Tonawanda News — Before this season started the St. Joe’s hockey team, who lost 10 players from the 2011-12 squad, were expected to be in rebuilding mode.
Now, just three months later, the Marauders are state champions and have overcome every conceivable obstacle on the ice this season. Winners of 25 games (18 straight to end the season), a Federation and state title and a season sweep of rival Canisius, who was the Federation favorite in December, the Marauders were dominant. Coach Rich Crozier said this group will go down as one of the best in Western New York hockey history.
“I personally have never experienced anything like this as a coach, or even as a player,” he said. “One of the most impressive things about this team is that they never had an off game. We never really played down to an opponent. The teams we were supposed to beat, we beat. The real tight games, we competed enough and were fortunate enough to win.”
The state championship is St. Joe’s eighth in 11 seasons, and the second in Crozier’s three seasons.
He said the turning point of this season, when he realized his team could go all the way, came Jan. 17, with the Marauders’ second win over Canisius in a week — in overtime.
“The way we competed in that game — many people would have argued that Canisius was the favorite going into the year, but we played them the week before and beat them 5-2,” Crozier said. “I remember thinking, ‘Whoa. We just swept who was supposed to be the top Catholic team.’ Going into our first game with them they were 13-0. It was quite the (accomplishment) to defeat them twice in a week.”
The Marauders were led by a pair of Tonawanda seniors: center Zach Klapp and defensemen Mike Iannello. Crozier credits both players for their contributions on the ice and in the locker room, and said without Klapp, the most valuable player of the Catholic Federation, the Marauders wouldn’t have been state champions this season.