Jan 21, 2008 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Through a pair of key Division I contests, the Fayetteville-Manlius ice hockey team would know, quite well, its odds of making it into the post-season.
And those odds got a whole lot better Saturday night, once the Hornets were done rallying past defending state Division I champion Ithaca 4-3 at the Cicero Twin Rinks.
Going back and forth, F-M led, 1-0, after one period, only to have the Little Red go in front with a pair of second-period goals.
That it didn’t turn into more than a 2-1 deficit was a tribute to Mike Poppleton. When he needed to be good, Poppleton exceeded that mark, turning away 45 of Ithaca’s 47 shots and keeping his team in the game almost by himself.
Poppleton’s remarkable effort helped give the Hornets time to bring its offense back to life. F-M buzzed Ithaca goaltender Zach Wilder three times in the final period, going back in front and hanging on.
This was Billy Kent’s finest moment as a varsity player. With the Little Red’s defense intent on stopping Nick Zappia (they held him to one goal), Kent got open and produced a three-goal hat trick, often getting his feeds from Nick Esposito, who had three assists. Buddy Leathley was also credited with an assist.
All this culminated an exciting week where the Hornets knocked off a pair of playoff contenders, each in the same close fashion.
Meeting Oswego last Tuesday at the Twin Rinks, the Hornets had to survive a tense, back-and-forth third period to beat the Buccaneers by the same 4-3 margin by which it would get Oswego.
As they always have this season, Nick Zappia and Matt Esposito paced the F-M attack. They both scored in the first period, putting the Hornets in front 2-0, then got quiet as Oswego began to catch up in the middle stages.
Zappia scored off an Esposito feed in the third period, but the Bucs rallied and tied it 3-3 before Zappia returned and, off yet another great pass from Esposito, poked a shot past Oswego goalie Matt Howard with five minutes left to break the deadlock.
Billy Kent had two assists, while Ronnie Caputo earned an assist of his own. Mike Poppleton turned away all of Oswego’s chances in the final minutes, building his save total to 27. Chris Sova (two goals) and Mike Brown (one goal, one assist) led the Bucs’ efffort.
Important as that win was, F-M needed to knock off Ithaca to make a big impression and prove that its playoff bid could survive the late-season rigors — which it did.
After a Monday non-league game with Hamilton, the Hornets (11-4) have a big Wednesday match against Liverpool before it visits Cortland/Homer on Friday night.