Jan 30, 2014 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
So the West Genesee ice hockey team will not have a perfect season – but it could still end up without a defeat.
After 16 consecutive victories and five consecutive shutouts, the Wildcats finally got caught Wednesday night at Meachem Rink, the Syracuse Cougars able to rally from an early deficit and forge a 1-1 tie.
Though it didn’t get what it fully wanted, Syracuse still improved its chances of finishing second in the Division I American Conference, which would mean a first-round Section III home playoff game in two weeks’ time.
Back when these neighbors first met Dec. 13 at Shove Park, WG rolled to a 5-0 victory. Since then, the Wildcats parked itself atop the state Division I rankings and stayed there, while the Cougars had tailed off in mid-January, winless in three games before stopping Ithaca 6-4 last Friday night.
Yet from the moment this game started, it was clear that Syracuse was not going to let the Wildcats run over them again. Trapping on the defensive side, it bottled up WG’s deep fleet of forwards and kept them quiet through most of the first period.
Just as the period was winding down, though, the Wildcats struck. In a four-on-four situation, Derek Farrell attacked the net after a fine feed from Grainger Sasso.
Cougars goalie Sam Walsh stopped Farrell’s initial shot, but the puck went loose and Matt McDonald fired home the rebound just three seconds before the horn, putting WG up 1-0.
It was just the sort of back-breaking goal that the Wildcats have used on many occasions this season to take charge against a frustrated opponent. But Syracuse would not back away.
During the second period, the Cougars gained some momentum by killing off two WG penalties, and then put on massive pressure in its own power play late in the frame.
Just after the Wildcats returned to full strength, at the 12:11 mark, Sean Eccles, off a clean pass from Matt Eccles, took a shot from the left point.
Jared Ristoff, situated in front of the net, redirected the puck past Henry Burns, tying the game. It was the first goal WG had allowed in three weeks, since the third period of a 3-2 victory over Baldwinsville back on Jan. 8.
And that tie would hold throughout a tense third period. WG and Syracuse both had power-play opportunities, but were unable to convert, the Cougars not even getting a shot on the net in its man advantage late in regulation.
Through that frame, and through five minutes of overtime, nothing got settled. Griffin Sasso had the Wildcats’ best shot in OT, but Walsh gloved it, and Burns handled everything else that came to his net, too.
For the night, Walsh stopped 34 of 35 shots. Burns, so often protected by WG’s vaunted defense, had to make 25 saves, most of them in the game’s latter stages.