United hockey team poised for strong stretch run
Batavia Notre Dame Head Coach Marc Staley believes his United varsity hockey team is prepared to make a strong push over the last eight games of the Section V regular season.
“Tomorrow (Tuesday) is our 13th game and it’s the first time all year that we’re healthy, so I think we’re ready to put it together,” Staley said today, two days after United’s 4-2 victory over Western Finger Lakes Panthers at the Batavia Ice Arena.
The win over WFL – Staley’s 150th in nine-plus seasons behind the Notre Dame (and now merged program) bench -- raised BND’s record to 6-4-2 entering Tuesday’s home game (6 p.m.) against Williamsville East.
“The way I look at the milestone is that I’ve stuck around long enough to compile that many victories,” said Staley, who has a 150-128-6 record. “I’m thankful for the kids that have played through the years. I’ve been able to watch a lot of great hockey players. It’s been rewarding, challenging and, at times, stressful.”
Staley said that this season’s six victories have meant more to him because of the merger of the Batavia and Notre Dame programs.
“For quite some time I felt that our kids were at a disadvantage playing against the Rochester teams by being split up,” he said. “We’re seeing mergers in Rochester, too, and I’m just glad that we were able to do this.”
As far as his future, he said he wants to keep coaching “for as long as they’ll have me,” with a goal of being able to coach his son, Luke, who will be entering seventh grade next fall.
HIGH EXPECTATIONS THIS YEAR
Batavia Notre Dame came into its first season as a combined unit with high expectations with a roster loaded with skilled players at all positions. Offensively, United hasn’t had too many problems putting the puck in the net – five players have at least eight goals each -- but has been hampered by inconsistency on the defensive end.
On Saturday against WFL, United held the Panthers to just 15 shots on goaltender Courtney Schum and killed four of five penalties – an encouraging sign, Staley said.
“We’re working to correct things defensively – limiting shots, limiting chances and being in better position,” Staley said. “Now, with Cooper (Hamilton) back from injury, we are looking at moving Zack Eschberger to defense as he is just a versatile player.”
Hamilton, a junior center, suffered a collarbone injury in the season opener and returned to action on Saturday, picking up an assist.
Staley said he plans to put him on a top line with senior wingers Gavin Schrader and Vin DiRisio while wingers Ronin Hofmaster and Jameson Motyka will skate with freshman center Brady Johnson on the team’s other high-scoring line.
SCHRADER LEADS ALL SCORERS
Schrader (photo at right), with a goal and two assists on Saturday against WFL, now has 103 points in his high school career – 54 goals and 49 assists. This season, he has 22 goals and 21 assists, and – according to the Pointstreak website, is the leading scorer in Section V.
“Gavin is one of those generational type talents,” Staley said. “You rarely find someone his size (6-foot-4) that can skate as fast as he can and is as strong physically as he is. Beyond that, he’s become mentally tougher as a senior.”
Motyka had a goal and two assists – upping his totals to 10 and 16, respectively – while Eschberger and Johnson had the other goals. DiRisio has 11 goals and 12 assists; Hofmaster has eight goals and 16 assists, and Johnson has eight goals and 13 assists.
Defensive standouts thus far this season include senior Andrew Kasmarek, junior Noah Hudson and sophomore Orion Lama.
STRONG BETWEEN THE PIPES
United has been without starting goaltender Frank Falleti Jr. since its first game due to a right foot injury but senior Courtney Schum has performed admirably in his place. Falleti, a sophomore, skated for the first time last Friday, Staley said, but it is unclear if he will make it back this season.
“We not rushing him; he’s got two more years ahead of him and we don’t want to risk any further injury,” Staley said. “We’re supremely confident in Courtney. We feel she has the ability to lead us down the stretch.”
Following tomorrow’s game, BND will be off for a week. It has a Jan. 18 game at Geneseo/Avon/Livonia before ending the regular season with a five-game homestand, including two games against powerful Victor with McQuaid Jesuit, another tough opponent, sandwiched in between.
File photo by Steve Ognibene.