Mar 02, 2013 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
West Genesee ice hockey fans enjoyed the familiar feeling of winning yet another Section III Division I title, but could have gladly done without another sense of familiarity that popped up once it went beyond the sectional realm.
When the Wildcats fell, 3-2, to Rochester McQuaid in triple overtime in Saturday’s state quarterfinal game at Thomas Creek Ice Arena in Fairport, it marked the third consecutive year that WG’s state title dreams were ended in a long, drawn-out affair.
Back in 2011, it was Williamsville South stopping the Wildcats in four OTs in this same round. A year ago, it was Suffern surviving a shoot-out with WG in the state semifinal at Utica Memorial Auditorium. Both of those teams went on to capture the state championship.
Whether McQuaid, the Section V champions, does so this weekend in Utica at the latest edition of the state final four remains an open question, but regardless of the Knights’ fate, it could not lessen the pain that WG felt getting stopped again in this manner.
Going in, the consensus was that whoever won the battle between McQuaid’s deep, fast attack and WG’s tough, swarming defense would come out on top. It took a long time to figure that out.
Trying to seize early control, the Knights were physical, and that play led to a 1-0 lead 4:50 into the first period when Michael Capicotto’s centering attempt deflected past Wildcat goalie Henry Burns.
WG, trailing for the first time in the post-season, kept the margin at one largely due to Burns, who recorded 10 first-period saves.
Then in the second period, the Wildcats struck back. Like in its sectional playoffs wins over Cicero-North Syracuse and Rome Free Academy, the Wildcats would take advantage of special teams, only this time it was on the power play, not short-handed.
On a man advantage 4:08 into the period, WG’s Aaron Jones slid past McQuaid’s defenders and, timing his shot just right, beat Brian Kick for the tying goal. Then, at the 11:39 mark, senior captain Robbie Michel made the Knights pay for a penalty, putting home a rebound of a shot Kick could not corral to put the Wildcats up 2-1.
That didn’t last long, though. WG committed its own penalty, sending McQuaid to the power play late in the second period as Jared Tallo converted for a 2-2 tie.
And there it would stay, all through a tense third period. The Knights, playing four lines to the Wildcats’ three, gradually began to control the flow of play after only out-shooting WG 22-19 over the first two periods.
That left it up to Burns, and for a long while he stopped everything, including a point-blank look by Michael Campbell with 4:52 left in regulation.
So it was 2-2 going into the seven minute, 30-second overtime periods. One extra period flew by, and then a second, without any resolution.
Burns continued to make great stops as his save total reached 43 with a blind glove save on Tallo in the last minute of the second OT. Kick wasn’t quiet, though, stopping 41 of the 43 shots he faced.
Early in the third OT, WG’s Corey Raaflub was injured, causing a brief delay. Less than half a minute after he left the ice, Tallo took another shot, and this time it flicked off the stick of Jack Hildenbrand and flew past Burns to end it.
After 65-plus minutes of pulsating hockey, the Wildcats’ season ended with a mark of 16-6-2. Head coach Frank Colabufo had just three seniors on his roster, including Michel, yet it still found its way to a sixth consecutive sectional championship.
Though Michel, Tommy Hanley and Nate Colabufo departs, everyone else could return in 2013-14, giving WG an excellent chance to go for a seventh sectional crown and, perhaps, a different (and more compact) ending should it go further.