What the West Genesee ice hockey team tried so hard to do in a frustrating overtime defeat to the Syracuse Cougars – namely, score a goal – did happen Friday night, twice, in the first period of a key early-season showdown with Rome Free Academy at Kennedy Arena.
Still, it wasn’t enough to upend the Black Knights, who went on to prevail 4-3, something it could not do against the Wildcats in either of the last two Section III Division I finals.
RFA entered the game as the lone remaining undefeated team in Section III. Not only had the Black Knights won each of its first six games, it had done so outscoring those foes by a combined margin of 37-5, though it included close calls against Central Square (2-1) and Cicero-North Syracuse (3-1).
Determined to change that, and let out the frustrations of the Syracuse loss, WG would grab a pair of first-period goals, only to have RFA counter with its own two goals, leaving them in a 2-2 tie through one frame.
The second period proved crucial. Though the Wildcats’ defense started to tighten, the Black Knights didn’t allow anything and, more importantly, sneaked into a 3-2 lead.
Much of the third period remained at that juncture until RFA’s Joey Rutkowski, who already had two assists on the night, delivered on what looked like an insurance goal with four minutes to play.
But that turned out to be the game-winner because WG, with an extra attacker, found the net with 4.7 seconds left, too late to get closer.
Robbie Michel, David Procopio and Grainger Sasso earned the Wildcats’ goals, with Ryan McDonald adding a pair of assists. But WG only had 13 shots overall, nine less than the Black Knights as Tyler Williams, Nick Mecca and Drew DeBlasiis joined Rutkowski in the goal-scoring column.
Of course, the Syracuse Cougars had even less time to rest from that overtime epic.
Just one night after that big win, it traveled north to face 1-4-1 Watertown IHC, and the Cougars got a genuine scare before another clutch goal helped pull out a 5-4 victory over the Cougars.
Part of that had to due with the fact that Jim Albright, whose 45 saves defined the West Genesee upset, did not play in goal. Sam Walsh took over, and he handled things in the first period as Syracuse bolted out to a 2-0 lead.
IHC started to rally, though, in the second period, pulling within 3-2. Then the exchange continued in the third period and the Cougars, ahead 4-3, saw that lead vanish when IHC’s Bentley Brosch put home the tying goal with 2:46 left in regulation.
Immediately, the Cougars countered, and with 1:34 to play Ben Carrock flung a shot past Cavaliers goalie Grant Chamberlain, the fifth different Syracuse player to score on this night. From there, Syracuse held on despite IHC going for an extra attacker in the waning seconds.
Travis Hyde, Sean Eccles, Ben Walsh and Cameron Bennett had all taken turns putting in goals before Carrock’s game-winner. Matt Thompson, who scored the OT goal at West Genesee, joined Bennett, Mitch Laffin and Matt Pitre in the assist column as Sam Walsh finished with 18 saves.
Should the Wildcats not break this rare skid in next Thursday’s game against Pittsford, it will have three straight defeats, something it has not experienced in nearly six seasons.