BLACK KNIGHTS NIP WILDCATS 4-3-CONTINUE UNBEATEN SEASON
RFA celebrates the huge win as the student section joins the party!
Jeff Pexton-MHTS/PGI Photo
The RFA Black Knights hockey team defeated the West Genesee Wildcats by a score of 4-3 Friday night in front of a packed house at John F Kennedy Arena in Rome.
Joey Rutkowski’s laser like wrist shot over the stick side shoulder of Wildcats goalie Henry Burns with 4:09 remaining in the third period ended up being the game winner for the Knights, who saw their unblemished season record run to (7-0) overall and (6-0) in the Section III, Division I.
A huge crowd turned out at Bill Fleet Rink to watch their beloved Black Knights look for a little redemption over West Genesee, as the Wildcats have handed RFA Section III Championship game losses in both 2010 and 2011.
This season, the Wildcats entered the night ranked number two in the most recent New York State Division I Poll, while the Black Knight were seated behind their bitter rivals at number three.
The big crowd was quelled early by the youngsters from Camillus tonight and it looked like the same old West Genesee dominance in recent years was still hanging over the heads of the RFA players.
Grainger Sasso, one of twenty underclassmen on this year’s Cats roster, lit the lamp for the visitors just 1:13 into the opening period to make it 1-0 in favor of the Wildcats. Sasso’s goal was the very first shot of the game for West Genesee.
This game was a physical affair to be sure, from the opening faceoff. Sometimes the hard hits and clean checks boiled over into and after the whistle penalties.
RFA’s first penalty of the game came with 8:17 remaining in the first period when Justin Hussey went to the sin bin for roughing.
West Genesee’s power play unit capitalized on the RFA disadvantage when Robbie Michel beat RFA netminder Andrew Ross with 7:39 to go in the opening period, putting the Cats up by a score of 2-0.
Ironically, as the home crowd fell quiet, the Black Knights seemed to band together and dig a little deeper.
While many teams would have had a let down in intensity, this version of the Black Knights picked up the pace and began beating the visitors to virtually every loose puck.
That intensity paid off big time at the 5:32 mark of the opening frame when Tyler Williams connected on a pretty one timer that sailed past Burns to pull RFA within a goal at 2-1.
Joey Rutkowski picked up the assist on Rome’s first goal.
RFA Senior Nick Mecca is a seasoned veteran and was a member of both of the bitter Section III Championship losses to West Genny.
Tonight, big number 13 showed no signs of letting the Wildcats take another away from his team especially on home ice.
With 1:28 to go in the opening period Mecca tucked the puck past Burns and into the bottom right corner of the Wildcats goal, tying the game at 1-1, which is the way we’d go to the first break.
Between the first two periods, RFA Head Coach Greg Cuthbertson told My Hometown Sports – ESPN Radio 99.1 FM that his team fell victim to over excitement in the opening minutes of the first period and that he was very pleased they calmed down and settled into their game plan.
One of RFA’s main concerns entering tonight’s match up was solving West Genesee’s renowned 1-2-2 trapping defense.
Rome’s answer to the trap, which at higher levels has been referred to as “the place where offenses go to die”, was to move the puck rapidly up the wings and around the floating West Genesee center.
Coach Cuthbertson’s game plan paid off in the second period, when Drew DeBlasiis scored of a rebound of a blast by Nick Mecca and knocked home a power play goal with 3:16 remaining to put the Romans on top by a score of 3-2.
DeBlasiis’ goal came almost nine minutes into a second period which saw bodies flying all over the place and both teams having two power play opportunities each.
During the second intermission, West Genesee 19 year veteran head coach Frank Colabufo told MHTS – ESPN Radio 99.1 FM that he was actually proud of his very young team for being within a goal with this RFA team after two periods.
Coach Colabufo added that he was also not surprised at all by the level of checking that was going on. “Hey, it’s RFA vs. West Genesee and I don’t think anyone in this building is too surprised at how the two teams are going at it,” he said.
The Black Knights took a 4-2 advantage with 4:09 remaining in the contest when Joey Rutkowski walked in from the blue line and whistled a wrister into the top right corner, sending the RFA student section into absolute bedlam.
West Genesee pulled to within 4-3 in the closing moments of the game on a nifty misdirection goal from David Procopio.
It was too little, too late for the Wildcats however and the Black Knights smothered goalie Andrew Ross in celebration of a very redeeming win for the proud RFA program.
Ross finished with 10 saves on 13 shots, while Henry Burns stopped 18 of the 22 shots he faced.
After the game, Monster Energy Drink Player of the Game Nick Mecca told MHTS – ESPN Radio that when his team was down 2-0 early, it did nothing but push he and his teammates to work harder, adding that they knew West Genesee was going to play hard, despite their relative youth and that’s exactly what Rome prepared for.
With the win, RFA improves to (7-0, 6-0) and will return to action on January 3rd at Liverpool.
West Genesee (5-3, 4-2) returns to action next Thursday at their Holiday Tournament.
Rome Free Academy 4 West Genesee 3
1 2 3 Final
West Genesee 2 0 1 3
RFA 2 0 2 4
MHTS Scoring Summary:
Grainger Sasso-1 goal
Robbie Michel-1 goal
David Procopio-1 goal
Ryan McDonalds-2 assists
Henry Burns 18 saves
Tyler Williams-1 goal
Nick Mecca-1 goal
Joey Rutkowski-1 goal-2 assists
JT Entelisano-1 assist
Andrew Ross-10 saves