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Hockey Wildcats ousted in marathon regional

So the West Genesee ice hockey team will not repeat its state Division I championship, will not add a fourth crown to the three it claimed in 1990, 2001 and 2010.

But it sure went down fighting.

The Wildcats, against state no. 1-ranked Williamsville North in Saturday night's Division I regional final on the Spartans' home ice in suburban Buffalo, took the game into four overtimes before finally getting subdued in a 2-1 classic.

Many times through the years, WG has won this type of game, using its sheer force of will to overcome the notion that, perhaps, the other side had more talent.

Now the Wildcats found itself in another epic a mere seven days after its stirring late comeback to snatch the Section III Division I title from Rome Free Academy by that same 2-1 margin at Utica Memorial Auditorium.

As in the sectional final, neither side scored in the first period. Williamsville North, having dominated three playoff opponents by a combined 21-0, got surprised as the Wildcats attacked them hard early, getting several good shots on North goalie Parker Gahagen, but not converting.

Early in the second period, the Spartans went up 1-0 on Scott Sims' goal, only to see WG counter when, on the power play, Nick Holzhauer scored off a rebound, defenders R.J. Tinklepaugh and Robbie Michel getting the assists.

That WG wasn't behind at that point in the game was a complete tribute to Jake Pelton, who kept turning away North power-play chances (four in that period) until he had accumulated 13 saves in those 15 minutes.

So it remained 1-1 into the third period, and a long stalemate commenced. The Wildcats took only two shots the rest of regulation, while Pelton notched nine more saves as WG held on to force overtime.

But the marathon was far from over. Through two grueling OT sessions, it stayed 1-1, Pelton continuing to sparkle as he made 12 saves in those periods. For the night, Pelton had 40 saves, easily his most inspired effort of the season.

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