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Hockey Wildcats get first-round playoff shutout

WG takes out Mohawk Valley, meets IHC in semifinals

West Genesee forward David Procopio (27) takes possession of the puck in last Friday’s Division I playoff game against Mohawk Valley, where the unbeaten, state no. 1-ranked Wildcats beat the Thunder 3-0 to improve to 20-0-1 and advance to the semifinals against Watertown IHC, which takes place this Wednesday night at Shove Park.

West Genesee forward David Procopio (27) takes possession of the puck in last Friday’s Division I playoff game against Mohawk Valley, where the unbeaten, state no. 1-ranked Wildcats beat the Thunder 3-0 to improve to 20-0-1 and advance to the semifinals against Watertown IHC, which takes place this Wednesday night at Shove Park. Dana Northrop

— Patience – along with a stifling defense – always helps when faced with post-season nerves, as the West Genesee ice hockey team was glad to find out.

The Wildcats did not jump all over visiting Mohawk Valley in Friday night’s opening round of the Section III Division I playoffs at Shove Park. Rather, it took its time and, once the right moment arrived, struck hard, which led to a 3-0 victory over the Raiders.

WG, entering the sectional tournament with a 19-0-1 record and no. 1 state ranking, had faced Mohawk Valley (formerly Utica Proctor) on Jan. 31 and won big, 8-0, but the playoff encounter two weeks later proved far more challenging, as it played through a 0-0 first period.

Then the Wildcats’ attack woke up in the second period, twice putting shots past Raiders goaltender Emerson Carpenter, and then tacked on an insurance goal in the third period.

Collin Kobuszewski and Ryan McDonald led the way, each of them earning one goal and one assist, while Corey Raaflub also found the net. Nick Mellen, Derek Farrell and James Shephard got credit for assists, too.

Meanwhile, WG’s defense, anchored by Mellen and Kobuszewski, turned away all of Mohawk Valley’s chances, protecting goalie Henry Burns, who only made 13 saves in the Wildcats’ 11th shutout of the season.

Whether a 12th shutout is required when WG faces Watertown IHC (who took out Liverpool 4-2) in Wednesday night’s Division I semifinal at Shove Park at 7:30 remains an open question.

The Cavaliers have played the Wildcats tough in both of their meetings this season – a 2-1 decision Dec. 17 at the Watertown Fairgrounds, and a 3-1 victory in the Feb. 7 rematch in Camillus. A trip to Utica Memorial Auditorium for the sectional final against Rome Free Academy or Syracuse is on the line.

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