At even strength, the Liverpool ice hockey team managed to do something special on Friday night and play on even terms with West Genesee, the state’s top-ranked Division I team.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, it was those situations where there wasn’t an equal amount of skaters on the ice that proved costly – and helped the Wildcats prevail 3-0 in Friday night’s clash at Shove Park in Camillus.
Just by starting the season 7-3, Liverpool had already proven that it was far removed from its recent on-ice struggles. Still, the Warriors, like any other local large-school program, measures itself against West Genesee, winners of the last five Section III titles and after another crown in 2014.
Early nerves were in place for Liverpool, as evidenced by the way it easily surrendered the puck in its own end, giving WG a string of early opportunities. The Wildcats took seven shots in the first six minutes, but freshman goalie Steven Kozikoski stopped all of them.
As the Warriors settled down late in the period, it got a power-play opportunity, only to come up empty. Then, on WG’s first man advantage with 48.7 seconds left in the period, David Procopio’s wrist shot from the point beat Kozikoski, and Liverpool trailed 1-0.
It stayed that way through much of an evenly played second period. The Warriors started to pick up its attack and got plenty of chances to pull even, only to meet frustration as Richie Hart pumped one shot off the post and WG goalie Henry Burns twice stopped Dalton Horton on point-blank looks.
Then, late in the second period, the game’s pivotal sequence took place. A boarding penalty by Procopio gave Liverpool a four-minute power play that would extend into the third period.
But with 39.1 seconds left in the period, the Wildcats, well-known for its capability when a man down, burned the Warriors as Nick Mellen nabbed a short-handed goal, assisted by Corey Raaflub.
Thus, despite the Warriors’ soild play, it trailed 2-0, and both of those goals had come in the last minute, which is always a momentum shift. Unable to recover, the Warriors surrendered another power-play goal, this one to Ryan McDonald, with 4:49 left.
Kozikoski was strong in the net, recording 26 saves, but Liverpool came up short of the 20-shot mark head coach Chris Mathes had set before the game. None of the Warriors’ 15 shots got past Burns.
While this was going on, Cicero-North Syracuse’s nine-game winless skid finally ended at Onondaga Nation Arena, where it defeated Fayetteville-Manlius 2-1 in the annual “Pink the Rink” fund-raiser for breast cancer awareness.
Through the first two periods, the Northstars and Hornets remained in a 0-0 stalemate, but in the third period C-NS broke through as Chris Schneid and Newell Field scored goals, with Logan Field, Noah Koenig and Ben Cummings earning assists.
Northstars goalie Brandon Gloska gave up one in that final period to F-M’s Mateo Capriotti, but still was able to preserve the win, recording 22 saves, two more than Hornets counterpart Ben Napierala.
Liverpool nearly tripped up two nights before going to Shove Park, needing every bit of production from its top line to hold off F-M 4-3 at Greater Baldwinsville Ice Arena.
Though F-M, at 1-5-1, was a long way removed from the playoff team of a year ago that saw its post-season hopes dashed because its played one too many regular-season game, it still managed to stay even with the Warriors most of the night.
The only problem was that Liverpool put itself in front for good by taking a 2-0 first-period lead. It then leaned on its main line to withstand all of F-M’s charges as the Hornets’ Daren Dunnewold earned two goals and an assist.
Taking a part in all four scoring plays, Horton and Tom Bianchi had varying roles, Mostly, Horton finished things, getting three goals for a hat trick plus an assist, while Bianchi got three assists to go with his lone tally. Kody Gaulke also had three assists.
Liverpool took 32 shots to F-M’s 17, with only the work of Napierala (28 saves) keeping it tight.