Normally, when the West Genesee ice hockey team hosts its own Wildcat Classic, it’s an opportunity to show everyone that another championship run is underway.
Yet things were quite different when WG took to the ice last Friday at Shove Park for its opening-round game against Bethlehem (Section II), for many reasons.
This was the first home date for the Wildcats since its epochal four-overtime shoot-out defeat to Baldwinsville in last year’s sectional Division I semifinals, a stunning end to a campaign where WG was, at the time, undefeated and atop the state rankings.
Yet even with an entire off-season to recover and learn from that heartbreak, when the Wildcats had its season opener at Skaneateles last Tuesday night, it got overwhelmed and lost, 7-0, to the Lakers.
Rarely in WG’s storied history had it taken a defeat this lopsided, though a lot of it had to do with the quality of a Skaneateles side that itself is hungry after an early playoff exit in 2017-18 and already had a 9-0 win over Cazenovia in the books this winter.
It didn’t start lopsided, the Lakers only up 1-0 after one period thanks to Ryan Gick’s goal. But in the second period Skaneateles struck three more times, capped by Luke Lynn’s short-handed tally as Gick added a second goal and Owen Van Holtz converted.
Not stopping there, the Lakers kept on going in the final period, Van Holtz finding the net again in between goals by Garrett Krieger and Jack Henry as Bauer Morrissey finished with three assists.
In defeat, Wildcats goalie Chris Wells made 27 saves, and it wasn’t that the Wildcats were pinned in its own end throughout the night since it took 23 shots, all stopped by Skaneateles netminder Chris Falso.
Clearly, WG had plenty to work on, and the Wildcat Classic offered further proof as, in last Friday’s opening round against Bethlehem, the Wildcats fell 3-1 to the Eagles.
Not until the third period, when Jimmy Bergan scored off a feed from Jack Miller, did the Wildcats net its first goal of the season, which tied the game 1-1. Bethlehem quickly went back in front, though, and added an insurance goal late. Chris Wells made 22 saves.
After Bethlehem defeated Suffern 6-3 in the tournament final, WG looked to salvage third place when it faced Fairport in the consolation game on Saturday afternoon.
But the Red Raiders also beat the Wildcats 3-1, the game nearly identical to Bethlehem in that WG trailed 1-0 and then, early in the third period, tied it with Chris Kleberg’s goal, only to have Fairport go back in front late with two late tallies.
This rare three-game skid was something WG could break if it turned things around Tuesday against Fayetteville-Manlius at Cicero Twin Rinks before a Thursday-night visit to Pittsford.