January 8, 2013
NHL fans waiting for next week and the start of an abbreviated season - well, hockey's already going on around here, and not just the Crunch.
We've just about reached the halfway mark of league play, and man, has it been entertaining. All sorts of close contests, spectacular performances, both on offense and between the pipes, and a real sense of unpredictability about how it will all end.
Much of that comes from Division I, solely from the struggles of West Genesee. Everyone, Frank Colabufo included, knew that the Wildcats would step back a bit this winter after heavy graduation losses,
But the Wildcats' regression has been serious. WG has gone 1-4-1 in its last six games, playing a lot of freshmen and sophomores and sorely missing its top player, Robby Michel. Despite all this, the Wildcats still are on top of Division I West, but it's a tight race.
F-M and Baldwinsville lost to WG back in December, but things have turned around since. The Anthony Angello-led Hornets pack an offensive wallop, while the Bees burst into January with some new personnel and a much-improved approach that was displayed when it beat then no. 3-state ranked Rochester McQuaid 2-0 last Saturday. And the Syracuse Cougars are giving everyone fits.
However, the two best teams, at the moment, are in Division I East. There's Rome Free Academy, runner-up to WG the last two years, somehow still undefeated and no. 2 in the state rankings despite five one-goal decisions, four of them in a row. This can't keep up, right?
It turns out that the Black Knights' 3-1 win at C-NS way back on Nov. 30 is the Northstars' lone blemish. C-NS is on the best roll in the program's decade-long history, having won 11 straight, four of them in a six-day span to start 2013. These guys even practice on weekday mornings before school starts. pThatp is dedication.
While Division I may have a different ending, in Division II the same two teams that met for the championship a year ago, Oswego and Skaneateles, are setting the pace again.
The Buccaneers started uneven, but then knocked off the Lakers 5-3 at "The Fort" back on Dec. 14 and, since then, have shut out four straight opponents, Chaze Izyk not allowing anything. Skaneateles had to scramble to tie Auburn 2-2 and win its own Duke Schneider Tournament in the new year, but are keeping paced and can't wait for the Jan. 25 rematch with the Bucs at Allyn Arena.
Otherwise, it's a scramble for the remaining playoff berths. New Hartford started fast, but now it's CBA/J-D on a roll, zooming past the Spartans and threatening third-place Auburn. We'll keep a close eye on Thursday night's game between the Brothers and Oswego to see if CBA/J-D can keep it up.
There's one other monster game yet to happen - on the first day of February, when RFA and C-NS reunite at Kennedy Arena. Will their win streaks be intact? Will anyone in the West stop them? (That's a strange thing to say.) Still plenty of ice time to figure that out.