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WG hockey edges F-M, clinches league title

By now, the West Genesee ice hockey team's routine has become entrenched -- get a couple of goals, then hang on.

This has occurred throughout the Wildcats' run to the Division I regular-season title, which was secured Tuesday night with yet another nail-biter against Fayetteville-Manlius, a 2-1 victory at Cicero Twin Rinks.

Five different times this season, WG has beaten league opponents by a single goal, including three in a row. This game followed a 2-1 decision over Liverpool on Jan. 17 and a 3-2 overtime win over Ithaca on Jan. 26.

When the Wildcats first met F-M Dec. 21 at Shove Park, that was also a 2-1 decision in WG's favor, and much the same was expected with goaltenders John Schlegel and Mike Poppleton along for the ride.

Tim Besio charged in and got a power-play goal 4:20 into the game to put WG up 1-0, off feeds from Conor Thompson and Scott Lewis, only to have F-M's Ronnie Caputo tie it on a slap shot in four-on-four play a few minutes later.

Off another power play with 4:16 left in the first period, Erich Haney deflected in Ryan Michel's shot from the point, with Thompson again gaining the assist. And that would be the last goal of the night.

Poppleton made 11 saves in the first period alone, but didn't have to shoulder the burden as much in the next two periods as F-M organized itself and staged an all-out attack on the Wildcats' stubborn defense.

Michel and Tim Bubnack did their best as defensive anchors, but a string of shots still found their way to the net, and Schlegel needed to be spectacular -- which he was.

In the second period alone, Schlegel made 16 saves, some of them in frantic sequences where F-M charged the net and still couldn't get anything. This continued in the final period as Schlegel scooped everything up, on his way to 30 saves for the night.

With first place and a home playoff game secure, WG comes back to Shove Park Friday night to face Oswego.

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