Mar 29, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
With its trademark brand of stifling, man-to-man defense, the West Genesee boys lacrosse team kept host Penfield off the scoreboard for most of Saturday afternoon’s season opener – and still lost.
Unable to take full advantage of that strong resistance, the Wildcats left itself vulnerable to a comeback, which is just what the Patriots pulled off in the fourth quarter, leading to a pair of overtime periods and, ultimately, a 4-3 defeat.
A season ago, Hall of Fame coach Mike Messere helped WG reclaim the Section III Class A throne, beating Fayetteville-Manlius in overtime, and went from there all the way to the state championship game before Ward Melville stopped the Wildcats one win short of a 16th state title.
A large group of seniors, including Ted Glesener, Dan Ginestro, Brady Hoose, Garrett Waldron, Jim Cunningham, Tom Pritchard and Ryan St. Croix, graduated, but a strong group returns, too, including midfielder David Procopio, defenders Nick Mellen and Collin Kobuszewski, plus goalie Matt Koziol.
And as an opening test, WG faced the same Penfield squad it beat 11-6 in the 2013 state Class A semifinal at St. John Fisher College. This time, the game was on the Patriots’ home turf, but for a long while it looked like it would end in the same satisfying matter for Wildcat partisans.
Most of the first quarter was a 0-0 stalemate until sophomore Ian Cahill found the net at the 10:28 mark. Then the Wildcats added to that lead late in the second period as Procopio scored and Nick Cunningham converted less than a minute before halftime.
And that would be WG’s final goal of the day. Throughout a scoreless third quarter, that didn’t look to be a major problem, since Mellen, Kobuszewski and the rest of WG’s back line kept frustrating Penfield’s attack, and Koziol stopped every shot in his direction.
At the same time, though, the Patriots were also playing well on defense, cutting off WG’s attack lanes and forcing turnovers. This kept the game within reach if Penfield ever could find a goal somewhere.
That moment came with 10:38 left. After getting shut out for more than 37 minutes, the Patriots cut the margin to 3-1, and barely a minute later Dave Sprole made it 3-2.
Penfield won another face-off, attacked again – and found the net again, Ryan Fulton beating Koziol for the tying goal with 7:28 left. With the game at 3-3 and possessing all of the momentum, the Patriots pushed hard for the go-ahead goal, but WG’s defense settled down.
Both at the end of regulation, and throughout the first four-minute overtime period, each side missed out on good chances to break the tie. But a minute into the second OT, Sprole got an open lane on the right side and flew through it, eventually putting a point-blank shot past Koziol for the game-winner.
WG will look to bounce back Tuesday night in its home opener against Liverpool, the 2012 sectional champions, before F-M pays a visit on Thursday night.
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