Middle Four In Final Scramble
Not all the playoff spots are clinched. Mathematically, Fredonia can still get in if it wins its last three games, Buffalo State loses its last three games, and Fredonia beats Buffalo State by more than three goals.
Cortland, Geneseo, and Potsdam all clinched playoff spots last weekend. Plattsburgh clinched a bye for the first round, but Oswego has not. Geneseo can’t catch Oswego, but Cortland could with the same scenario as above, including needing to win by more than three goals.
Therefore, outside of those two miracles, the real battle is where the third to sixth place teams end up. Frankly, I’m not going to try to figure out all the permutations. Let’s just say that everyone more or less has his own destiny in his hands. Win the next three games, and you’re almost guaranteed to host a first-round playoff series.
A secondary battle is for first place and home ice throughout. Plattsburgh has a slightly easier schedule than Oswego, is already up by two points, and even more importantly, holds the tiebreaker advantage.
Why Coaches Get Gray Hairs
Over a week ago, Oswego walked into Plattsburgh and beat the Cardinals to tie for first place. A week later, Oswego promptly lost. To Geneseo. At home.
“We lost first place tonight,” coach George Roll told the Oswego Palladium-Times, “and that’s an awful feeling to have that happen.”
Jonathan Hoose scored in the first period to give the Great Lakers the lead. Geneseo controlled the second period, notching three unanswered goals. Pete Boudette got one 20 seconds into the period, followed by Scott Lephart and Derek Powell. Brian St. John got one back in the third for Oswego, but it was too little too late.
Oswego came back the next night to crush Brockport, 8-1. John Hirliman led the way with a pair of goals.
It is conceivable that Oswego could host Geneseo in the second round. In the meantime, Roll might want to buy some Grecian Formula.
Give Credit Where Credit Is Due
For all the criticism Geneseo goalie Brett Walker receives due to his aggressive play, it’s time to praise his effort last weekend. He committed no penalties, made 24 saves in an upset 3-2 win over Oswego, made 30 saves in a 2-2 tie against Cortland, and was, deservedly, named SUNYAC Goaltender of the Week.
He will now have to maintain that performance: Geneseo can finish anywhere from third to sixth depending on its last three games, including a key matchup against Potsdam.
Talk About Coming Clean
Cortland is the most penalized team in conference play, averaging over 30 minutes a game. Yet, in a 2-2 tie against Geneseo, both teams scored twice as many goals as they tallied penalties. That’s right, only one minor penalty was called on each team, both in the third period. They played 48 penalty-free minutes before that call.
Both teams scored on their lone power play.
Cortland has the advantage in a tie with Geneseo as the Red Dragons win the tiebreaker, and are two points ahead of Potsdam and Buffalo State. First-year coach Tom Cranfield would love to be able to host his first playoff series. It won’t be easy as his squad has to face Fredonia and Buffalo State on the road, and then Oswego at home.
Bengals Looking To Regain Bite
Buffalo State has faltered recently, dropping six of its last seven games, three of which were nonleague contests. This has Buffalo State in a tie for fifth place with Potsdam, but the Bengals lose the tiebreaker.
Buffalo State needs one point to clinch a playoff spot, and facing Cortland and Oswego at home will not be a cinch. Worse yet for the Bengals, they could conceivably find themselves facing Fredonia in the final game for that last playoff spot. After starting out so well, that would be a disastrous ending.
However, don’t expect it to happen. Captains Todd Nowicki, who leads the SUNYAC in scoring with 19 points (eight goals and 11 assists), Jad Ramsay, and Rocky Reeves have waited too long to allow their team to let its opportunity slip away. Buffalo State may not be a conference power, but it is a playoff team.
Powerless Power Play
Take away Potsdam’s second game against Cortland, in which the Bears went eight for 13 on the power play, and Potsdam is a measly five for 68 in conference games with the man advantage. That works out to a 7.4 percent efficiency, which would be the worst in the league.
There are three things you need to win in the playoffs — goaltending, defense, and special teams. Potsdam may have enough of the first two to make some noise in the second season, but unless it finds a cure for the power play, it could be seeing a quick exit.
It’s official. Ed Trefzger has run for the hills down the stretch, so I’ll be with you for the rest of the year. We will have a very busy column for next week, including the final games and jockeying for position, while previewing the first round of the SUNYAC playoffs.
Last Week’s Question
Who was the only player to win the SUNYAC Tournament MVP award twice?
Jeff Lupu of Fredonia won the award two times in a row, in 1994 and 1995. Those were also the only two times that Fredonia won the SUNYAC title.
This Week’s Question
Speaking of Jeff Lupu, what NCAA Division III Tournament record did he set?
Game of the Week
Once again, two contests play a more important role in determining the final playoff picture.
Both Potsdam and Buffalo State, who are tied for fifth, get to play one of the two teams tied for third and just two points up in the standings. Potsdam plays at Geneseo Friday night, and Buffalo State hosts Cortland Saturday.