Last year, Ithaca High’s hockey season came to an end when it traveled to Buffalo and lost to second-ranked Niagara-Wheatfield in the state quarterfinals at Northtown Center.
The Little Red hopes to return the favor on Sunday when the Falcons come east for the playoffs.
Ithaca (10-9-1) plays host to N-W (13-6-3), ranked fifth in the state, at 12:45 p.m. Sunday at The Rink, with the winner headed to Utica next weekend for the state championship round. Ithaca, which lost its final two regular-season games and hasn’t played since Feb. 8, is seeking its sixth state title while the Falcons are in the hunt for their first.
N-W won its fourth Section 6 title in the past six seasons on Monday by rallying past Williamsville North, 3-2, at the First Niagara Center in Buffalo. Justin Durkee broke a 2-all tie late in the second period as the Falcons overcame an early 2-0 deficit to oust the Spartans and become the first Western New York Varsity Hockey Federation member to win three straight sectional titles.
Domenic Senese and James Stenzel also scored for N-W, while goalie Nate Sommers got the win by stopping 21 shots.
Coach Paul Zarach’s Little Red is led by sophomore forward Scott Partington (14 goals-23 assists-37 points) and junior goal-scoring leader Nathan Walker (19-13-32). Senior Charlie Estill and sophomore Eli Gordon have 21 points apiece.
Senior goalie Aaron Goldberg sports a 3.38 goals-against average; sophomore Keane Niday has a 2.98 GAA.
Ithaca won state championships in 1984, ’87, ’94, 2000 and ’07. Saratoga High won last year’s state Division I championship with a 5-0 defeat of McQuaid.
Sunday’s winner will meet either ninth-ranked Scarsdale (20-3-0) or No. 8 Shenendehowa (15-6-1) at 10 a.m. next Saturday in the state semifinals at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. The state title game is set for 12:30 p.m. Sunday, also in Utica.