Dec 14, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
West Genesee’s ice hockey team is making sure that, once again, the path to Division I championship glory in the Section III ranks runs through Shove Park.
Tough at the start and productive at the finish, the Wildcats turned back the visiting Syracuse Cougars, 5-0, in Friday night’s showdown for first place in the Division I American Conference.
Both of these neighboring sides entered the game undefeated – WG at 4-0, Syracuse at 3-0. And the Cougars had more reason than others to think that it could make the Wildcats worry.
A season ago, in their two regular-season encounters, Syracuse did not lose to WG, winning 1-0 in overtime at Shove Park in one encounter and tying the Wildcats 1-1 at Meachem Rink.
The only problem with this was that WG remembered those games, too, and were quite eager to reassert its total control in a big-time situation. Large student sections supporting both teams filled the Shove Park stands long before the opening face-off.
Once play started, it proved physical on both ends of the ice, but both teams found good scoring chances, even though neither of them got any kind of power play.
As the period wore on, though, the Wildcats picked up the pressure, and that paid off at the 11:55 mark when Derek Farrell, open at the point thanks to passes from Ryan McDonald and David Procopio, ripped a wrist shot past Syracuse goaltender Sam Walsh.
It was still 1-0 when, early in the second period, Syracuse earned a pair of power-play opportunities. Both times, WG’s defense turned the Cougars away, with goalie Henry Burns making key stops as he would finish the night with 16 saves.
Just as the Wildcats killed off its second power play, at the 5:15 mark, WG created a two-on-one breakaway. Farrell started it, and then McDonald and Procopio traded passes until McDonald deposited it into the net, making it 2-0.
Any hopes Syracuse still had hinged on a power play that it would possess at the start of the third period. But at the 50-second park, Procopio intercepted an errant Cougar pass, streaked to the other end and beat Walsh for a short-handed goal.
WG already had enough offense, but the Cougars’ frustration led to a two-man advantage and a second goal from McDonald with 9:38 left. Aaron Jones would convert seven minutes later to help seal an impressive all-around effort from the reigning sectional champions.
Before all this, WG had to make sure it didn’t trip up and look ahead to Syracuse when it played its first road game of the season last Tuesday night, at Fulton, who moved up from Division II to Division I for the 2013-14 season.
That didn’t prove a problem as the Wildcats jumped all over the Red Raiders in a 7-1 romp, gaining four unanswered goals in the first period and continuing to find the net even after it had long taken control of the game.
McDonald managed a three-goal hat trick, adding an assist. Procopio added two goals and one assist, while Corey Raaflub and Tim Sexton got single tallies. Farrell managed a pair of assists as Jones, Collin Kobuszewski, Nick Mellen, Grainger Sasso and James Shephard picked up single assists.
Then, right after beating Syracuse, WG had to urn around on Saturday and face Section V power Pittsford Sutherland. And that game proved nervous for quite a while before WG, led by McDonald, took over late and prevailed 4-1.
They exchanged goals in the first period, and it remained 1-1 until the third period, when WG roared out in front and then got two more goals more for a further cushion.
McDonald had a hand in all of the Wildcats’ scoring plays, scoring twice and assisting on the other goals by his two linemates, Procopio and Farrell. Nick Mellen, Mike Philippone and Collin Kobuszewski each got credit for assists as Burns stopped 16 of 17 shots he faced.
That puts the Wildcats at 6-0 going into Tuesday’s game at Watertown IHC. WG is back home Friday to face Fayetteville-Manlius – the same team Syracuse plays Tuesday at Meachem Rink, starting a two-week homestand that includes Thursday’s game against Fulton, a Dec. 23 visit from defending state Division II champion CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt.