Feb 20, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Forget all of the cold, patient, meticulous work that the West Genesee ice hockey team is used to applying to opponents.
In Wednesday night’s Section III Division I semifinal at Shove Park, the Wildcats went in another direction, jumping all over visiting Watertown IHC in the first period, and that spurt was enough to produce a 3-1 victory over the Cavaliers.
And it sends the state’s top-ranked team, sporting a 21-0-1 record, back to Utica Memorial Auditorium for Saturday’s sectional final at 2:45 against state no. 3-ranked Rome Free Academy, who beat Syracuse by that same 3-1 margin in the other semifinal on Tuesday night.
This will mark the fourth consecutive year the Wildcats and Black Knights are meeting in the title game, with WG victorious in all three of the previous editions. In their lone regular-season encounter Jan. 17 in Camillus, Nick Mellen’s overtime goal was the lone tally in a 1-0 decision.
All of this past history would have meant little had WG not taken care of its semifinal business first. IHC had played the Wildcats tough in two regular-season meetings, but lost both of them by scores of 2-1 on Dec. 17 at the Watertown Fairgrounds and 3-1 when they played again at Shove Park Feb. 7, less than two weeks before their playoff reunion.
Maybe sensing that it didn’t want IHC hanging too close again, the Wildcats overcame an exchange of penalties early in the first period and, at the 6:41 mark, took advantage of an IHC turnover deep in its own end and moved in front 1-0 on Ryan McDonald’s goal, assisted by David Procopio.
Fueled by that goal, WG kept attacking, and at the 10:58 mark Aaron Jones scored, unassisted. Exactly two minutes later, McDonald, in a four-on-four situation, streaked down the right side of the ice and fired a hard wrist shot past Cavaliers goalie Cole James to make it 3-0.
As it turned out, that was more than enough production, but WG got too comfortable in the second period and nearly gave that lead away. IHC’s Jared Pignone scored on the power play, and the Cavaliers took 12 shots overall, putting heavy pressure on Wildcat goalie Henry Burns.
But Burns made several big stops, including one on Jason Reape as he streaked in alone after serving a penalty. He also got help from the iron as Sean Shepard hit a shot hard off the right post late in the period.
Sufficiently scared, WG would control the flow of play in the third period, and while it didn’t add to its lead, it played stronger defense and never let the Cavaliers get many clean shots, setting the stage for the latest chapter in the Wildcats’ saga with RFA.