Mar 04, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Now it’s reached the point for the West Genesee ice hockey team where it would only feel right if the season ended on the second weekend in March, at Utica Memorial Auditorium, with a chance at a state Division I championship.
The undefeated (24-0) Wildcats are going to Utica again in the wake of Saturday night’s 4-1 victory over Section VI chamipon Niagara-Wheatfield in the Division I regional finals at Shove Park.
This marks the fourth time WG has made it to the state final four in the last five years, and it stands two victories away from the program’s fourth state title – which would come in an undefeated season, just as it pulled off in 2010.
Not only that, but the team WG faces in next Saturday’s 10 a.m. state semifinal is quite familiar. Suffern lost a 3-2 decision to the Wildcats in the Dec. 3 final of the Wildcat Classic, and figures to be even tougher this time around.
Wildcat head coach Frank Colabufo said that Suffern was missing its top defender in that first meeting and still gave his team all sorts of problems.
“Suffern plays a similar system to us,” said Colabufo. “They skate well, are well-coached and well-disciplined.”
Of course, WG is a fairly decent team itself, as it showed once more in front of the home fans in Camillus. Anticipation for the game was so high that the stands filled to capacity at least a half-hour before it faced off. Even satellite parking lots and shuttles were needed to make sure all the fans got into the rink.
Once it did start, Niagara-Wheatfield, who had beaten defending state champion Williamsville North 4-0 in its sectional final Feb. 25, kept the game 0-0 for a while. Among other things, the Falcons killed off a two-man advantage WG attained midway through the first period.
Though WG could not convert early chances, it stayed patient and, just as in the sectional final against Rome Free Academy a week earlier, the Wildcats broke through in the second period.
At the tail end of a power play that had not included any scoring chances, Shawn Lynch drifted with the puck left of the net and flung a knuckling shot that eluded Niagara-Wheatfield goalie Alex Kammerer and found the right side of the net at the 6:04 mark.
As the period wound down and it remained 1-0, Jon Lauer was heading to the bench. He said he was directed by the coaches to stay on the ice – and that paid off when, just 10.5 seconds before the horn, he deflected Robbie Michel’s shot from the point past Kammerer to make it 2-0.
“Any goal in the last two minutes (of a period) will deflate the other team,” said Lauer.
And that momentum carried over, for 1:44 into the third period Lynch took a pass from Lauer and delivered a perfect pass to the doorstep, from where Erik Kurz deposited the puck into the net, giving WG a 3-0 edge.
Niagara-Wheatfield got on the board less than 90 seconds later, Nick Matos converting on the power play. But Michel, R.J. Tinklepaugh, Matt Schattner, Nick Mellen and the rest of WG’s stellar defense shut things down from there, with goaltender Jake Pelton also making a series of clutch saves, 21 overall.
When Lauer again deflected home Michel’s shot with 3:37 to left, the Wildcats locked up another regional crown and started looking toward another decisive weekend in Utica.
The winner between WG and Suffern will take on Saratoga Springs or Pittsford next Sunday at 12:30 for the state Division I title.