Not in four years has the West Genesee ice hockey team brought this much electricity and excitement to the fans at Shove Park.
As a packed house looked on last Tuesday night, the Wildcats made its return to elite status permanent, knocking off defending Section III Division I champion Liverpool 4-2 for its seventh victory in a row.
Over the course of the season's opening weeks, WG had carefully built its momentum, knocking off Clinton and claiming the first-place trophy at its own tournament before the sweep of a northern trip to Ogdensburg.
All these were preliminary events, though. The Wildcats were dead-set on toppling Liverpool, a team known for a blinding ability to find the net in big bunches (especially junior forward Matt Wilson) against any kind of defense.
Long before face-off, large student sections -- WG's "Wildcat Nation" and Liverpool's "Tribe", filled the Shove Park bleachers, giving the game a playoff-like atmosphere despite its early date.
Inspired and confident, WG scored quickly in the first period, then tacked on two more tallies in the second period. Brady Fremont, Rob Sauda and Eric Haney were responsible for those goals.
Meanwhile, the Wildcats' defense was even more ferocious, handing out physical punishment to Wilson and his linemates, whose frustrations grew as the loud and eventful night dragged on.
Finally, with 2.4 seconds left in the second period, Josh LaRose poked in a goal off a feed from Justin Rowley to get Liverpool on the board, and the sense in the building was that the Warriors would swarm the net the rest of the way.
Sure enough, a majority of the third period was in the Wildcats' end. Liverpool forwards took turns trying to rattle Evan Mazzoni - but the sophomore goalie never wavered, finishing wth 33 saves.
Mazzoni would allow Stacy Kosecki to score off feeds from Wilson and Josh LaRose with 6:34 left, but WG's defense withstood a late power play and held on to that slim margin until Steve Streiff put home an empty-net goal with 30 seconds to play.
Exciting as thi win was, WG had little time to savor it, for it meets another Division I power, Baldwinsville, on Thursday night at Lysander Arena.