PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — For the first time since the SUNYAC went to a best-of-three format for the finals, the championship will be decided in that third game.
Potsdam beat Plattsburgh, 6-2, Saturday to even the series at one game apiece, necessitating the tiebreaker. The Bears broke the game open in the second period when they scored four times, twice on breakaways 57 seconds apart.
Though Potsdam came into the game desperate, it was Plattsburgh, backed by a big crowd, that started hot. For the first few minutes, the only things that prevented the Cardinals from grabbing the early lead were some outstanding saves by Potsdam’s Ryan Venturelli.
Potsdam’s ability to weather the storm allowed it to take the lead, one it would never give up. With Plattsburgh Niklas Sundberg giving up the first of several big rebounds on the night, Mike Snow scored at 5:17 off a rebound from a Sean Darke shot. The first period would end with Potsdam holding that 1-0 lead.
Potsdam quickly got on the board at the start of the second period just 1:06 in when Erick Curtis one-timed a pass from Snow past Sundberg.
Jeff Milroy found himself all alone in front of the faceoff circle after Potsdam made some quick passes and beat Sundberg at 8:50 for a 3-0 lead. Darke and Anthony Greer got assists.
Plattsburgh called time out, trying to assess the situation. It worked, as Plattsburgh came back out with extra jump in its step, and 39 seconds later Jeff Hopkins scored an unassisted goal.
However, Potsdam came right back 1:08 later when Darke scored on a breakaway while the teams were skating four-on-four. Then Potsdam all but clinched the game with another breakaway goal 57 seconds later by Brendon Knight, assisted by Curtis.
The second period ended with Potsdam leading 5-1 after outshooting Plattsburgh 19-6 during the middle stanza.
Plattsburgh changed goaltenders to start the third, putting in Frank Barker in place of Sundberg, who did not return to the bench. The Bears concentrated on defense, knowing that Plattsburgh only needed a tie to advance.
The Cardinals did get a goal midway through the period on a Brendon Hodge slapshot during a power play, his fourth goal of the series. But unlike the night before, Potsdam was able to hold Plattsburgh to just one power-play goal in five attempts.
Joe Wlodarczyk finished the scoring off on an assist from Mike Smitko at the 15:52 mark.
Venturelli made 24 saves for the win. The freshman is now 5-1 in the playoffs.
Now it comes down to one last game for all the marbles — a SUNYAC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs. The game will be played Sunday at noon Eastern time, at the Stafford Arena in Plattsburgh, with sudden-death overtime if necessary.