None of the tension that accompanied the West Genesee ice hockey team in its Section III Division I championship win over Baldwinsville on March 1 was present when the Wildcats ventured east to begin its state tournament run.
In control from the start, the Wildcats toyed with Section II champion Shaker/Colonie in last Saturday's regional final at Albany County Hockey Facility, grounding the Jets in a 7-0 shutout.
With that win, WG earned a return trip to Utica Memorial Auditorium to play the undefeated, state no. 1-ranked Greece Thunder Saturday at 5:45 in the state semifinals. The winner goes to Sunday's 3:30 title game against Mamaroneck or Niagara-Wheatfield.
Steeled by a season full of tough competition inside and outside the Section III ranks, WG quickly found Shaker/Colonie to be a manageable opponent -- and proceeded to own them from the moment the puck dropped.
D.J. Mazzoni landed the first goal early in the first period, and in less that three minutes it was 2-0 as, on a two-on-one break, Zach Lewis converted on a rebound after Erich Haney's original shot got stopped.
After a brief Jets flurry late in the period, Ryan Michel supplied yet another big blow on the power play when he scored on his patented slap shot just 10 seconds before intermission.
Not only were the Wildcats ahead 3-0, it had a full day's worth of momentum thanks to Michel's rocket. As such, the second period mirrored the first, with WG doubling its already healthy margin to 6-0.
John Sabert broke loose for both of his goals early in the period, and Haney converted, too. Eric Mazzoni added a third-period tally for good measure. Michel, Casey Schattner and D.J. Mazzoni each finished with two assists, while P.J. Hart, Ryan McConnell, R.J. Tinklepaugh and Adam King each had one assist.
Now the Wildcats have what it has worked for in the 12 months since its heartbreaking overtime defeat to Massena in last year's state final -- another trip to Utica, and another chance to earn the program's third state title.