The ultimate legacy of Fayetteville-Manlius ice hockey in 2018-19 is that it got as close as any in the program’s history to appearing in the Section III Division I championship game.
Yet the Hornets were denied that opportunity by perennial power West Genesee in Wednesday night’s sectional semifinal at Shove Park, a game that was close and in doubt most of the way until the Wildcats prevailed 4-2.
Only once before in program history had F-M reached this round, in 2012. West Genesee was in the way that year, too, and claimed a 2-0 decision.
But this one wouldn’t be a shutout, just as that game was and the 4-0 defeat the Hornets took to the Wildcats early in December at Cicero Twin Rinks before it really got into gear by winning 14 of 15 games, including its sectional quarterfinal win over CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt.
Right away, the Hornets found itself in a defensive mode, unable to take any shots in the game’s first nine minutes. Gradually, WG picked up its pressure, and converted at the 6:06 mark with Billy Fisher’s rebound goal.
It wasn’t until F-M found itself on the power play that it finally got a shot – that found the net, Will Duncanson flying in short-handed and, after a spin move, flinging a wrist shot past Wildcats goalie Chris Wells.
Energized by that goal, the Hornets struck again three minutes later, Ben Hammond putting in the go-ahead goal, but the Hornets’ 2-1 lead only lasted 90 seconds, WG tying it again on Jack Miller’s power-play tally.
F-M had a better all-around effort in the second period, with more possessions in the Wildcats’ end and plenty of chances to move out in front that did not lead to success.
It wasn’t until a long Wildcats possession late in the period that it claimed the lead for good, Jake Farrell firing a shot from the left circle inside the left post.
Deep into the third period, it stayed 3-2, with the Hornets increasing its pressure and, on at least two occassions, nearly tying it again, but seeing the shots fly just wide.
When WG’s Dan Holzhauer stole the puck and moved up the middle with three minutes to play, tailed by a single F-M defender, it didn’t look too dangerous, but then Holzhauer slid the puck low behind Brandon Heyman and found the net for the clinching goal.
The Wildcats advanced to face Syracuse, who shut out Baldwinsville 5-0, in Monday night’s sectional final at the War Memorial, while F-M completed a 16-5-1 season. Heyman and Trent McKiven graduate, but most of the rest of the roster, including Duncanson, Hammond and Zach Bookman, could return in 2019-20.