A huge post-season surge by the Aquinas Institute hockey team saw the Little Irish earn a sectional championship and nearly capture a state crown as well.
The Little Irish, seeded No. 2 in the Section 5 Class A tournament, won 1-0 over top-seeded Irondequoit in the title game played Feb. 18. Senior defenseman Mike Mendolera scored the game’s only goal midway through the second period. Junior goaltender Scott Mertz posted the shutout, making 26 saves.
The Irondequoit win capped a remarkable defensive performance by AQ throughout sectionals, as the Little Irish allowed only one total goal. They also won 5-0 over seventh-seeded Geneva/Waterloo in quarterfinal play Feb. 14 and 2-1 over No. 3 Webster Thomas in a semifinal game Feb. 16.
After earning its sectional title, Aquinas scored a 3-2 victory over Greece Athena/Odyssey in Class AA state-qualifier play Feb. 22. That was followed by a 4-2 win over Liverpool in a state Division 1 quarterfinal game March 4.
A stunning comeback gave the Little Irish a 4-3 state semifinal victory over Suffern March 11. Andy Schmidt’s goal tied the game at 3-3 with five minutes remaining, and Billy Lemen netted the game-winner just 15 seconds later.
The Little Irish were finally stopped by Williamsville North, 1-0, in the state final played March 12 at Utica Memorial Auditorium. AQ held a 23-12 edge in shots on goal, but a second-period goal by Williamsville’s Ryan Geary proved to be the game’s only score.
Aquinas posted a final record of 22-4-1 for the 2005-06 season.
Another notable hockey performance this year came from the combined squad of Bishop Kearney and Eastridge high schools which reached the Section 5 Class AA title game. Kearney/Eastridge (17-4-2), seeded third, won 5-4 over No. 6 Rush-Henrietta in quarterfinal play Feb. 14, then beat No. 2 Brockport 3-2 in the semifinals Feb. 16 before falling, 3-2, to top-seeded Greece Athena/Odyssey in the title game Feb. 18.