Nick Holzhauer did not get much on his point-blank shot late in the first period of the West Genesee ice hockey team's Section III Division I semifinal against Corcoran Wednesday night at Shove Park.
Still, the slow-moving puck managed to scoot between the pads of Cougars goaltender Marcus Fortin and into the net, awakening the large home crowd, putting the Wildcats on the board - and lighting the way toward a 3-0 victory that leaves WG one win away from another sectional title.
By prevailing, WG advances to face Rome Free Academy in this Saturday's championship game at 3 p.m. at Utica Memorial Auditorium. The Black Knights demolished Cicero-North Syracuse 9-3 in the other semifinal on Tuesday at Kennedy Arena.
Here, the Wildcats were facing the same Corcoran squad it routed 8-0 a month ago on this same home ice in Camillus. What had changed was that the Cougars had gone to Fortin in the net, replacing Gavin Gretzky, and was newly confident after rallying to beat Cortland-Homer 3-1 in last Friday's opening round.
All through the first period, Corcoran played sound defense and made a fair amount of attacks, even taking more shots than WG as it showed every ability to, at the very least, push the Wildcats hard. And as the period wound down, it remained 0-0, the deadlock likely to hold under the intermission.
Then, 23.9 seconds before the horn sounded, Holzhauer took a pass from Matt Schattner on the left side and sent that modest shot past Fortin. As it turned out, the goal did more than push WG ahead 1-0 in a period where, for long stretches, it had been outplayed.
That late tally boosted the Wildcats and deflated the Cougars in equal amounts. And it carried over as, just 19 seconds into the second period, heavy pressure from WG's attack led to Josh Duquette scoring on a rebound, Holzhauer and Robby Michel getting the assists. Less than five minutes later, Duquette connected again on a breakaway as again, Holzhauer got the assist, along with R.J. Tinklepaugh.