Some quick thoughts that jump out at the midway point of the SUNYAC season:
- Geneseo and especially Buffalo State recovered very well from their NCAA sanctions last year.
- Oswego recovered very nicely from losing some key players last year.
- Morrisville is doing well, but slightly better than some expected.
- Plattsburgh is doing much worse than anyone expected.
- Ditto with Fredonia.
- Cortland and Potsdam are about where most expected, while some thought Brockport would have won more than one game by now.
“Realistically, we lost four pretty darn good players last year,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Three to graduation and Selleck leaving early. It’s a credit to these guys. It’s more by committee. It’s more balance than we’ve had in an awful long time. I also think it’s a strength. If one line is shutdown or shadowed or having an off night, some other line picks it up.”
Outside of Luke Moodie’s seven conference goals and Justin Fox’s six, a slew of players have two, three, or four goals. Individually, no one may jump out at you with their stats, but Oswego leads in league play with 4.75 goals per game.
Also, having Paul Beckwith (league leading 1.38 GAA and .950 save pct.) in net, who has been as steady as they come, has enabled the Lakers to go undefeated so far.
“I think with him, his ability to stay focused whether it’s a tight game or whether we are up is a credit for him,” Gosek said. “I think in those big games he’s stepped it up. When we played poorly, he’s been there to save our butts. I don’t think it’s fair to say just because he has a good team in front of him that he’s not a high-end goalie. Obviously, we’re pleased with him, and we want him to continue to go in that direction.”
Geneseo may be tied for second place, but their coach isn’t going to allow them to sit on their early laurels.
“I think we’re part way through a journey,” Chris Schultz said. “I’m not going to say we’re extremely happy about the way we’ve been playing. I’m not going to say we’re negative about the way we’ve played. I think we’ve done a lot of great things. We made a lot of strides, but there’s still more that we’re going to get out of our guys and we’re going to be a more dangerous team in the second half. We’ve played the entire semester hurt. We haven’t had a full lineup since the first night. Guys have stepped up. Fifth-line guys have stepped up. Seventh and eighth defensemen have stepped up and have done a great job for us. So for that, I think our first semester has been outstanding.”
I said in the preseason preview that Morrisville hosting a playoff game isn’t so ludicrous. However, I didn’t mean hosting a semifinal game! That’s what the Mustangs are in a position to do. There’s still a lot of games left, but this may be the second half story to watch.
Meanwhile, Buffalo State is also in contention for a bye position.
“There are so many intangibles,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said. “Coming into this season, there were so many new players. I think we are a little bit ahead of where we might have been. We haven’t been very fortunate in the past. And this year, for something to happen with two seconds left and we get a bounce. I’m really happy where we are in the SUNYAC. Do we expect to be here? No. Did we expect to be better than where we were last year? Well, last year we weren’t able to compete and be anywhere near it. We already have more points in the SUNYAC than we had all last year. It’s a great way to start. We have to make sure we finish strong.”
Plattsburgh has been the biggest mystery all year. It’s not just inconsistent goaltending, but at times the inability to put the puck in the net at important junctures in the game.
“As a coach, you look at effort and the effort has for the most part been there,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “Second, you look at how smart you’ve been playing. At times. we haven’t been playing that smart. We can play with anybody. We just have to keep it out of the net.”
Fredonia has also been a disappointment, especially since they are getting better goaltending this year. However, their 2.62 goals against per game in conference play is offset by the same 2.62 goals for per game.
Cortland and Potsdam are both suffering from at least one common problem — the knack for giving up goals in the final seconds of a period, which is an absolute game killer.
Brockport misses Todd Sheridan more than anyone realized they would.
Game of the Week
Just a handful of nonconference games this weekend, then the teams are off until we’re just about ready to flip the calendars.
The game which intrigues me the most is Utica at Oswego on Friday. This is a classic “trap” game for the Lakers. They completed their fall SUNYAC schedule undefeated so now may relax a bit, the players are thinking about final exams and a brief break to go home, and many might be looking ahead to their own tournament at the end of the year.
Meanwhile, Utica is coming off a threesome of strong games with wins against Amherst, Manhattanville, and Buffalo State. And of course, with the news broken by my colleague, Scott Biggar, Utica may be a future member of the SUNYAC. This game may be a prelude to a future conference rivalry.
I like Oswego to prevail, but they have to be careful they don’t let this one get away.
I was 7-4-1 last week for a grand total of 30-13-4 (.681) on the season.
I expect to see Fredonia win both their games against Johnson and Wales and Manhattanville win both their games against Potsdam. I see Oswego sweeping the weekend with a win at Hobart on Saturday.
Utica will beat Buffalo State, this time at home, a week after they won in Buffalo. Neumann will also take a home win against Brockport while Elmira will win on the road over Cortland.