Yes, Oswego won the regular season last year, and they won it again this year. However, the team that won it this year is a bit different than the team that took the points title the previous season.
They are still one of the most talented squads in the SUNYAC, capable at any moment of going on a scoring outburst. The difference is who they relied on.
Last year, it was mostly about Eric Selleck, Neil Musselwhite, Chris Laganiere, and Luke Moodie.
This year, contributions have been spread out amongst the entire team. Within conference play through 13 games, Moodie has nine goals and Ian Boots has seven. Then, there are five players with either five or six goals and another with four. It could be said these eight players were the key go-to guys.
Contrast that with last season, when the scoring was mostly amongst four players (Selleck and Laganiere had 14, Musselwhite had 11, and Moodie had 10). Jon Whitelaw had eight and Justin Fox had five goals, but the scoring was certainly more top heavy than this year.
As two of their stars left, their workload got distributed throughout the team. Despite the more even scoring production, their goal production went down from about 5.4 to about 4.8.
Thus, the defense and goaltending had to improve, and it did, from a 2.03 goals against average in conference play to 1.77.
Goaltending also changed this year, going from Kyle Gunn-Taylor to Paul Beckwith. Beckwith, in his third year, has finally, and deservedly, nailed down the number one spot. Yet, he is the Rodney Dangerfield of netminders. He gets no respect. This, despite having a career 1.94 GAA and .925 save percentage.
Is it because he plays for a team that is so good, the goaltender can simply be a plug and play position? Is it because when he lost the starting role last year due to illness, Gunn-Taylor stepped in without a hitch, making it appear Beckwith was not a key piece? Or is it because Beckwith gets the job done without any flair or Hasek-like propeller limbs?
So many times you see a goalie slightly out of position or playing the shot slightly wrong, forcing him to make a spectacular-looking save which ironically can make him appear to be this great goalie, when in fact he had to “look” good because he messed up in the first place. And thus, a goalie like Beckwith slides by without any accolades or shouts of amazement from the crowd.
Eyes should have been opened when Beckwith missed games with an injury. The team’s only two losses were when Beckwith did not suit up. Andrew Hare, a midyear Division I transfer from Niagara, has not taken the job from Beckwith, nor has understudy, Dan Jones.
Distributed scoring, tighter defense, and new goaltending, but the same results — a SUNYAC regular season title for Oswego.
Game of the Week
It’s very simple. Potsdam absolutely, positively must beat Fredonia if they have any chance to make the playoffs. Lose, and the Bears can start thinking about next year. Win, and Potsdam is still in the race.
On the flipside, Fredonia has to make sure they not only keep Potsdam from getting any ideas about overtaking them, but with Cortland just one point behind, the Blue Devils cannot afford to give up any point in any circumstance.
The Potsdam at Fredonia game on Friday is perhaps the match-up with the highest combined stress level of any game taking place this weekend.
Fredonia has to make sure they do not look ahead to the game against Plattsburgh and the big event taking place on Saturday.
Potsdam has to stay out of the penalty box and continue its recent strong five-on-five play.
The Bears can pull this off, but Fredonia’s style is well suited to stop Potsdam. Jeff Meredith will have his team ready for the challenge of trying to ensure a playoff spot, and manage a way to beat Potsdam. But, the Blue Devils will have to work at it.
Jumping on the Morrisville bandwagon was a mistake, as I went 5-2-1 last week, leaving my overall mark at 83-25-9 (.748).
It may not be the Game of the Week, but it certainly is the Event of the Year. The original “Pink the Rink” which spawned all the pink the rink events around the world will be taking place at Fredonia for the fifth time.
It just so happens to be against Plattsburgh. Every time I have witnessed a Pink the Rink event, Fredonia comes out flying with amazing emotion.
As Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said, “Hockey is an emotional sport.” If the Cardinals cannot match Fredonia’s emotion, they will lose some crucial points.
I think that’s what is going to happen, so I’ll pick Fredonia in the upset.
Plattsburgh’s other game is at Buffalo State, and I’ll take the Cardinals to start their weekend out on the winning side.
However, they will have to get to Kevin Carr early, as Emery explains, “Buffalo State is built around their goalie. He’s a great freshman goalie. With that being said, we got to get to him. If not, we really have to make sure we keep it out.”
By the time Buffalo State plays Potsdam, the Bengals will still be needing the win, and Potsdam will be emotionally spent. Thus, Buffalo State will take the contest.
Do I dare pick against Cortland? Probably not, but I’m still going with Morrisville, who wants to achieve something many thought could not be accomplished this quickly — a home playoff game.
“This is unfamiliar territory for us,” Morrisville coach Brian Grady said. “The opportunity that we tell the team is we can host [a playoff game] here. That’s a huge, huge advantageous for us. That’s certainly something we talk about.”
Grady knows it won’t be easy against a resurgent Red Dragons squad.
“Cortland is obviously trying to get into the playoff picture. Every point is huge. We’re going onto the road to an energized house. We got to be ready to go. We need a huge effort game Friday night.”
Then, Morrisville travels up to Oswego. Sorry Mustangs, that game may be primed for an upset, but Oswego always seems to know how to pull a conference win out of the hat.
The Rochester match-up takes place at Geneseo as Brockport comes to town. Yes, the Golden Eagles will be up for this game more than normal, but Geneseo is just too good and Brockport is struggling too much for any sort of upset. Take the Ice Knights in this one.