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by Alex Pagliano / Buffalo Sabres

Day one of the 30th annual Super Sunday High School Hockey Championships is in the books, and it ended with one of the most exciting finishes in recent history.

The action concludes on Monday with three more championship games at First Niagara Center: Monsignor Martin Association, Federation Small School Championship and the Federation Large School Championship.


St. Joe’s 4 - Canisius 1
St. Joe’s Thomas Heyden scored the game-winning-goal 17 seconds into the third period for the school’s first WNYHSCHL Large School Championship since 1994, as the Marauders defeated rival Canisius 4-1 on Sunday at First Niagara Center.

“We’ve been stressing to get back here,” St. Joe’s head coach Sean Elliot said. “It’s great to get out back ahead here and get the win.”

After two periods, St. Joe’s led Canisius 1-0. Championship MVP Brendan Hurley beat Canisius goaltender Tyler Sekuterski underneath the glove with just over one minute remaining in the opening period for the game’s first goal.

Seven seconds into the third period, Ian Fitzgerald launched a puck that bounced past St. Joe’s goaltender Trevor Krzemien from center ice to even the score.

Just 10 seconds later, Heyden deked from the right of Sekuterski to add the decisive score.

“It’s about how you respond,” Elliott said. “The puck took an unfortunate bounce. But, our team picked up (Krzemien) right away, and that’s exactly how you want to respond.”

Jacob Donn placed a rebound past Sekuterski on the power play to expand the Marauders lead to 3-1 with 5:37 remaining. Canisius pulled Sekuterski with the man advantage late, but the Crusaders were unable to find the back of the net.

Peter Masters added an empty net goal with seven seconds left to etch the final into the record books.

Cheektowaga 4 - Starpoint 3 (OT)
Championship MVP Michael Swacha scored his second goal of the game 5:45 into overtime, as Cheektowaga rallied back to defeat Starpoint 4-3 on Sunday at First Niagara Center. Swacha and teammate Jordan Pocobello each recorded two goals to capture Cheektowaga’s 10th WNYHSCHL Small School Championship.

“The kids never quit,” Cheektowaga head coach Steve Ferrentino said. “We got a lucky goal to get us into overtime and then Michael (Swacha) put it away for us.”

Cheektowaga trailed 3-2 with under 80 seconds to play, but Pocobello found the back of the net for the second time to even the score. Pocobello launched a point shot that trickled through a crowd of players and ultimately past Starpoint goaltender Garrett Varisco to send the game into overtime.

As the overtime clock dwindled, Cheektowaga turned up the pressure. With 2:45 remaining, Swacha buried a rebound past an outstretched Varisco for the win.

“The goal was great,” Swacha said. “This is a special moment for us. The whole team contributed and earned a team victory.”

Pocobello opened the scoring for Cheektowaga 4:34 into the opening period when he beat Varisco five-hole unassisted from the slot. Starpoint would match before the end of the period, as Jordan Parrish outworked two Cheektowaga defensemen for the puck just outside of the crease to even the score.

Parrish recorded the lone score of the second period. Teammate Andrew Murchison centered the puck Parrish who wristed the shot past Cheektowaga goaltender Jordan Meyer.

Trailing 2-1 entering the third period, Cheektowaga would tie things up. Varisco stopped the original shot from Anthony Cybulski, but was unable to stop the rebound by Swacha. Starpoint would regain the lead at 10:32 as Jacob Wildt redirected a point shot on the power play.

The Senators were unable to hold the lead, as Pocobello and Swacha scored consecutive goals at the end of the third period and in overtime to end the game.

City Honors/Cardinal O’Hara 7 - Olean 4
Headed into the second intermission, City Honors/Cardinal O’Hara (CHCOH) trailed Olean 4-0. Cam Brickey had scored three goals over the first 21:21 of action and the Eagles had controlled the flow of the game. But the third period would change everything.

City Honors/Cardinal O’Hara scored seven unanswered goals over the duration of the third period on Sunday to capture the WNYHSCHL Mixed School Championship over Olean by a score of 7-4. John Liberti led CHCOH with six points on four goals and two assists. Sophomore goaltender Rachael Farmer held Olean scoreless for the final 29:39 of regulation.

“I thought we were dead in the water,” CHCOH head coach John Dunn said. “I read them the riot act [after two periods]. I don’t do that very often. I knew that we could pull this off. It was just unbelievable.”

“We knew our players had skill,” Dunn said. “It was a tall order, but we knew that we could do it.”

CHCOH scored two goals in the first 49 seconds of the third period. Liberti beat Olean goaltender Brady Zambanini on the backhand from just inside the right faceoff circle. Defenseman Sam Hamlett tucked a point shot past Zambanini 27 seconds later to cut the lead in half.

Liberti scored consecutive goals to erase the deficit midway through the third period. Liberti beat Zambanini high-glove from the slot on the power play at 3:15 and deked to beat the sprawling goaltender with under 11 minutes to play.

“I worked hard,” Liberti said. “I was able to put the puck in the net. There’s not much more I can say. It’s just an amazing moment.”

Liberti found teammate Collin Rampado for the game-winning-goal. Liberti and Rampado worked the two-on-one to perfection, as Rampado converted the right-hand wrist shot from the slot.

Nick Kindzia expanded the CHCOH lead to two goals at 4:51. Kindzia went coast-to-coast and deked Zambanini for the insurance goal. Liberti added his fourth goal with the empty net to cap off the unprecedented run.

The Hawks carry their momentum to the state competition next weekend in Long Island, N.Y.

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