Steeling the show
The Dunkirk-Fredonia Steelers enjoyed one of their best seasons in nearly four years and now four players are being recognized for the excellence on the ice.
Forwards Matt Sheridan and Nick Formanowicz, defenseman Kyle Leysath and goaltender Jared Hebner were named first-team all stars for the Niagara Frontier High School Club Hockey League.
Sheridan, a senior, enjoyed a remarkable season with 16 goals and 22 assists for 38 points.
“I can’t say enough about the leadership and his importance to the success of our team,” Dunkirk-Fredonia coach Jay Bishop said of his senior captain. “He developed a lot of confidence. He is not the biggest kid on the ice. He has been really good at finding ways to make himself huge on the ice. This was his breakout year. Getting captaincy, he really took it serious and he was 100 percent dedicated to the team. He is a quiet leader and leads by example. When he talks, everyone listens. I saw that in him. He is respectful and easy to coach.”
Formanowicz, a junior, finished the season with 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points.
“He is a real big kid and is such a great physical presence on ice,” Bishop said. “He is great at playing the body and is a hard checking kid. He has a nose for putting the puck in the net. He is hard to move and keeps his stick on the ice. I think he will be one of the leaders of the team next year. I expect him to turn into our team leader and step up his game. This was the first year I have coached him. I was happy to see his hockey skills. More importantly, I was happy to see his character. He is polite and respectful. When you ask him to do something, he does it. You can’t ask for more from a hockey player.”
Leysath, a senior, was a threat on the blue line for Bishop and the Steelers as he was solid on defense and not afraid to join the offensive rush. He finished the year with eight goals and 11 assists for 19 points.
“He is an awesome defenseman,” Bishop said of his assistant captain. “He can be a stay-at-home defenseman or a huge offensive threat. He did an awesome job on defense this year. I was proud to see him picked as an all star. A couple times we did move him to offense if I thought we needed offensive firepower. It was nice to have that flexibility. I think he was a great fit on defense for our team. He was a real leader.”
Hebner was one of the biggest reasons for the Steelers’ success this year. He finished the season with a 13-2-1 record. He finished with five shutouts and 21 goals allowed all year for a 1.31 goals against average. He also had one assist. Hebner led the league in goals against and shutouts.
“He was certainly a great backstop for our team,” Bishop said. “He did a tremendous job as goalie. He ensured wins. He was a real serious kid who worked on his craft all year long and turned into one of the best goalies I’ve coached. He exceeded expectations. I knew he was a strong goalie. He saw some playing time last year, but not a lot. Early in the season, he made a real believer out of me and his playing ability.”
Bishop noted the success of the four players says a lot about the Northern Chautauqua County Youth Hockey Association and the coaches at the younger age levels.
“It says a lot about these kids coming up together in the program,” he said. “NCCYHA has done a great job developing kids for the high school level. Rod Sheridan did a tremendous job when (these players) were on jayvees. They won the jayvee championship. I was lucky to have Rod as an assistant and tap into his experience and expertise coaching them. It made my job very easy. Our goal is to develop a place for younger kids to aspire to play. We want their ultimate goal to be playing for the high school team. We want to be the premier level for the organization and show kids a real hockey experience.”
There will be a first ever high school hockey All-Star Game this Friday at Riverside Ice Rink. Ryan Sheldon, Hebner, Formanowicz, Leysath and Sheridan will compete in the game and the team will be coached by Bishop.
“It’s a real honor to be selected and win the division and be part of the first ever All-Star Game,” Bishop said. “A couple kids want to further their hockey career and there will be Junior and college scouts there.”