Thomas hockey goes back-to-back by rallying past Canandaigua

Webster Thomas sophomore Jack Stappenback puts pressure on Canandaigua goalie Cade Chesler. (Photo: NORMAN STREHLE)

By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA

The Section V Class B title game was barely five minutes old and the top-seeded Webster Thomas Titans found themselves in a strange position.

For the first time all season, they trailed 2-0. Canandaigua’s scoring star Carter McWilliams clanked a 50-foot wrist in off the cross bar at 3:46, then Lucas Schwarz slammed home a Dylan Spychalski centering pass at 5:04.

Ah, but the one thing the Titans never do is panic.

“Our approach day in and day out is to stay on our plan,” coach David Evans said.

Sure enough, the Titans crept within a goal in the second period, then scored three times in a span of 2 minutes, 44 seconds of the third and defeated Canandaigua 4-2 on Sunday afternoon at RIT’s Gene Polisseni Center.

Cullen Hennessy tied the score with a power-play goal at 5:30, Brandon Gierczak drove home a slap shot from the right circle for the go-ahead goal at 7:28, then Jack Stappenbeck shoved in a rebound at 8:14 and the Titans had their second straight Class B championship and seventh since 2003.

“It’s hard to win one but when you’re the defending champion, everyone is gunning for you,” Evans said. “Hats off to Canandaigua (15-6-1), they played a good team game all year.”

The same can be said for the Titans, who take a 19-2-2 record into Saturday’s 3 p.m. regional game against the Section X champ at the Gene.

They roll three lines, the give up precious little space in the defensive zone, and they are relentless on the forecheck. And they have the skill to overcome.

Photo: NORMAN STREHLE

Sophomore defenseman Liam Forsyth ignited the comeback with a power-play goal at 8:33 of the second period. Braves goalie Cade Chesler, who made 35 saves in the game, had lost his stick and did everything he could to take away the bottom of the net.

Forsyth played sniper, however, and picked the top right corner on the short side with his shot from high in the right circle.

“Everyone was screaming ‘Shoot’ and I just saw an opening,” he said. “We just needed to get one through him and the we would pepper him the rest of the way.”

That’s precisely what happened, but the Titans still didn’t tie the score until Hennessy’s net-mouth magic 5:30 into the third period.

Gierczak then scored what became the game-winner at 7:28. Given time and space in the right wing circle, he wound up with a big slap shot and drove it past Chesler.

The goal suddenly made the $300, plus tax, Gierczak spent on the new Bauer FlyLite stick worth it. Well, the $300 his mom spent.

“I broke my stick in practice so I had to get a new one,” he said. “Coach said make sure you get the same one. I have to thank my mom for that.”

Webster Thomas forward Cullen Hennessey (15) goes one-on-one with Cade Chesler. (Photo: NORMAN STREHLE)

When Stappenbeck extended the lead to 4-2, the Titans systematically smothered the Braves until the final buzzer, ending Canandaigua’s hopes for its second sectional crown in three years.

“I can’t put into words the appreciation I have for the senior class,” Braves coach David Taft said. “They’ve made it norm to get to the Polisseni Center. They have set a tone and a precedent for the program.”

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