Perhaps a few more chances here or there, and the Baldwinsville ice hockey team is celebrating a landmark accomplishment – namely, knocking off the top-ranked Division I team in the state.
That was certainly the Bees’ goal as it took on West Genesee Wednesday night at Greater B’ville Ice Arena, and while the effort was superb, the results did not match that effort as the Wildcats prevailed by a score of 3-2.
Of the Bees’ 11 games to this point, 10 have been decided by one goal or less, and the fact that it had played everyone tough was something important going into this contest.
By contrast, on its way to a 10-0 start and that top state ranking, West Genesee, winners of the last five Section III titles, had only seen one opponent, Watertown IHC, stay within a goal of them in a 2-1 decision in mid-December at Fairgrounds Arena.
But this was the Bees-Wildcats rivalry, something that has built up over decades. Each contest between them turns into a tense, physical struggle, and this one was no different as a large crowd gathered in Lysander to witness the latest chapter.
Though forced into its defensive end for much of the first period, B’ville kept it 0-0 as goaltender Nick Harper, who would finish with 27 saves, turned everything back.
That couldn’t last forever, though. With two goals from David Procopio and a goal from Corey Raaflub, WG claimed a 3-1 lead in the second period. Only Charlie Bertrand’s goal, assisted by Matt Abbott, kept the Bees close.
Deep into the third period, B’ville still dealt with that two-goal deficit, but then made things interesting when Garrett Gray, taking a pass from Abbott, beat Henry Burns to cut the margin to one.
As time ran out, though, the pattern of the game established itself again, B’ville just not allowed many chances against a stingy Wildcat defense as Burns only had to make 12 saves, not even half of Harper’s total.
Playing at Fulton on Friday night, the Bees got right back into the win column, and even though this wasn’t a close decision, B’ville had to sweat until the third period before it could earn a 4-1 victory over the Red Raiders.
Trae Sheldon’s second-period goal helped Fulton erase the Bees’ early 1-0 lead. And they were still tied until the final period, when Matt Monaco led a late surge of three unanswered goals.
Monaco found the net twice, with Gray and Bertrand getting the other goals. Matt Metcalf, David Mazurkiewicz and Adam Tretowicz joined Bertrand in the assist column, and Harper was stellar in the net, turning back 25 of the Red Raiders’ 26 shot attempts.
In a key road game next Tuesday, B’ville faces the Syracuse Cougars, who at 8-2-1 were coming off a 3-2 overtime defeat to Rome Free Academy last Friday.
Then the Bees play in the Ogdensburg Tournament, taking on Rochester McQuaid, who is no. 2 in the state Division I rankings, just behind West Genesee, in next Friday night’s opening round.