos by David Yarger)
From left: Zack Belter, Peyton Siegmann and Chace Woods all pose with their All-Federation First Team plaques.