Feb 26, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Make that five consecutive Section III Division I titles for the West Genesee ice hockey team, attained in quite a familiar manner.
The Wildcats’ suffocating defense, a dominant force all season, may have topped itself in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Rome Free Academy in the sectional final at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
“That was the best we’ve played all year,” said head coach Frank Colabufo. “We’re not the most talented team, but we won’t get outworked.”
What Colabufo was talking about was a back line, anchored by seniors Matt Schattner and R.J. Tinklepaugh, junior Robbie Michel and freshman Nick Mellen, that held the Black Knights to five shots for the entire contest.
On its way to a 22-0 mark and the no. 1 state Division I ranking, WG had recorded 13 shutouts, including its 2-0 semifinal win over Fayetteville-Manlius.
RFA would get the same treatment. This was, of course, a rematch of the 2011 sectional final, where the Wildcats needed a rally late in the third period to get past the Black Knights 2-1.
Adding to the game’s aura was the fact that WG and RFA had not met in the regular season, the Black Knights accumulating a 21-1 record and rising to no. 8 in the state rankings, blanking both Solvay (3-0) and Central Square (4-0) to return to the sectional final.
WG would dominate the first period on both ends. Defensively, the Wildcats broke up everything before it got near goaltender Jake Pelton, not allowing an official shot.
Meanwhile, on the other end WG had a fair amount of chances, twice getting power plays and recording 10 shots – but Black Knights goalie Andrew Ross stopped all of them, keeping it 0-0.
And it remained scoreless deep into the second period, too. Even the Wildcats’ front-line players got into the defensive act, the likes of Erik Kurz and Jon Lauer standing at the center of the ice, intercepting attempts by RFA to clear the puck out of its own end.
So it was only fitting that a defender, Schattner, put in the game’s decisive goal 8:46 into the second period. Schattner said that, just before the face-off, as Ross was fixing his equipment, he had a brief chat with Shawn Lynch, who was taking the draw.
“We said we needed a goal right now,” said Schattner.
As if scripted, Lynch won the face-off and quickly shoved the puck back to Schattner, whose floating shot from the left point may have clipped one of the RFA players, but did elude Ross and find the top right corner of the net.
From there, it was more Wildcats defense. True, RFA did pick up some pressure early in the third period, giving Pelton some stress. But WG easily protected that one-goal margin, killing off one penalty and protecting the puck well in the waning minutes.
Now the Wildcats advance to face Section VI champion Niagara Wheatfield (who beat defending state champion Williamsville North 4-0 in its sectrional final) next Saturday night at Shove Park at 7:30, with the winner of that contest advancing to the state final four back at Utica Auditorium. WG is after its second state championship in three years, and fourth overall.