BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo State Bengals, perennial doormats in the SUNYAC since joining the league, find themselves with a 3-1 conference record (5-3 overall) and in a tie for second place after defeating the Potsdam State Bears, 4-3, at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Buffalo State took advantage of solid goaltending, opportunistic scoring, and Potsdam’s defensive meltdowns to break open a 2-2 tie late in the third period. More importantly, the Bengals played with poise, confidence, and determination.
Potsdam, on the other hand, who one year ago came within one victory of knocking off Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC championship, was the one who failed under pressure.
“Our guys aren’t playing up to their ability, mentally,” Potsdam coach Ed Seney said. “Buffalo State played hard. They attacked us. They deserved to win.”
That is not something most people have said about Buffalo State in the past.
Buffalo State has always been able to find good goalies, and this year is no exception. Twenty-one-year-old freshman Adam Horvath made some key saves in the game to keep his team within striking range. In the third period alone, with just three minutes to go, he stopped two shots from in close by shooters who were all alone.
This set the stage for the Joe Urbanik show. Last week it was Todd Nowicki who was named the USCHO D-III offensive player of the week. This week, it was Urbanik’s turn to shine.
First he scored the go-ahead goal with 2:34 left to play. He picked up a loose puck on his own blueline after Potsdam pinched in way too far. This released Urbanik on the cleanest breakaway possible. He played it the simple way — not making any fancy moves and firing it right by Ryan Venturelli. Todd Nowicki got the assist.
Just 29 seconds later, it was Urbanik again. Once again, Potsdam misplayed the puck, this time deep in their own zone. This setup Urbanik all alone in front of the goalie, and he didn’t waste the opportunity. Jason Comardo got the assist.
“That line of Nowicki, Urbanik, and Comardo,” Bengals coach Jim Fowler said, “anyone of them can step up. They’re game breakers.”
Potsdam tried in vain to come back, taking the goalie off for an extra skater. Chris Lee fired a shot from the center of the blueline that flew over and past Horvath’s shoulder. However, one goal wasn’t going to do it, and Buffalo State kept the puck in the Bears’ zone after the center ice faceoff.
Potsdam originally took the lead on a first-period power play when Gordon Bell easily tipped in a cross-crease pass from Jason Brothers. However, Buffalo State tied it up less than a minute later when a seemingly harmless shot by Eric Bavisotto was misplayed by the goalie and defenseman, finding its way into the net.
Todd Nowicki put the Bengals into the lead 37 seconds into the second period on the power play, jamming the puck in from close range. After another Buffalo State goal was disallowed, Potsdam tied it up with 33 seconds left in the middle stanza on a breakaway by Brett Barrer who deked right, went left, and backhanded it past Horvath. Then, Joe Urbanik took over, ending the night with two goals and one assist.
Though the Bears are in a rebuilding year and three of their defensemen are first-year players, they were not expected to start out 1-3 in SUNYAC play and 2-4 overall. And it gets a lot tougher. Potsdam next hosts Manhattanville on Friday, a team that nearly toppled RIT last week, and then hosts the Primelink Great Northern Shootout, arguably the toughest D-III tournament in the country.
“We have to regroup,” Seney said. “Figure a way out of this.”
Meanwhile, other teams should not expect Buffalo State to suddenly get big heads and start becoming overconfident. “You’ll never hear that from us,” Fowler said. “We’ve been underdogs so long, we know we still have to battle everyday.”
Still, Buffalo State is enjoying its newfound success. “I’m pumped,” Fowler said shortly after the game.
The Bengals will have to wait 10 days before having an opportunity to be pumped again when they host Hobart. After dropping the first two games of the season in the SUNYAC Challenge tournament without scoring a goal, including a 5-0 loss to Potsdam, Buffalo State has gone 5-1 and scored 28 times.