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Hockey Wildcats top Ithaca for first title since '02

After a six-year drought, the West Genesee ice hockey team was once again crowned Section III Division I champions.

The Wildcats accomplished this first title since 2002 by escaping a tense, exciting Division I final with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over defending state champion Ithaca last Friday night at Allyn Arena in Skaneateles.

WG (21-2-3), ranked no. 2 in the last state Division I poll, drew first blood early as league Player of the Year Scott Lewis scored on a power-play goal less than three minutes into the game.

Lewis received a great pass from Erich Haney and ripped a shot over the left shoulder of Ithaca goalie Zack Wilder to give his team the lead. Though the Wildcats scored quickly, defense would end up as the difference maker as that was the only goal of the opening period.

The second period started just like the first, as the Wildcats again notched a goal in the opening minutes, thanks to an impressive slap shot by sophomore Ryan Michel. Haney tallied his second assist as WG gained a 2-0 advantage.

But this margin would not last long. Ithaca (15-9-2) regrouped and played the final 12 minutes of the period like the defending champions that they were. The Little Red limited the Wildcats' offense to just four shots the rest of the period and controlled the puck, too. Ithaca kept WG's defense on their toes and tested them often.

With a little more than eight minutes remaining, the Little Red got on the board and cut its deficit in half when Sean Callihan found the back of the net in the final seconds of a power play. That 2-1 score held up as the period came to an end.

What started out as a quick and scoreless third period finished in thrilling fashion. Neither squad got anything going over the first 11 minutes in which there was a total of just five shots on goal. There were no penalties called, and the puck never remained on either side of the ice for too long.

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