CORTLAND, N.Y. — Potsdam and Cortland entered their game last night knowing there was a very good chance they would meet in the first round of the SUNYAC playoffs. Thus, they were both out to make a statement. Potsdam also had the added incentive of still being able to finish in second place.
In the end, it was Potsdam that made the statement, defeating Cortland, 5-3. In the process, thanks to Oswego State losing to Plattsburgh State, Potsdam moved back into second place by one point with a single game left in the season.
Potsdam got on the board first at the 5:50 mark of the first period. Anthony Greer took a pass from Dave Weagle and skated with it into the Cortland zone, down the left side, and then, at what appeared to be an impossible angle, was able to slide it by John Larnerd just inside the far post.
Cortland came right back to tie it up. Potsdam could not clear the rebounds left by Ryan Venturelli on successive shots, and Greg Menchen finally pounced on the loose puck and put it through the goalie’s legs. Brad Reynolds and Jeff Olsen got the assists.
Less than two minutes later, Potsdam retook the lead for good. Kevin Shaver made a nice move to get behind the defenders and go in alone on Larnerd. Larnerd made the save, but Joe Munn followed the play and stuffed the rebound in.
Potsdam would take a 3-1 lead before the first period expired with both teams skating a man down. Dave Weagle sat to the left side of the slot area with the puck. He passed it across to Erick Curtis, who patiently waited for Larnerd to slide down across the crease before lifting it over the sprawled goaltender.
Before the game was half over, Potsdam would jump out to a 5-1 lead and appeared heading for a blowout. The fourth goal was scored by Sean Darke on a perfect deflection while on the power play. Darke parked himself off to the side of the net with his back to the goal. Joe Wlodarczyk, after receiving a pass from Brett Joly, fed Darke, who redirected the puck up and over the far shoulder of Larnerd into the net.
Cortland would get one back before the period ended when Scott Louis found himself all alone in the slot area. Dave Ambuhl saw him, passed it to him from behind the net, and Louis was easily able to snap it past Venturelli.
Cortland took advantage of an early penalty in the third period to cut the lead to two. Shawn Jensen’s slapshot from the point was deflected in by Greg Menchen. Ryan Schmidt also got an assist.
However, Potsdam thoroughly dominated the middle portion of the third period, yet Paine was equal to the task allowing his Red Dragons to remain in the game. At one point, after Cortland’s third goal, the Bears kept the puck in Cortland’s zone for five consecutive minutes with the only exceptions being when Cortland iced the puck.
Potsdam nearly got itself in trouble with a bunch of penalties near the end of the game, but they were able to hold off Cortland even after the Red Dragons pulled their goalie for an extra skater.
Potsdam’s conference record improves to 8-2-3, 15-5-3 overall. The Bears next play at Plattsburgh on Tuesday. If they win, they will get a bye for the play-in round of the playoffs. If they lose, and Oswego wins its game, then the Bears host the first round series.
Cortland drops to 4-7-2 in conference, 9-13-2 overall. The Red Dragons host Oswego on Tuesday. Interestingly, if they beat Oswego, it could mean they play Oswego again in the playoffs. If they lose, they could be playing Potsdam. Either way, Cortland will be participating in the playoffs on the road.