Weekly Feature

2015-12-09 / Sports

Kenmore East boys look to return to finals

Kenmore East’s JP Giordano delivers a flying check to the midsection of Williamsville East's William Mann (12) during the first period of play at the Northtown Center. 
Photo by Nick LoVerdePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Kenmore East’s JP Giordano delivers a flying check to the midsection of Williamsville East's William Mann (12) during the first period of play at the Northtown Center. Photo by Nick LoVerdePurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com The Kenmore East boys Federation hockey team enters the 2015-16 campaign with a talented and experienced lineup that should allow the team to challenge for a Section VI championship.

The question for this team, according to head coach Kyle Pray, will be how the chemistry of the lines and defensive pairings come together and that they consistently produce offensively throughout the season.

Up front, the team is led by AJ Marinelli, Trevor Pray and Anthony Tulipane.

Marinelli was the leading scorer in Division II last year.

Pray returns to the lineup after spending last year with the Buffalo Junior Sabres 16U team.

Tulipane played last season for the Buffalo Regals team coached by former Sabre enforcer Matt Barnaby.

All three of these players are very skilled up front and will be counted on to produce not only at full strength but on the power play as well. All three of them are Seniors. Pray and Tulipane are Captains.

Senior Gage Holler, junior Justin Watson and sophomore Russ Riggio are three forwards that will be essential to the Bulldogs’ success.

Holler is a good two way player that can create offense and kill penalties. Justin Watson has outstanding hands around the net and was a top goal scorer last year in Division II. Russ Riggio is a playmaking forward who sees the ice well and can finish at the same time.

Coach Pray has been very happy with the play of senior forwards Alex Bluff and Chad Diaz, along with junior Adam Smith and sophomore Danny Spors.

Bluff is big and strong and can take the puck to the net. Diaz is quick and tenacious and is strong on the forecheck.

Smith has stepped up his play and has been strong down low around the net and with speed to the outside. Spors has stepped in at both offense and defense and has done a good job filling these roles.

He is a smart player that makes the right decisions on the ice.

Two of the best all around players in the league are senior defensemen Cullen Smyth and Joey Spataro.

Smyth is a strong. fluent skater that can jump into the offense but at the same time be very steady on the back line. He will help anchor the power play and be a major part of the penalty kill. Smyth is also one of the three captains. Spataro is also a fluent skater who carries the puck well.

He plays both on the power play and penalty kill. He will be counted on to defend the opponents top lines and to transition the puck quickly on the offensive front.

Junior Sam Balisteri and senior JP Giordano are a very good defensive pair and work well together. Giordano brings a physical presence to the game and has a strong shot from the point.

Balesteri is physical, very good at handling the puck and sees the open players transitioning up ice. He was awarded a player of the game award recently in the Potsdam Tournament.

Juniors Jacob Kluge and Ryan Hahn round out the defense. Kluge continues to improve his play and is starting to make better puck decisions. Hahn is a promising freshman with good overall skills and, as he continues to develop, will play a larger role in the Bulldog defense.

The Bulldogs are very strong in goal. Brad Hermann helped lead the squad to the sectional final last year. He returns this year and is experienced and is ready to face many of the tough opponents the Bulldogs will take on this year.

Hermann is a senior.

Chase Ford is a solid goaltender who moves well and the Bulldogs will depend on him for many games throughout the season. Junior Dave Hahn is steadily making progress and rounds out a goaltending trio that Coach Pray feels confident can lead the team to a successful season. Hermann was in net last February when the Bulldogs played four overtime periods with Hamburg in the Section semi-finals.

The Bulldogs are coached this year by Kyle Pray and assisted by Mike Kluge, Tom Diehl and Jim Kluge.

The team is off to a 1-2 start. East lost its opener to rival Williamsville East 2-1.

"I was not happy with our play. Will East deserved to win the game. We were slow on our feet and showed little urgency until late in the game,” said Pray.

On their annual trip up north, The Bulldogs finished second in the Potsdam Tournament. They defeated Potsdam, 5-3, as Trevor Pray had two goals and one assist and Sam Balisteri had two goals.

Chase Ford got the win between the pipes.

In the final, East lost to Canton 1-0 despite out shooting them 29-13. Canton scored with one second left in the game. Brad Hermann stopped 12 of 13 between the pipes.

The Bulldogs will play Clarence on Thursday and Frontier on Saturday in league play.

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