From there, WG's new-look defense did everything it could to keep Niagara-Wheatfield from pulling back even. That included the work of a big new goalie, Max Barone, who used his 6-3, 250-pound frame to block 15 of the 16 Falcon shots he faced.
This led the Wildcats into Saturday night's final - against Suffern. This was, of course, the same Suffern team that appeared to have WG beat in last year's state semifinals in Utica before a miraculous late comeback and goal in overtime produced a 4-3 Wildcat victory and kept the perfect dream alive.
The exact same scenario presented itself - but this time, Suffern won 3-1. Down 1-0 in the second period, WG tied it on Shawn Lynch's goal (fed by Jon Lauer), but Suffern surged in the third period, Willie Baker and Jake Jaeger putting shots past Barone. And this time, the Wildcats could not make another rally. Barone finished with 19 saves.
So the win streak is over, and WG will turn to the revamped Division I this week for games against Fayetteville-Manlius at Cicero Twin Rinks and a home date with Solvay.
The Bearcats are off to a 1-1 start, having finished third in Baldwinsville's Bobby Conklin Tournament. Solvay lost 2-1 to Clarence in the opening round, Mike Sniffen getting the only goal in the second period as Tom Missert got the assist. Goalie Ryan Bonk recorded 29 saves. In Saturday's consolation game, the Bearcats bounced back, beating Central Square 5-2.