As an opening act for the 2009-10 season, the West Genesee ice hockey team greeted the other defending Section III champion - and came out on top.
The Wildcats' 2-0 shutout of New Hartford Tuesday night at Shove Park in Camillus may have not been the dream showdown had the two sides met a season ago, but it was still important as a confidence boost.
WG reclaimed the Section III Division I championship last winter, beating Baldwinsville in the finals and reaching the state final four.
From that team, several stars departed - but not the leading defensive duo of Ryan Michel and Tim Bubnack. Combined with offensive threats like Erich Haney, Shawn Lynch and Casey Schattner, head coach Frank Colabufo again has the team to defeat in Division I.
New Hartford fared even better than the Wildcats in 2008-09, going 28-2 and crushing most of the opposition on its way to the state Division II title.
But the Spartans saw State Division II Player of the Year Mike Zalewski leave for the Syracuse Stars Junior "A" squad, and also saw cornerstones like Tom Fiorentino, Jake Silberlicht and goalie Dylan Smith graduate.
All that, plus the home-ice advantage, gave WG a major edge going in - and it attacked from the opening face-off, puttng major pressure on New Hartford's new goaltender, sophomore Spencer Landry.
For the most part, Landry was spectacular, recording 42 saves. But the Wildcats still broke through on a pair of occasions.
Off a Spartan turnover deep in its own end 6:18 into the first period, Lynch landed an unassisted goal, giving WG a 1-0 edge.
New Hartford had its best scoring chances late in the first period and early in the second period. But Michel and Bubnack provided ample protection for goalie Anthony Militello, who finished with 20 saves.
WG used a series of power plays to increase the pressure late in the second period. Just 1:29 before the second intermission, Adam King used his stick to redirect Lynch's shot into the left side of the net. Michel also got credit for an assist.
This sets up a bigger showdown next Tuesday at Shove Park between WG and Baldwinsville. The Wildcats won all three meetings last season, including the sectional final. WG will also host its annual Wildcat Classic Dec. 5 and 6, with Saratoga Springs, Suffern and Fairport providing the opposition.