Feb 21, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Cicero-North Syracuse’s pursuit of an unprecedented championship as part of an unprecedented season is over. But West Genesee’s pursuit of staggering history – namely, six consecutive Section III Division I ice hockey titles – remains alive and well.
In a tense, physical Division I semifinal Wednesday night at Shove Park, the Wildcats, sparked by a pair of short-handed goals and anchored by an airtight defense, took out the Northstars 2-1.
And it sets up yet another sectional final, on Saturday at Utica Memorial Auditorium, against Rome Free Academy, who beat Baldwinsville 5-2 in the other semifinal Tuesday at Kennedy Arena. It’s the third straight year that the Black Knights have a shot at ending WG’s title reign.
C-NS, of course, thought it would do the dethroning. Having spent the last month atop the state Division I rankings and carrying a 20-game unbeaten streak, the Northstars still only finished second, to RFA, in the East division during the regular season.
Because of that, the Northstars found itself going to Camillus for the semifinal game against the West division champion Wildcats, whom it beat 3-1 on Jan. 7 at Cicero Twin Rinks, though WG that game played without its senior captain, Robby Michel, due to injury.
Michel, and his fellow Wildcat defenders, were quite present on this night, and quite active at the start, too, as C-NS put up four shots in the opening minute, forcing WG goaltender Henry Burns to make some big early stops.
Unable to convert a power play midway through the first period, WG, instead, struck when the Northstars had the man advantage. Off an errant pass, sophomore defenseman Nick Mellen broke away, and when C-NS goalie Alex Johnston was unable to corral the initial shot, Mellen went high to convert the rebound.
That was the only goal of the first period. WG maintained its 1-0 edge until the three-minute mark of the second period, when C-NS defenseman Kyler Schilling, from the left point, crushed a slap shot that sailed over Burns shoulder into the top right corner of the net.
Newly energized, the Northstars took 12 shots to the Wildcats’ four in that period, none more dangerous than the floating puck sent by Eric Hamilton to the net that Burns managed to grab just before it crossed the goal line in the period’s waning seconds.
Thus, it was still 1-1 when, early in the third period, C-NS again went on the power play, thinking it would get another chance to move out in front.
Instead, Michel intercepted a pass near the blue line and sent a perfect pass to a streaking David Procopio. The sophomore forward charged in, waited for just the right moment, and flung a wrist shot past Johnston for what proved to be the game-winner with 12:21 left.
A lot of time remained, but C-NS would spend the bulk of it running headlong into the Wildcats’ defense. Michel, Mellen and the rest of the back line protected the net, and did so again when Johnston got pulled in the final minute.
“We knew they had great skill, and our goal was not to give them any time to create chances,” said WG head coach Frank Colabufo.
Thus, C-NS, who had not lost a game since Nov. 30 – a span of nearly three months – finished at 19-2-1, watching as the Wildcats, having knocked off one team that shared the top spot in the state rankings, now goes after the other, RFA, wanting a sixth straight championship and to deny the Black Knights its first title since 1991.