Weekly Feature

2017-12-07 / Sports

LID girls hockey team aiming for growth


The Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew hockey team will be young once again this year. The team graduated just one senior from last year and has no 12th-graders on this year’s squad. Youth and inexperience were issues for the team last season. They will be young again this year, but the hope is that the team is able to improve as the season goes on.

The team is made up of four juniors, five sophomores, six freshmen, five eighth-graders and four seventh-graders. The quartet of juniors – all of whom are defensemen – will be key to any success the team has. Jill Blas (Lancaster), Anna Pitz (Iroquois), Alexis Missell (Iroquois) and Jeanette Szelfer (Lancaster) will be the leaders on the team. Young starting goaltender Dylan Gorski and middle school backups Sophia Will and Mackenzie Walkowiak will also be important members of the team.

“They’re the heart of our team,” assistant coach Pete Tonsoline said. “We need them to be leaders. That will be big. Out of our six defensemen, these four are the power that be. They’ll play a lot.

“We have some very good players, but it is such a young team. We’re playing teams with a lot of upperclassmen. They have their ninthand 10th-graders too, but they also have a solid group of juniors and seniors. Teams like Williamsville, Monsignor Martin, FLOP, they have a lot of experience.”

Lancaster/Iroquois/Depew finished 1-16-1 last season. Youth was one issue. Another was the program has lost a number of girls to private schools and other programs.

The team has started this season 0-3, but has been much more impressive than it has been in years past. The first game was a 5-2 loss to Monsignor Martin. The game was tied at 2-2 after two when Szelfer and Maddy Moran both scored. The team then lost 4-1 to Frontier/ Lake Shore/Orchard Park. The third defeat came at the hands of Clarence/Amherst/Sweet Home, 5-4. Goals were scored by Morganne Dee, Morgan Zaccarine, Blas and Jersey Phillips.

“We’ve lost three games so far,” Tonsoline said. “We lost to Monsignor Martin 5-2. We were up 1-0 then they tied it at 1 then we later tied it at 2-2. Then they pulled away in the third with some last-minute goals. We played the other league power, FLOP and lost 4-1. It wasn’t a bad game. We also lost to Amherst/Sweet Home/Clarence 5-4.”

The team is hoping to be improved from last season at the very least. With such a young team, improvement during practice will be key. Playing at a high tempo will also be important. So far, there’s a lot to be encouraged by.

“The overall goal is to improve from last year,” Tonso- line said. “We were a little bit frustrated last season. Because they were so young, they couldn’t seem to improve. This year we set out to be better. Right from the start, we look better than last year. We want to look better every game and practice at a much higher tempo. We’re encouraged by what we see right now.”

However, the team knows a championship is not exactly likely just yet. The goal for this season is to show improvement on last year’s one-win total. Finishing .500 would be a major step forward.

“We’re optimistic, but we don’t have stars in our eyes,” Tonsoline said. “We’re not a super team or anything. But we will be better in a year. We’re looking to invest in improving this year. If we were to finish .500, it would be a great accomplishment for the kids, considering how young they are. Then we could see what we can do in the playoffs. We also want to keep these kids together. Down the road if they stay together, they could have the potential for a three-year run.”

If the team is to improve, it will be important for the team to handle adversity well. There may be a lot of losses early on, so it will be key to keep working hard and believing.

“We just have to not get discouraged,” Tonsoline said. “We’re pretty much a JV team playing varsity teams all the time. Me and coach [Dave] Santoro have been coaching long enough to know what to expect and what the time frame is. So far we’ve played pretty well, and that is encouraging.”

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

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