BATAVIA — On an afternoon in which it honored Batavia’s 2002-2003 sectional championship team, the Batavia/Notre Dame United Hockey team continued its hot streak, taking down defending Section V Class B champion Webster Thomas, 4-2. United lit the lamp 3:27 into the game on a tally from Jameson Motyka to jumpstart their victory, ultimately using another goal from Motyka at the start of the third period to seize a 3-1 advantage, which turned out to be the difference in the game.
“We got the start we’ve been looking for,” said Staley. “The guys really focused on coming out strong tonight. We got the lead and settled into the game nicely. That was a huge factor in the win.”
Assisting on Motyka’s opening goal were his linemates, Ivan Milovidov and Brady Johnson, while Noah Whitcombe and Johnson added helpers on what proved to be the game-winner. B/ND outshot Webster Thomas 14-7 in the opening period to set the tone early on.
Webster Thomas tied the game at one with 7:11 to go in the second period, as Jason Tucker sniped a beautiful shot from just outside United’s blue line for the equalizer. However, B/ND answered back quickly, scoring a minute later on a gorgeous tic-tack-toe three-on-two rush, with Milovidov, Motyka and Ronin Hofmaster combining for the go-ahead tally. Milovidov would finish the job, beating the goaltender to make it 2-1 United.
“That was a huge goal. Any momentum Thomas may have felt from tying the game, we took it right back,” said Staley. “I love the resiliency of this team. Nobody hangs their head. They get angry. They come right back after you. And they did it by working together beautifully.”
Motyka added his second goal with 14:56 remaining to give United the lead, which turned out to be for good.
“Up 2-1 after two periods is not exactly a safe spot to be in,” said Staley. “We knew we had to really execute in the third. We did a really nice job as a team, staying above the puck and limiting odd-man rushes, and our penalty kill was outstanding.
“We got the separation we were looking for. Ahead by two after Jameson’s second, we could now shift to a 1-2-2 forecheck and make it really difficult on Thomas.”
Brady Hall cut the Thomas deficit to one on a fantastic shot from the right wall, but that was as close as Webster would get, as Cooper Hamilton added an insurance empty-net goal with 23 seconds remaining in the third period. To set up Hamliton’s finishing touch, Johnson won the faceoff, guiding the puck to Hamilton, who launched the puck the length of the ice into the open net.
“We had a great game from our eight defensemen,” added Staley. “They were very steady facilitating the breakout, getting clears, playing physical and cleaning up the front of the net. I loved their tenacity and grit tonight.”
Sophomore goaltender Rhys Tanner made 21 saves on 23 shots throughout another efficient performance in net for United.
“This was a big win — they all are at this point in the season,” added Staley. “Thomas is a team that knows how to win. Most of their players have won two sectional championships and played in the state final four twice. Their kids have experience in these tight games. Tonight, however, our guys were up to the challenge. This is a big step for sure.”
Sitting at 12-4 on the year, B/ND has four games remaining on its regular-season schedule. Up next for United is a Tuesday-night matchup with the Portside Royals at 5 p.m. at SUNY Brockport.
Before Saturday’s critical victory, Batavia celebrated its ’02-‘03 championship team, which was the last group of Batavia skaters to defeat Webster Thomas.
“Big win this afternoon. It was Coach Staley’s first win against Webster Thomas and the first since the mid-2000ss for a Batavia team,” said B/ND assistant coach John Kirkwood. “They have won over five of the last 10 Section V Class B titles and are a perennial state contender. Our athletes set the pace in this one with a blistering pace in the first period and worked very hard and played physically and defensively to secure the ‘W.’”
Kirkwood also reflected on the honor bestowed upon the ‘02-‘03 team during a pregame ceremony.
“It was the team’s 20th anniversary, and 11 former athletes, one from Detroit and another from Pennsylvania, and three coaches were in the rink to watch the current B/ND team claw its way to a solid victory,” said Kirkwood. “It was just a joyous celebration of camaraderie. These guys are still a tight-knit group. Hockey has that special ability to do that for life. I feel extremely fortunate to have shared that run and this evening with this team. Also, it’s special to see them all so successful and happy in life. That’s what athletics is supposed to help create. And it certainly did for this crew.
“Today’s game even felt a lot like 2002-2003 In how we competed, and for that, I feel most fortunate. We captured a little magic in a bottle tonight.”
After the game, the group gathered at Roman’s in Batavia to reminisce about the good old days.
“Looking back at the ‘02-’03 team, there are three words that stand out to me — toughness, togetherness and competitiveness,” said former Batavia varsity football coach and a member of the ‘02-’03 team, Brennan Briggs. “Most of us had the opportunity to play for Coach Tim Lutey as a Batavia Rampart, and the discipline and toughness he instilled in us at a very young age was the biggest game changer for our group.
“Hockey wasn’t something we did from November to March — we grew up playing knee hockey in each other’s basements as young boys and daily street hockey tournaments on dead-end streets together as middle school kids.”
“Every practice was a battle. We didn’t take it easy on each other. Whether it was a battle drill in the corner, a team scrimmage to conclude practice or two-laps on (former Batavia varsity coach Paul) Pedersen’s whistle, everyone was trying to win every moment.”
“I’ll never forget the busloads of fans making the trip to cheer on their local hockey team. The bus rides and hotel overnights with our brothers are things I’ll cherish forever.”
After beginning the season red-hot, Batavia/Notre Dame had endured a recent rough patch, winning just one of its past four games leading into Friday night’s matchup with host Canandaigua. Despite a dismal first-period effort that resulted in the Braves seizing a 1-0 advantage, B/ND managed to outwork its opponent over the final two periods of action, scoring five unanswered goals to walk away with a 5-1 victory, improving its record to 11-4 on the year.
“We started flat. No other way to put it,” said United head coach Marc Staley. “We didn’t possess the puck well, and we were sloppy.”
United scored its first goal just seven seconds into the second period, tying the game at one on Milovidov’s tally, which came off of a slick play following the period’s opening faceoff. Hamilton and Alex Johnson assisted the equalizer. The 1-1 tie remained intact heading into the third period when B/ND scored four goals to take the lead and the resounding four-goal victory.
“We can score in bunches,” said Staley. “We scored four in the third period, and it all stemmed from possessing and moving the puck much cleaner. We did a better job getting pucks to the net and trusting the systems. I thought the focus and execution when we needed it was solid.”
Motyka finished with two goals and an assist, while Johnson registered a goal and an assist. Hofmaster added a couple of assists and now sits at 96 points for his high school career. Tanner made 17 saves for B/ND.
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