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Hockey Wildcats win seventh straight sectional title

West Genny again denies RFA with championship at stake

West Genesee's ice hockey team with the Section III Division I championship banner after defeating Rome Free Academy 3-1 Saturday at Utica Memorial Auditorium. It's the Wildcats' seventh consecutive sectional title, the last four of them earned defeating the Black Knights in the sectional final.

West Genesee's ice hockey team with the Section III Division I championship banner after defeating Rome Free Academy 3-1 Saturday at Utica Memorial Auditorium. It's the Wildcats' seventh consecutive sectional title, the last four of them earned defeating the Black Knights in the sectional final.

Burns said that, once the Wildcats got that early goal, it could relax and play its own style, and not just react to what the Black Knights were doing.

Given that the Wildcats had 11 shutouts on the season, any kind of lead was important, and WG set out in the second period to add to it, nearly doing so when David Procopio's wrap-around shot went inches wide and, short-handed, Nick Mellen clanged a shot off the right post.

Though those shots didn't go in, they did set the table for the game's decisive 28-second outburst.

At the 5:41 mark of the period, Aaron Jones pounced on a loose puck deep in RFA's end and jammed the puck just over the goal line to make it 2-0. Before the Black Knights could regroup, Procopio, at the 6:09 mark, put home a shot from the right side, fed by passes from Mellen and Ryan McDonald.

Trailing by three goals, RFA took its time-out. WG didn't mind, because now it could play completely on its own terms, attacking when the opportunity presented itself, but remaining sound on the defensive side to make sure the Black Knights didn't climb back into it.

Burns said those goals from Jones and Procopio took all kinds of pressure off. Still, RFA got on the board with Tyler Williams' goal at the 12:29 mark of the second period in a four-on-four situation, and it took Burns making another terrific glove save to keep it a two-goal margin going into the second intermission.

With yet another championship in sight, WG killed off two Black Knights power plays early in the third period, leaning on Mellen, Collin Kobuszewski and the rest of its vaunted defense to protect its lead, constantly getting in the way of Black Knights passes and shots, and often icing the puck when that didn't work.

It got physical, too, with WG's Corey Raaflub and RFA's Keegan Richie injured in the final period, but did not lead to the fight that marred last season's post-game activities. Instead, Burns, who finished with 21 saves, turned away some more shots, assuring that another sectional championship was heading to Camillus.

With this win, WG advances to next Saturday's Division I state quarterfinal against the Section V champion, Greece Thunder or Fairport, at Shove Park, which starts at 7:30. The winner of that game returns to Utica Auditorium for the March 8-9 state final four.

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