As if trying to repeat as Section III Division I champions and pursuing a state title wasn't motivation enough, the West Genesee ice hockey team found another reason to get fired up -- the site of Ithaca.
Twice in the span of a week, the Wildcats swarmed against the Little Red, attempting to salt away the Division I regular-season title. Each time, Ithaca could not be cracked.
Burning from the first of these results, a 3-1 defeat at Ithaca on Jan. 24, WG came home to loud, raucous Shove Park in Camillus on Friday night, bent on some payback.
Ithaca would not let them have it, answering each of WG's thrusts and relying on the superb work of goaltender Zach Wilder to earn a 2-2 tie.
Right from the opening face-off, the Wildcats, as it tends to do with every opponent, controlled the puck and spent most of the time in the opposing team's end, taking its shots and waiting for the Little Red to sputter away.
All WG could manage in the first period, though, was Casey Schattner's goal, fed to him by team captain Ryan Michel. Ithaca's Gabe Fox also scored, too, and the two sides went to the first intermission in a 1-1 tie.
And it would remain that way throughout a scoreless second period. Michel, Tim Bubnack and the rest of WG's defenders held Ithaca's chances to a minimum, while the Wildcats stayed patient despite Wilder thwarting their continual thrusts.
Early in the third period, the Wildcats attacked again -- and it paid off when Michel fed the puck to Zach Lewis, whose shot slipped past Wilder and gave WG a 2-1 edge.
Once again, Ithaca did not flinch. Barely four minutes later, Conner Lofgren, off a feed from A.J. Fiore, took a shot that eluded Evan Mazzoni (who had 15 saves) and found the net to forge another tie.
Through the rest of regulation, plus a five-minute overtime, the Wildcats swarmed against the Little Red's defense, looking for the game-winner, but could not convert. Wilder produced 47 saves, needing each of them to salvage a point for Ithaca.
To secure first place, WG will still need to beat Fayetteville-Manlius Tuesday night, also at Shove Park, before a Saturday trip to Oswego.