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UTICA, N.Y. — It took two long years, but Suffern finally got its revenge on archnemesis West Genesee.
The Mounties, who suffered a last-second meltdown in a 4-3 overtime loss to the Wildcats in the 2009-10 state semis, turned the tables on Saturday at the Utica Memorial Auditorium.
Suffern (20-2-3) scored a 2-0 shootout win after the two state powerhouses played to a 2-2 draw through regulation and four overtime periods. The Mounties advance to face Section 5's Pittsford for the NYS Division 1 championship on Sunday at 12:30 p.m.
“It still stings from two years ago, but we felt like we had more heart than them and we were going to come out and give it our all,” Mounties senior forward Ian Adler said.
Adler, who went third in the shootout, scored on a textbook breakaway move to put an end to the marathon game.
“It's the third shot and there's a lot of pressure,” he said. “The crowds were going crazy and I knew my move before I was going to go. I was going to fake the forehand shot and go backhand.”
And then he threw some salt into West Genesee's open wound, employing the same exact celebration the Wildcats did two years ago. Adler, who slid on his backside across the ice and used his stick to row as if it was a paddle, called it “the canoe.”
“Two years ago (the West Genesee player) went down our bench doing the canoe,” Adler said. “And nothing stung more than that. To be able to do it back back feels great.”
While Adler was the face of the victory, netminder Tyler Stark was the unquestioned MVP. The three-year starter made 40 huge saves and stopped all three of West Genesee's shootout attempts.
“Tyler was incredible — by far the MVP of this game,” Adler said.
Overall, Suffern was outshot an eye-popping 42-18. It was quite the unfamiliar position for the Mounties, who have dominated the lion's share of their games this season. Stark, who has given up just four goals in five playoff games, turned in the ultimate career-defining performance.
“I didn't want to have that feeling we had the past two years with losing and then ending my career like that,” Stark said, referencing Suffern's previous two state semifinal losses. “I just didn't want to have that feeling again.”
The Mounties narrowly avoided another sick-to-your-stomach feeling. West Genesee — which tied the game at 2-2 with 23.4 seconds left in regulation on an Erik Kurz power-play goal — looked like it was destined to drive another stake through Suffern's heart.
Instead, the Section 1 champ stiffened its upper lip and showed resolve, trading blows with the Wildcats through all four overtime periods. In fact, Suffern outshot West Genesee 7-5 over the final two extra sessions.
“It was almost a deja vu with things going like that late,” Mounties coach Rob Schelling said. “But to still give everything you've got in those four overtimes shows you how amazing this group of young men is. We were able to stay focused, stay discipline, play defensive and pull it out.”
Early on, West Genesee dominated play. Jimmy Sauda scored off an assist from Robbie Michel to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead just three minutes and four seconds into the opening period.
Suffern's John Redgate evened it at 1-1 on the power play with 7:40 left in the first period off an assist from Adam Brenner. His slap shot trickled just beneath Wildcats goalie Jacob Pelton (16 saves). Mounties leading scorer Willie Sanchez buried the go-ahead goal on a 5-on-3 power play, finishing a loose puck in front. Adler and Steven Scholer were credited with assists.
In the shootout, Sanchez started off with a goal to give Suffern a 1-0 lead. Stark then stuffed Michel, but Pelton did the same to Redgate. Shawn Lynch appeared to score on West Genesee's third shot, but the refs ruled it hit the bar and didn't cross the line. And then the stage was set for Adler, who sent Suffern into the state title game for the first time since 1992. The Mounties captured Section 1's lone state crown that year.
“It feels great — but especially because it's West Genny,” Stark said. “That puts it on a whole other level. They did the same thing to us two years ago, tying it up with under a minute left. But we got it this time. We won it.”
KEYS TO THE GAME
1. Star-k: Yes, Suffern goalie Tyler Stark was the unquestioned star of this game. The senior turned in the defining performance of his three-year career, coming up with 40 saves to stave off the undefeated Wildcats. He also stuffed all three of West Genesee's shootout attempts. As a result of Suffern's overall Section 1 dominance, Stark is rarely thrown into the pressure cooker. He often sees no more than 10-15 shots in a game. Against West Genesee, he undeniably proved staked his claim as Section 1's premier netminder.
2. Acing the power play: Suffern scored both its regulation goals on the power play. Cashing in on such situations was key in a game where the Mounties totaled just 18 shots. Basically, they made the most of their limited opportunities.
3. Marathon Mounties: Suffern actually got stronger as the game progressed, outshooting West Genesee 7-5 over the final two extra sessions. The Mounties were building momentum as the Wildcats' legs got heavier and heavier. Obviously, the superior endurance all paid off in the shootout.
Suffern 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 | 1 0 1
West Genesee 1 0 1 0 0 0 0 2 | 0 0 0
WG (11:56) Jimmy Sauda from Robbie Michel | 1-0 WG
SF (7:40) John Redgate from Adam Brenner | 1-1 *
SF (14:21) Willie Sanchez from Ian Adler and Steven Scholer | 2-1 SF * (5-on-3)
WG (23.4) Erik Kurz from Sauda and Jon Lauer | 2-2 *
* Indicates power play goal
SF: Sanchez scores | 1-0 SF
WG: Michel misses | 1-0 SF
SF: Redgate misses | 1-0 SF
WG: Shawn Lynch misses | 1-0 SF
SF: Adler scores | 2-0 SF
Suffern: John Redgate (1G); Willie Sanchez (1G); Steve Scholer (1A); Adam Brenner (1A); Ian Adler (1A)
West Genesee: Jimmy Sauda (1G, 1A); Erik Kurz (1G); Robbie Michel (1A); Jon Lauer (1A)
Suffern: Tyler Stark (40 saves)
West Genesee: Jacob Pelton (16 saves)
Suffern 4 0 4 1 2 5 2 18
West Genesee 8 8 10 6 5 4 1 42
Email Isaac Cass at Icass@cablevision.com | Follow him on Twitter @MSGV_Icass