As we head into the last weekend of regular season play, let’s get the easy information out of the way.
Oswego has clinched first place and home ice throughout the SUNYAC playoffs.
“If you told me we would have been in this position at the start of the year with 12 freshmen and three transfers, I probably would have doubted you,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “But, it’s a credit to the senior leadership and the guys’ work ethic this year.”
Plattsburgh has clinched second place and thus a bye for the first round and home ice in the semifinals.
Fredonia has third place locked up and will host one of the play-in games on Tuesday. Their opponent has yet to be determined.
And that leads us into more complicated terrain
Brockport is one point away from a home playoff game on Tuesday. The only team that can catch them is Potsdam which can tie the Golden Eagles, and the Bears win the tie-breaker. To do this, Potsdam will have to beat Plattsburgh and Brockport will have to lose to Oswego and Cortland, both at home.
Brockport is playing their best hockey of the year despite not winning their last two games, tying Fredonia, 3-3, and losing to Geneseo, 2-1, this past Friday.
“I told my guys that was a very good college hockey game,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “The proverbial unfortunate someone had to lose. Tonight it was us. I thought we did a good job for the most part of carrying play and had some pretty good looks. We didn’t score enough goals. Falling behind 2-0, I thought we showed a lot of character battling back making it 2-1 in the second.”
Sebastian Panetta and David Arduin scored those two first period goals for the Ice Knights, the latter on the power play. Sean O’Malley got one back early in the second, also on the man advantage. Brockport was unable to get the equalizer as Cory Gershon made 29 saves for the win. Todd Sheridan stopped 27 shots.
“We got to continue to play better,” Dickinson said of the upcoming weekend. “We have to really look at the Friday game. It would be easy for us standings wise to just worry about trying to knock off Cortland and get our two points there. We haven’t played the Plattsburghs and Oswegos very well this year. We have to find a way to mentally be able to play those guys tough. We need to continue to work on getting better, so we are hitting our stride on Tuesday the 23rd no matter where we are or who we’re playing.”
If Potsdam can’t catch Brockport, then they have to fend off Cortland and Morrisville. Both are three points behind the Bears with one game in hand. Potsdam only needs to beat out one as two of these teams will make the playoffs.
If the Bears wind up in a tie with Morrisville, the Mustangs win the tie breaker. However, Potsdam takes the tie-breaker against Cortland. A three-way tie favors Morrisville with Potsdam taking the next spot, leaving Cortland out in the cold.
Most likely, the last playoff spot will come down to Cortland and Morrisville. The Mustangs got the job done this past weekend, shutting out Cortland, 5-0, as Caylin Relkoff made 41 saves. Matt Salmon scored twice including a shorthanded goal. Nick Kulas, Andrew Alarie on the power play, and Geoff Matzel got the other scores.
“Confidence is high,” Morrisville coach Brian Grady said. “We’re playing our best hockey of the year. The guys are playing hard, winning pucks, competing, not backing down to anyone.”
If these two teams tie, it depends how they wind up deadlocked. If they end with identical records, Morrisville takes the tie-breaker with the third tie-breaker rule of head-to-head goal differential, 9-6.
The only way Cortland can win a tie-breaker is if the Red Dragons split this weekend and Morrisville ties both their games. In this case, the second criteria takes hold with Cortland having more conference victories.
They both are on the road this weekend with Cortland taking on Geneseo and Brockport while Morrisville faces Buffalo State and Fredonia.
“Obviously, it’s uncharted territory for us being such a young program,” Grady said. “The first two years I was here, we weren’t eligible. That was harder to get the guys motivated to play hard. Now that we have a goal, it’s just a matter of worrying about the little things, not the big picture. We can’t look forward. We can only worry about ourselves, not what Cortland or anyone else does.”
Ever since the NCAA sanctions were handed down against Buffalo State and Geneseo, the teams have headed in opposite directions. The Bengals have lost five straight games, extending a current losing streak to seven. Buffalo State has one game left to reverse that trend at home against Morrisville.
Meanwhile, Geneseo has gone 3-0-1 (and 4-0-1 in their last five), fulfilling their goal to run the table. Interestingly, they could finish third in the standings and very likely in fourth. With no playoffs, the last game of the season against Oswego becomes their big game.
“Saturday is our championship game,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said. “We’re going to give them all we can handle.”
And Oswego knows it.
“The tough games like this Saturday night, helps develop that attitude of what it’s going to take in the playoffs,” Gosek said.
SUNYAC Short Shots
In the wildest game of the past weekend, Fredonia erased a 5-2 deficit after one period, coming back for a 10-6 win over Potsdam … Fredonia went 4-for-8 on the power play, scored a shorthanded goal, used all three goalies, and Jordan Oye and Bryan Ross got five points each … Kyle Kudroch scored twice as Plattsburgh beat Buffalo State, 4-2.
Plattsburgh went 2-for-4 on the power play, beating Fredonia, 4-1 … Todd Hosmer and Sy Nutkevitch each got a pair of goals to help Potsdam beat Buffalo State, 6-3 … Oswego scored four third period goals en route to a 5-3 win over Morrisville.
Game of the Week
Oswego at Geneseo might end up being the most exciting game of the weekend because both teams have nothing to play for except pride. Playing for pride without any pressure tends to produce hockey in its purest form.
However, we really should go with a game that means a lot in the standings. Any game with teams involved in trying to capture a playoff spot and/or home ice is a candidate. If you can catch any one of them, you probably won’t go wrong.
In order to pick one game, the “tie-breaker” will go to the game that not only means a lot on ice, but off ice as well. Of course, that would be the third annual Pink the Rink event at Fredonia on Saturday when they host Morrisville.
On The Periphery
Thirty years ago when the Miracle on Ice occurred, most of the players were from either the Minnesota/Wisconsin area or New England. At the time, those were the places that typically produced most of the American hockey talent.
Not anymore, in part thanks to the popularity boost hockey received because of those events in Lake Placid as well as the NHL’s expansion into non-traditional hockey areas. Youth hockey has been booming all over the country, and this year’s U.S. Olympic roster has players from 10 different states. Sure, there are a number from the traditional areas — Minnesota (4), Wisconsin (3), Connecticut (2), and Massachusetts (1).
The state represented the most is Michigan with six players. New York has three and originally had four with one from a place not known to produce NHL players — Long Island (West Islip, which happens to be where the hospital I was born is located) — before Mike Komisarek had to withdraw due to injury.
Non-traditional areas represented on the team include San Francisco (Brooks Orpik), Pittsburgh (Ryan Malone), Cherry Hill, N.J. (Bobby Ryan), and St. Louis (Paul Stastny).
I have covered USA Hockey youth national championships the past few years, and seeing the amazing talent from all over the country, it no longer surprises me to see geographical areas produce NHL and Olympic hockey stars which 30 years ago would have shocked the hockey establishment.
It’s a wonderful sign that hockey continues to grow and get stronger in this country.