Now that a week has passed since the NCAA announcement sanctioning Buffalo State and Geneseo, the two teams involved have had some time to let it sink in. Their reactions have been admirable, and any anger they have is channeled properly.
“In terms of how the team is handling it, they are remarkably resilient,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said. “The senior class has been amazing. They took control of the locker room immediately. They want to play the game with integrity and honor. They understand in the grand scheme of life, this is just a fork in the road, not a roadblock. I’m very proud of this team, and they should be proud of themselves.”
“It comes down to their attitude towards competition and hockey,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said. “I hate to use the clich, but we are playing for pride. We can play to be the spoiler. After it was all explained to them, one of our seniors stood up and said, ‘Let’s make the playoffs and let the NCAA take us out of it.’”
This is what is going to make these two teams particularly dangerous. They have nothing to lose and will be taking out what happened to them on their opposition.
“We’re going to play it out as if a top playoff seed is available,” Schultz said. “The guys really want to try to run the table here.”
Of course, it is the seniors that suffer the most along with the Canadians who must decide whether to give up hockey or give up the Canadian grants they received.
“I feel bad for both of them,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “I feel especially bad for the players. The seniors on those teams who were fighting for their lives to make the playoffs and now they are not going to have the opportunity. I put myself in the situation if it happened here, how awful you would feel for the players especially in their senior year.”
Much energy has been written about what happened, how it could have been avoided, and the details behind it all. The bottom line is the NCAA felt that these two schools had inadvertently set up a de facto athletic scholarship which is a no-no for Division III. Thus, there was no choice but to punish them, even if it meant certain individual students would also suffer, through no fault of their own.
Interestingly, it is the ones who are suffering the most — the players — who are handling it better than the fans on the USCHO message board.
“They are being so professional about this,” Schultz said. “They’re already past this. They’ve accepted it.”
It’s time everybody else does, too.
Morrisville is Eligible
Yes, you read that correctly. Morrisville is eligible for the SUNYAC playoffs.
“We knew it all along,” Morrisville coach Brian Grady said. “With the whole Buff State, Geneseo thing going on, it brought us into light.”
So, why all the confusion? There are a few reasons.
For those of you who have followed the Morrisville saga in this column the last few years, you may recall that a new NCAA member must go through a four year probation period. During that time, the institution has to show the NCAA they are following all NCAA regulations properly and are in complete compliance.
The school can ask the NCAA to speed that process along and be granted approval in three years. Morrisville asked for this, and after three years, the NCAA agreed that Morrisville was doing everything correctly, and declared the school a full fledged member.
“They felt we were ready,” Grady said. “It was great for us.”
Again, why the confusion? Because there are other factors to consider.
Morrisville only has two teams in the SUNYAC (the rest of the teams play in the North Eastern Athletic Conference): field hockey and ice hockey.
The field hockey team provides the SUNYAC with seven teams, making the conference eligible for an NCAA automatic qualifier bid. However, the conference could not apply to the NCAA for that AQ until Morrisville was an eligible NCAA member.
Once they were, the conference application then has a two year waiting period, so the NCAA can see that all teams in the conference are serious members. Thus, during this two year waiting period, the Morrisville field hockey team was not eligible for the SUNYAC playoffs.
“However, since hockey already had an automatic qualifier, we were eligible,” Grady said. “The SUNYAC mixed us in with the field hockey team and just assumed we were not eligible. It was an honest mistake. Thus, we asked for a clarification, and got it.”
Morrisville can make a run for a conference playoff spot, and now they only need to beat out one other team. They are currently four points behind Cortland (who they host on February 12) and five points behind Potsdam who they travel to on Friday.
“We certainly didn’t make it easier for ourselves this past weekend,” Grady said about his team losing twice. “Certainly, us beating Potsdam earlier has them circling this game on their calendar. I expect a hard physical, fast paced game with playoff implications. They know it. We know it.”
The next day, Morrisville has to go to Stafford Arena.
“Obviously, the schedule works in their [Plattsburgh's] favor,” Grady said. “We’ll worry about Saturday when we get there. We’re trying to think small. Just look five feet in front of our face. Plattsburgh is struggling lately, so they will be hungry. They obviously want to get back on the winning track. But so do we.”
All that excitement concerning the playoff race and the tightness of the fifth through ninth place pack has suddenly petered out with last week’s announcement. The multi-team playoff race disappeared.
There is still a playoff spot to be fought over with the clarification that Morrisville is indeed eligible, but now it comes down to seven teams, instead of nine, fighting for six spots.
At the top, teams are starting to settle in. Oswego holds a five point lead and the tie-breaker over Plattsburgh. Thus, with four games left for each team, the magic number is three points. Oswego has also clinched a bye in the first round and home ice in the semifinals since the best Fredonia can do is tie them, but the Lakers hold the tiebreaker.
Fredonia sits five points behind Plattsburgh with a game in hand and they get to play them the following weekend. Meanwhile, Brockport sits four points behind Fredonia with each of those teams having five games to play.
Therefore, fights still exist for the all important home ice and there is still the potential for some great hockey and individual games like we saw this past weekend.
On top of the heap, of course, was the Plattsburgh at Oswego rivalry. The game and the fan-induced white-out lived up to all the hype.
Assistant captain Neil Musselwhite put the home team in front just 34 seconds after the opening faceoff. Tom Breslin tied it up six minutes later, but Oswego got the lead back before the end of the period with a Justin Fox goal.
Jon Whitelaw made it 3-1 early in the second prompting Plattsburgh to pull Josh Leis and put in Ryan Williams. Williams did not let up a goal the rest of the way, but unfortunately for the Cardinals, his team only scored one more when Phil Farrow got one in the third. Kyle Gunn-Taylor made 27 saves in the win.
Oswego now has a 19 game winning streak, is 20-1-0 overall, and undefeated in the SUNYAC at 12-0-0. In years prior, the upcoming home game against Cortland would be the perfect letdown performance.
“Other years, there’s been a lack of focus at certain points in the year,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “With this team I think again our senior leadership really stepped up and gets them focused every game. Even the returning players, they get the freshmen believing. It’s one shift, one period, one game at a time. I think it’s a big part of why we didn’t lose our focus with Potsdam. Hopefully, we’ll keep that focus with Cortland. It’s our last home game of the year. Senior night. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing, they want to see the