Mar 02, 2009 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
All that makes the West Genesee ice hockey team a special unit was on display as it earned its second consecutive Section III Division I championship.
Between timely offense, an efficient and effective power play, and defense that never lets up from start to finish, the Wildcats used all of its considerable tools to hold off Baldwinsville 3-2 Sunday at the Onondaga County War Memorial.
That score was the exact same margin by which WG beat Ithaca for the sectional title in 2008, and junior defenseman Ryan Michel said the team’s experience helped a lot here.
“We have great senior leadership, and we didn’t want to lose,” he said.
A full week of intense practice and preparation followed the Wildcats’ 7-0 rout of Liverpool in the semifinals at Shove Park on Feb. 20.
Head coach Frank Colabufo and his staff knew that, despite two regular-season wins over B’ville (5-1 in December at Lysander, 2-0 in January at Shove Park), the Bees would not be an easy opponent to subdue a third time.
And it didn’t get easier when, 4:12 into the game, Adam Mohr, off a pass from Chris Newman, fluttered a shot from the left point past WG goaltender Evan Mazzoni into the net, giving the Bees a quick 1-0 lead.
Through the rest of the period, the Wildcats could not answer, despite out-shooting B’ville 12-4. But Colabufo said his team did not panic.
“We were carrying the play and doing the things we wanted,” he said. “We just had to stick to our game plan.”
That plan involved the “blue-collar” approach WG is known for, which means continuing to attack and staying patient, waiting for the right moment to take control.
Early in the second period, that moment arrived, thanks to the work of brothers Eric and D.J. Mazzoni.
Just 2:54 into the period, WG attacked the Bees’ net again. Though goalie Nick Leader stopped John Sabert’s initial shot, Eric Mazzoni put home the rebound, tying the game 1-1.
Less than three minutes later, on a power play, the Wildcats went ahead 2-1 when, off another shot that Leader could not hold onto, D.J. Mazzoni converted.
So it remained until the third period, with WG controlling the flow of play and forcing the Bees into a small amount of panic and frustration, enough to draw two more penalties.
On the first of those man advantages, Michel rifled a slap shot clean off the right post. However, he returned to that spot and, with 8:31 left, took another slap shot — and found the net, making it 3-1.
That proved to be a goal WG would need, for Brett Earle put home a power-play goal with 4:55 left to pull the Bees back within one, and there was lots of time to get even.
Leader, who finished with 29 saves, left for the bench with a minute to play, and B’ville made one more rush. Connor Bertrand had an open shot with 20 seconds left, but Evan Mazzoni stopped it, and seconds later the Wildcats were celebrating another sectional title.
Then it was back to work this week, for WG is heading to the Albany area Saturday to face Shaker-Colonie in the Division I regional finals. The winner advances to Utica Memorial Auditorium for next weekend’s state final four.
“We know how to prepare and get ready for the next game,” Colabufo said. “We’ll study film of Shaker-Colonie, break it down, then get to work so that we peak Saturday night in Albany.”