Camillus West Genesee opened its latest quest for ice hockey glory with a 3-1 Wildcat Classic win over Fairport on Friday night at Shove Park.
The early game saw defending Division I state champion Suffern outplay Massena, 4-1. That, and the late result set up a Saturday rematch of last year’s memorable state semifinal, when Suffern defeated the Wildcats in a penalty shootout at the Utica War Memorial.
“The West Genesee-Suffern matchup has historically been back and forth,” Wildcat coach Frank Colabufo said. “We’ve been involved in some monumental games. Both programs know each other very well. Both programs respect each other.”
WG needed to rally to earn its final place. Fairport, from Section V, got on the board first, late in the first period, and the Red Raiders outshot the hosts, 7-2, over the first 15 minutes.
But the Wildcats rallied in the second period, getting a big boost from an unlikely source - Ryan McDonald. The freshman left winger scored his first career goal at the 3:59 mark, banging home the rebound of Robbie Michel’s blast from the point.
McDonald doubled his pleasure four minutes later, backhanding the rebound of his own shot.
“He just goes hard," Colabufo said. "He has a ton of energy."
Fairport continued to out-shoot the Wildcats, but WG goalie Henry Burns was impressed, stopping all seven shots he saw in the second period.
“Henry’s a very good goalie,” Colabufo said. “We told him (that) he was going to have to keep us in it until we can kind of figure out how to score. He did that.”
Colabufo had more reason to celebrate WG's third goal than most. His son, Nate scored it exactly three minutes into the final period. The younger Colabufo took a pass from Tommy Hanley and set a now shot into the net from 15 feet out. Henry stopped three third period shots to finish with 17 saves.
“This was a good early season test,” Frank Colabufo said. “I think we grew up a lot today. I saw some growth from the first period to the middle of the third period. We took a big step."