Camillus If there was one game that encapsulated high school hockey, Friday night’s showdown between undefeated, state no. 1-ranked West Genesee and no. 9-ranked Rome Free Academy at Shove Park, won by the Wildcats 1-0 in overtime, was that game.
“I just think that’s what high school hockey’s about right there,” Wildcats head coach Frank Colabufo said.
The back-and-forth grudge match needed an extra two minutes and 10 seconds to crown a winner and featured two teams who’ve played against each other in the last three Section III Division I title games, all won by the Wildcats.
Neither team could find the back of the net through the 45 minutes of regulation, and Colabufo said he knew the game would end with a turnover and then a score. And that's exactly what happened.
WG defenseman Nick Mellen scooped up an RFA turnover on offense, and skated his way up the center of the ice. When he collected that puck, Mellen said he saw a seam and just skated as fast as he could, weaving his way through defenders and shifting his stick so as not to lose the puck, before rifling a shot past RFA goalkeeper Devin Hart for the game winner.
“I’m just glad it was over,” Mellen said.
Colabufo said he normally would have liked Mellen to have passed the puck during his scramble to the net, but was glad Mellen took it himself due to his pure athletic speed (he's also a standout lacrosse defender).
“I’ve seen him score that goal a handful of times already, so you’ve just got to trust him,” Colabufo said.
That goal wasn’t Mellen’s only contribution in the game. The 5-foot-11-inch junior also played great defense , blocking a shot with his knee early in the first period and hip-checking RFA’s Keegan Richie before he could get a shot off with six seconds left in the game.