Camillus 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.