Mar 10, 2012 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
Three long hours after it started, West Genesee’s ice hockey team trudged off the ice of Utica Memorial Auditorium, its dream of a fourth state Division I championship denied in the most painful of manners.
The Wildcats and Suffern endured 45 minutes of regulation and four overtime periods in Saturday’s state Division I semifinal, not resolving anything until a shoot-out, when the Mounties converted twice to finally prevail.
This was a rematch of the 2010 state semifinal, a game no one on either side ever forgot. Back then, WG erased a two-goal deficit in the final 31 seconds of regulation and prevailed 4-3 in overtime on the way to a perfect season and state title.
Suffern had those memories to deal with, but also knew that it had played the Wildcats close in a 3-2 contest at Shove Park in early December, as close a call as WG has faced this winter on the way to a 24-0 mark and no. 1 state ranking.
Wasting little time, the Wildcats took advantage of a power play and, just 2:25 into the game, took a 1-0 lead when Jimmy Sauda put home a rebound of Robbie Michel’s shot. R.J. Tinklepaugh also had an assist.
The Mounties recovered, gained its own power play and, at the 7:20 mark of the first period, pulled even on Jon Redgate’s goal. And it would remain 1-1 for a while.
During the second period, Suffern did not have a single direct shot on net. Overall, WG out-shot them 16-4 over the course of the first two periods, but stellar work by Mounties goalie Tyler Stark kept the game deadlocked.
Then WG picked up a pair of penalties that, in the opening seconds of the third period, left them two men down. Suffern took advantage of the five-on-three chance, Willie Sanchez firing a shot past Jake Pelton with 14:21 to play.
For much of the rest of regulation, WG went all-out on its attack trying to pull even. Suffern, attempting to hang on, committed a pair of its own penalties that gave the Wildcats its own two-man advantage as time wound down.
Though the Mounties killed one of the penalties, the Wildcats pulled Pelton – and with 23.4 seconds to play, off a scramble in front of the net, Erik Kurz beat Stark for the tying goal.
So it was 2-2 going into overtime, each period lasting seven minutes, 30 seconds. Through one OT frame, and then another, the Wildcats and Mounties squared off, rarely getting good scoring chances as the ice surface broke down.
Following a much-needed rest and some work from the Zamboni, it went to a third OT, and then a fourth. Suffern and WG both had opportunities to end the marathon, only to squander them.
So now they were headed for the first-ever state semifinal decided by an NHL-style shoot-out, each side getting three opportunities for a breakaway and single shot at the net.
Suffern went first, and Sanchez beat Pelton. Then they traded stops, Stark stuffing Michel and Pelton answering with a save of Redgate’s attempt.
On the second try, a controversy erupted that might have decided matters. Shawn Lynch thought he had put his high shot past Stark, but the officials and goal judge ruled that the puck crashed off the crossbar.
Moments later, Suffern’s Ian Adler drove to the goal and flipped a shot that eluded Pelton and found the net. The Mounties’ players mobbed Adler, while the Wildcats were crestfallen, a feeling their opponents knew all too well.
Stark, more than anyone, kept WG from victory. His 39 saves negated the fact that the Wildcats out-shot the Mounties by a better than 2-1 margin.