Mar 06, 2010 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Everything up to this point for the West Genesee ice hockey team has been quite familiar to the players that have been there the last three seasons.
Each of those times, a regular-season league title has been followed by a Section III championship and a regional crown. All that’s been missing is a state championship.
Now the Wildcats have that chance, again, thanks to Saturday night’s 3-1 victory over Potsdam in the regional title game that featured a rare deficit quickly overcome by well-timed bursts of offense.
Playing one more time on the friendly home ice of Shove Park in Camillus, WG moved to 23-0, stayed atop the state rankings and secured a bid in next weekend’s state “Frozen Four”, to be played again at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
True, it wasn’t the shutout Wildcat fans have grown to anticipate (WG has blanked 14 different foes this season). But it was good enough, even if the start was a bit dicey.
Potsdam silenced any notion of a shutout when Seth Adams deflected a slap shot from Greg Burkum past WG goaltender Anthony Militello, silencing the standing-room only crowd and giving the Sandstoners a 1-0 lead.
Late in the first period, WG still was behind, despite once again controlling the flow of play and spending large amounts of time in the opponent’s end.
Any hockey coach or player will say that a goal near the end of a period will have the biggest emotional impact. And WG got it when, 53 seconds before intermission, Zach Lewis took a wrist shot that Potsdam goalie Evan Drummatter stopped – but the rebound came right to Adam King, who fired the puck into the net to tie it 1-1.
Despite this jolt, WG could not immediately capitalize in the second periods, the two sides turning cautious as the Sandstoners hung in there.
Then, in a 22-second burst of magic midway through the period, the Wildcats punched its ticket to Utica.
It began when Potsdam got called for hooking. Just 15 seconds into the power play, King scored a second time to give his team a 2-1 lead, again the feeds coming from linemates Lewis and Erich Haney as King moved around a defender, then beat Drummatter.
Before the crowd could even settle down, they were roaring again when, off the ensuing face-off, WG attacked again – and Haney, getting a pass from Lewis, beat Drummater to build the margin to two.
And it would remain there the rest of the way. Drummartter stopped every shot he faced in the third period on the way to 36 saves, 22 more than what Militello had to worry about.
As usual, the Wildcats’ defense proved difficult to penetrate, despite that initial Potsdam mark. Ryan Michel, Tim Bubnack, Cody Ryan, Robbie Michel and R.J. Tinklepaugh led the Wildcats’ back line in another first-rate effort.
On Saturday at 12:30, WG will face Suffern (21-1) in the state semifinal at Utica Auditorium. The winner will face Saratoga Springs or Pittsford in the championship game 24 hours later. The Wildcats are after its first state championship since 2001 — and for atonement after two trips to Utica in the last two years ended in defeat.