Hockey: Pelham wins elusive state title at long last – The Journal News | LoHud.com
BUFFALO — After 31 years, it all came together for Ed Witz and the Pelham Memorial boys hockey team.
A five-goal third period powered the Pelicans to a 7-1 blowout over Section 10’s St. Lawrence to give Pelham its first ever Division II state hockey title Sunday at Harborcenter in Buffalo.
Stefan Miklakos had a hat trick and Ben Hurd had a goal and three assists as the Pelicans controlled from puck drop to final whistle in an impressive championship display. Pelham (25-1) suffocated and frustrated a high-powered St. Lawrence team, all but eliminating their offense with a fast forecheck and relentless puck possession.
“They put so much pressure on you in every aspect of the game. We just didn’t have time to make any kind of plays,” St. Lawrence head coach Mickey Locke said. “They’re just so fast and they keep the intensity up and they just keep coming and coming.”
Nat Heintz opened the scoring for Pelham with 6:02 left in the first on a nice feed from Miklakos, but the score was tied 1-1 after a period after St. Lawrence junior Ian Bressett forced a neutral zone turnover and scored on a breakaway. It was just St. Lawrence’s second shot of the game, but Witz said his team wasn’t rattled.
“They didn’t even blink when they scored,” Witz said. “They didn’t even blink.”
Pelham continued to dominate, outshooting the Larries 14-2 the second period. Their lone goal of the frame came on a shorthanded break. Miklakos and Hurd worked a 2-on-1 into a Miklakos tap-in to give Pelham the lead with 3:27 left in the period. The ice was noticeably tilted but the score remained tight.
Rather than panic, the Pelicans just kept pressing. Witz credited scheduling tough teams out of section all season for making his team ready for big moments in tight games.
“The more practice you get of looking up at the scoreboard and seeing 0-0 or 1-1 the better you get at playing under those conditions,” he said. “In order to be a champion you need to be able to handle the stress and anxiety of being in a close game.”
Pelham’s championship form came in the third. Miklakos second of the game made it 3-1. Then Gib Smith scored on a point shot to make it 4-1 on the power play. Hurd netted his first of the game to make it 5-1, and hats and pom poms hit the ice when Miklakos scored his third with 6:36 to play. Drew Montanarella capped the scoring for Pelham with 1:27 left in regulation.
To say the game got away from St. Lawrence is to imply it was ever there at all. The Larries managed just seven shots all game while Pelham threw nearly a shot a minute on Rico DiMatteo, who made 36 saves in the loss.
The game’s final minutes devolved into chaos—frustrated Larries taking penalties and defiant Pelicans responding with goals. But the story was already set in place: The Pelham machine, unrelenting and inevitable, had won.
“That was definitely really satisfying,” said Hurd, who scored on a quick shot in front as Zachary St. Hilaire laid a huge hit that got him ejected from the game. “It’s a huge momentum change when they’re trying to grasp at anything and we’re not giving them anything at all.”
Hurd was one of five Pelicans named to the All-State team. Miklakos, Will Case, and Smith joined the senior on the First Team, while Heintz made Second Team All-State. Miklakos was also named tournament MVP while Gib Smith was named state player of the year.
For Witz, Sunday was the culmination of three decades with the Pelham program. Gatorade-soaked in his championship tee-shirt, he admitted taking pride in watching his program win 25 straight games and dominate the state’s best.
“I’m just happy to have won the game. Happy to have had it with this group,” he said. “Just an unbelievable experience.”