Mar 02, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
A shot here, or there, put in the right place, and maybe today the Baldwinsville ice hockey team is celebrating a Section III Division I championship.
Instead, on an early Sunday evening at the Onondaga County War Memorial, the Bees had to watch West Genesee celebrate back-to-back titles, the Wildcats edging B’ville in a 3-2 thriller that displayed each team’s positive attributes by the time it was done.
A large, loud crowd gathered at the War Memorial to see B’ville take the lead, fall behind, and seemingly lose touch before making a big late push.
Appearing in its first final since its state title run in 2005, the Bees were bent on avenging two regular-season defeats to WG, with whom it shared the Division I regular-season title. B’ville lost 5-1 on Dec. 2 at Lysander Arena, then 2-0 in the Jan. 16 rematch at Shove Park.
Now, in the third and most important meeting, B’ville again found itself on the defensive for much of the first period, as the Wildcats set to jump in front early. But goaltender Nick Leader was superb, stopping all 12 shots he faced in that opening frame.
The news got even better when, 4:12 into the game, Adam Mohr, off a pass from Chris Newman, fluttered a shot that eluded WG goalie Evan Mazzoni and found the net. The red-clad fans erupted, as the Bees took a 1-0 lead.
Head coach Mark Lloyd said it was vital for his team to strike first if it wanted any chance to dethrone the Wildcats.
“That was one of our goals, to get on the board first,” he said. “It’s tough to come back on a team like West Genesee. But they just kept coming and put us on our heels.”
Indeed, the Wildcats, a battle-tested accustomed to big-game atmospheres, did not get frustrated by all of Leader’s early heroics.
Instead, WG kept attacking into the second period — and in a span of less than four minutes, it seized the lead.
First, Adam Mazzoni notched the tying goal off the rebound of a Leader save at the 2:54 mark, and at the 5:40 mark D.J. Mazzoni took his turn putting home a rebound, and the Wildcats left for good.
Unable to get anything moving against WG’s vaunted defense, the Bees got frustrated and attacked harder, which led to a pair of third-period Wildcat power plays. Ryan Michel hit the right post with a slap shot the first time around, but on the second power play another slap shot found the net with 8:31 to play.
Only in the last period, said Lloyd, did the Bees start to find holes in the Wildcats’ defense and start to attack with regularity. That led to Brett Earle converting a power-play goal with 4:55 left off Brad Burlingame’s feed, and B’ville had many chances in the final minutes before time ran out on them.
Leader finished with 29 saves, many of them point-blank ones that helped keep the Wildcats from getting away.
From this year’s 18-7-1 squad, a big senior class departs, including Leader, Newman, Mohr, Chris Newman, Nick Gaworecki and Pat Briggs. Lloyd said it won’t be easy to find new stars to replace this talented core of players that restored the Bees to the upper levels of Division I hockey.