Feb 07, 2013 Kris Russell Uncategorized
Even though it wasn’t victorious, the West Genesee ice hockey team got exactly what it needed from Wednesday night’s game at Syracuse and, as a result, reigns as Division I West’s top side once again.
The Wildcats fought to a well-played 1-1 tie Wednesday night at Meachem Ice Rink, not quite the payback WG wanted for a 1-0 overtime loss to that same Syracuse side at Shove Park Dec. 19, but sufficient to the situation at hand.
This time helped WG (12-5-2 overall, 10-3-1 league) clinch the West’s No. 1 playoff seed. The Cougars (11-7-2 / 7-6-2) were locked into fourth place before the game started – or so it thought.
Collin Thompson’s first period goal staked the Cougars to a 1-0 lead. The Wildcats pulled even through Aaron Jones’ second period marker. From there, the goaltenders – Henry Burns for WG, Jim Albright for Syracuse – took over.
“We needed to clinch the one seed and we did,” Wildcats coach Frank Colabufo said. “(But) we would have liked to have won the game.”
Things weren’t looking good early for Colabufo’s squad. Thompson intercepted a WG clearing pass at the blueline, skated toward Burns, and ripped a wrist shot past the Wildcats’ netminder just 6:20 into the game.
“(West Genesee) plays a tough defense so they’re hard to get goals on and hard to get shots,” Syracuse coach John Purcell said.
The Wildcats had to wonder if they were in for a long night. Albright was in fine form up to that point, looking very much like the goalie that stopped all 45 shots he faced in that first meeting in Camillus.
This time around, Albright stopped all seven shots he faced in the first period. But there was nothing he could do to stop WG’s first shot of the second frame.
Ryan McDonald sent a power-play face-off back to defenseman Robbie Michel, who promptly fired a low wrist shot toward Albright that Jones tipped in at the 3:33 mark.
“As far as giving up the first goal we’ve been down before,” Colabufo said. “We knew we could come back. We just had to get back to playing our game and making better decisions.”
Both teams generated some scoring chances in the third period, but Burns (17 saves) and Albright (22 saves) were not in a giving mood. Syracuse had the best overtime opportunity, but Matt Thompson’s vicious slap shot clanked off the post.
“It was a great high school hockey game,” Colabufo said. “It was a great atmosphere. A playoff atmosphere.”
Purcell liked the way his team played throughout.
“When we played West Genesee early in the year we were able to win, but we weren’t able to get any sustained pressure on them,” Purcell said. “Today we did a better job for three periods.”
The Wildcats closed its regular season schedule on Saturday with a 4-0 shutout of Liverpool at Greater Baldwinsville Ice Arena.
In a game twice pushed back by winter weather, WG waited until the second period to get on the board, but then scored two times in each of the last two periods as its defense held the Warriors to 14 shots.
Four different players – McDonald, Aaron Jones, Derek Farrell and James Shepherd – had the four goals. Michel and David Procopio both got two assists, with Farrell and Tom Hanley adding single assists.
WG hosts Watertown IHC Friday night at 7:30 in the Division I quarterfinals, with the winner to get the Cougars or Cicero-North Syracuse in the semifinal round. The title game is Feb. 23 at Utica Memorial Auditorium.
How the Cougars moved up to a no. 3 seed was a story in itself. It turned out that Fayetteville-Manlius, who finished second in Division I West, played one too many games, 21 instead of the allowed 20. That disqualified the Hornets from post-season play.
Thus, Syracuse is the no. 3 seed playing at C-NS and Cortland-Homer moves into the playoffs as the no. 4 seed with a game at RFA. B’ville, beaten 7-1 by F-M last Thursday, got the biggest break of all, going from a road trip to C-NS to a home game against sub-.500 Central Square.