As many wins as it can get against other top Division I programs, the Fayetteville-Manlius ice hockey program knows that it’s one program in particular that protects the summit.
West Genesee, the five-time defending sectional champions, ventured to Cicero Twin Rinks to face the Hornets last Wednesday night, and it turned into a tough, physical battle not decided until the last second as F-M lost to the Wildcats 3-1.
What it demonstrated was that, even in a supposedly “down” year with just two seniors on its roster, WG is still difficult to beat.
F-M did try, though, mostly making it through an uneven first period without serious damage. But back-to-back Hornets penalties set up a five-on-three situation that the Wildcats’ Robby Michel capitalized on with a goal at the 5:36 mark.
Trailing 1-0 going to the second period, F-M picked up its attack, only to find more frustration against the Wildcats’ sound, disciplined defenses. And the task got taller at the 10:11 mark when WG’s Aaron Jones fluttered a shot past Ben Napierala’s left shoulder to make it 2-0.
Napierala would allow nothing more. He stopped 25 of the 27 shots he faced, rarely letting the Wildcats pounce on any rebounds as he often smothered the puck to set up face-offs.
That kept F-M in it, and with 11:21 to play Mateo Capriotti’s wrist shot from the left side zipped past WG goaltender Henry Burns and cut the Hornets’ deficit in half.
Right to the last minute, the Hornets put on pressure, pulling Napierala for an extra attacker. Burns got one more big save, though, and Jones tacked on an empty-net goal with 19.7 seconds left to stretch out the final margin.
F-M got back in form Friday night, against the newly formed Syracuse Cougars, where this time it got the quick start it needed for an eventual 3-1 victory.