Weekly Feature

2018-03-21 / Sports

Three-title season lifts Klimowicz to Coach of the Year honors

Sports Reporter

Bob Klimowicz has coached hockey for more than two decades, but he’s never had a season quite like this.

The Frontier/Lake Shore/Orchard Park girls hockey team won the Section VI, New York State and Federation championships, the first Western New York team to complete the trio of titles.

He was voted the 2017-18 All-Bee Girls’ Hockey Coach of the Year, but the veteran headman credits the depth and talent of his roster for this season’s success.

“It always helps to have the players,” Klimowicz said. “We’ve got a good group of talented girls, led by Brooke Becker at the point. But we also have a lot of depth, more than most of the teams in our league so we’re comfortable. Even in the state tournament, we were rolling three lines. A lot of teams, especially in the girls game, can’t do that. We felt comfortable being able to do that.”

Klimowicz has been involved in hockey for decades as a coach and player. He played in college, two years at Erie Community and then two more at Brockport State College. He served as a graduate assistant for one year and then began to coach at Brockport High School. In the late 1990s, Frontier High School fielded a boys varsity hockey team for the first time. Klimowicz volunteered to coach the team and remained in that position for 16 years.

He stepped down from that position in 2015 and one year later, he took over the girls’ program. His first season saw the team win both sectional and Federation titles. But they fell just short of a state title, losing in the championship game. That gave Klimowicz and his team something to reach for this season.

“I think losing in the state finals was a great motivator for the girls, they wanted to get back there and get that championship,” Klimowicz said. “But even last year when we lost, they still came back and stayed focused for the Federation championship. The same holds true this year. They could have easily had a let-down coming back from winning the states. They didn’t do that. Their goal from the beginning of the year was to win three championships. We were just as much focused for the Federation Championship as we were for the state championship.”

The team stormed through the season, losing only three games all year. They defeated Williamsville 3-1 in the Section VI Final, Skaneateles 6-3 in the state semifinal, Salmon River 5-1 in the state final and Clarence/Amherst/Sweet Home 2-1 in the Federation championship. The team is a cohesive unit, despite having girls of varying ages who come from three different school districts.

“It’s in my top three moments as a coach’s standpoint,” Klimowicz said. “This year is right up there. One of the things we try to stress with the girls is if you’re an underclassman, lay it out on the line for the seniors, this is their last chance. Who knows if, as an underclassman, you’ll get the chance to come back here. No one ever assumes that you’re going to get another chance at the states or even the sectional or Federation title. It’s amazing how close-knit the team is. You have three schools combined and they’re one of the closest knit groups I’ve had. It’s incredible in that aspect. We have five middle-school girls on the team and they’re treated with as much respect as the upperclassmen.”

Klimowicz is not alone in his effort. He has two capable assistant coaches in Lucian Forcucci and Chelsea Hausberger. The coaching staff preaches a message of hard work and selflessness.

“Everyone makes mistakes out there so don’t think all the time, just react,” Klimowicz said. “Our biggest thing is work hard. The team comes before self. Don’t worry about what’s best for you, do what’s best for the team. When you work hard and you forecheck hard and you play good team defense, those are all things our coaching staff preaches.

“I’ve taken over a team that is driven, passionate, dedicated to the sport. They work hard and sometimes that doesn’t always equal success. Sometimes when you have a team like this, the best thing a coach can do is be a good manager. Be that person that points out the things they need to improve on. From a coaching standpoint, we have two great assistants that work hard together and help out. I think we’re all great motivators. That’s part of it. The girls’ work ethic and dedication to the sport is part of it. We teach them what they need to do and they do it.”

email: tnigrelli@beenews.com

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