Dec 04, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Working on a streak of four consecutive Section III Division I titles, the West Genesee ice hockey team is in avid pursuit of five in a row – and are already headed in that direction.
The Wildcats won three times in a five-day span to open the 2011-12 season, culminating with a hard-fought 3-2 victory over Suffern in the championship game of its own Wildcat Classic at Shove Park.
For head coach Frank Colabufo and his staff, there was little doubt as to where his team’s strength lay. WG’s defense returns almost intact, with seniors R.J. Tinklepaugh and Matt Schattner joined by junior Robbie Michel, anchored in goal by another senior, Jake Pelton.
Together, they, along with the forward line of Shawn Lynch, Erik Kurz and Jon Lauer, give the Wildcats a strong nucleus for another title run and, perhaps, a return to the state final four in Utica, which WG missed a year ago after losing in the regional finals to eventual state champion Williamsville North in quadruple overtime.
That defense went to the forefront in the Wildcats’ first two games, both shutouts. WG blanked Hamilton 3-0 in last Tuesday’s opener at Colgate University’s Starr Rink and followed it up in the opening round of the Wildcat Classic with a 5-0 win over Massena.
Suffern, however, would prove much tougher. The Mounties had blanked Fairport 4-0 in the other part of the opening round and was quite familiar with WG, having faced them in the 2010 state semifinals and again last season, the Wildcats prevailing both times.
Neither team threatened until WG got on the power play and, 4:38 into the first period, Lauer put his team up 1-0 with a goal fed by Michel and Lynch. Suffern countered with its own power-play goal from Willie Sanchez at the 10:01 mark, breaking the Wildcats’ 100-minute shutout streak.
Through most of a physical second period, the Wildcats and Mounties played to a standoff. But at the 13:10 mark, Matt Skrupa took a pass from Lynch and beat Suffern’s Tyler Stark for the go-ahead goal.
Skrupa returned to assist on Jimmy Sauda’s tally 1:42 into the third period. That insurance goal would prove necessary when Suffern’s Ian Adler converted on a power play with 2:50 left, cutting the margin to one, but the Wildcats were able to kill off the rest of the clock.
Pelton was well-protected throughout the game, only having to make 10 saves. Lynch was named tournament MVP, with Michel and Tinklepaugh also gaining All-Tournament recognition.
What made Skrupa’s offensive heroics so surprising was that, a night earlier, he did not have a point against Massena in a game where WG scored twice in the first period to move ahead. but waited until a three-goal outburst in the final period to pull clear.
Lynch scored twice, but so did freshman Jimmy Pelton, Jake’s younger brother, one of two ninth-graders (along with defender Nick Mellen) making an instant impact, as did sophomore Henry Burns, who took a turn in goal and stopped all 13 shots he faced. Kurz had one goal and one assist as Schattner, Tinklepaugh, Lauer, Michel and Jason Keyes managed single assists.
WG is part of a new split Division I format. The Wildcats are aligned with Baldwinsville, Liverpool, Solvay, Fayetteville-Manlius, Cortland-Homer and Corcoran in the West division, while Rome Free Academy, Cicero-North Syracuse, Watertown IHC, Hamilton, Ontario Bay and Central Square make up the East division.
The Wildcats visited Hamilton back on Tuesday, and did not get on the board until the second period, when it surged in front 2-0. Lynch had a part in all three goals, scoring twice and assisting on Kurz’s tally, while Lauer got two assists.
It will be nearly two weeks before WG goes on the road again, to play Liverpool Dec. 16 at Lysander Arena. Before that, the Wildcats have two home games, including Wednesday’s battle against Ithaca.