BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Potsdam Bears won both ends of their Western New York road trip by defeating Buffalo State, 7-4, at The Sports Arena in Buffalo.
The highlight for Potsdam was Chris Lee getting his 100th career point, and then some, with a goal and two assists giving him 102.
“He’s been a great leader for us,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said. “He makes the players around him a lot better. This year so far when we needed to pick up a goal, he’s been able to come through for us. He is one of the premier players I think the school has had here of late. He’s had a great career and there’s more to come, I hope.”
“Potsdam’s been probably the best decision so far in terms of my hockey career,” Lee said after the game. “I’ve learned a lot in my four years playing with a lot of great players and some great coaches. It’s been a blast.”
Of course, Lee wants more for the rest of his career. “I’m hoping to finish strong,” he said. “I’m hoping to lead our team to the SUNYAC championship and hopefully in to the NCAAs. We haven’t been there in my four years here, and it’s somewhere I’d like to definitely be.”
The Bears took another step closer in establishing home ice in the first round of the league playoffs with the win. They used a sharp passing game to quickly move the puck in all three zones.
“I think Buffalo State obviously had nothing to lose,” Thomaris said. “They came to play hard. They were going to come at us. We had to move the puck a little quicker, or they were going to bump and grind us around and get some turnovers.”
For the first two periods, however, it wasn’t easy.
Potsdam took the lead early in the first period when Myles Palliser lost the puck that happened to end up on his teammate’s stick anyway. Vilis Abele backhanded it from the slot through a crowd.
Buffalo State came right back to tie it up after a failed Potsdam clearing attempt. Nick DeMarco fired a shot from the right point through a screen that Ryan Venturelli didn’t see.
The Bears then took a 3-1 lead on goals by Mark Stewart on a rebound and Greg Lee on a one-timer after a pass from behind the net by Rob Peters.
The Bengals quickly got one back when Mike DeMarco jumped on his own rebound and fired it over Venturelli’s glove hand.
Was Thomaris worried that his team would have trouble hanging onto the lead once again? “One of the things that we know and that other teams know is that we gave up a lot of goals against Elmira in the third period a lot of goals against Utica,” he conceded. “Teams know that they still have a chance no matter what the score is and until we do something about that we’re going to be faced with that the rest of the way down the stretch run here.”
Sure enough, the Bengals tied it up in the second period on a power play goal by Josh Magnuson on a wrister from the high slot area.
Potsdam retook the lead on their own power play goal on yet another rebound with the goalie, Sean Sheehan, out of position. This time Adam Gebrara banged it home.
And, Buffalo State came right back when Mike DeMarco scored his second after Potsdam couldn’t clear the puck from in front of the net.
This goal came with 56 seconds left in the period, and like the night before, Potsdam scored the winning goal in the waning moments of the middle period. This time 22 seconds remained. Greg Lee got his second of the night on the third try from the crease area.
Unlike those games Thomaris cites, the Bears stepped it up in the third period, controlling play, and scored two insurance goals. The first by Chris Lee, after he was stopped on two clean breakaways in the second period, with a blistering shot from the right point on the power play.
Palliser got the final goal on a two-on-one, created when he intercepted a clearing pass. He walked it in, using the other Potsdam player as a decoy, firing a wrist shot up high.
“I think that we just stopped working,” Buffalo State coach Jim Fowler said of the third period. “It wasn’t because we were tired. We just stood around in our own zone and kind of watched the puck.”
The Bears outshot the Bengals, 45-28.
Besides Mike DeMarco, another bright spot for Buffalo State was their goalie, Sean Sheehan, who played in his first home game after joining the team in the second semester.
“Sean has played well,” Fowler said. “He was a little off tonight, but he made some big saves for us. We got a pretty young team and with him back there, hopefully the future looks bright.”
The immediate future for the Bengals is to play at Oswego and Cortland next weekend. “Our goal hasn’t changed. We’re still looking for the playoffs,” Fowler said. “That’s going to be our goal, so I told our guys to come back Monday morning ready to work.”
Buffalo State is now 1-8-0 in league play, 5-15-0 overall.
Potsdam now stands at 6-3-1 in the SUNYAC, which places them tied for second with Geneseo, and that’s exactly who the Bears play on Friday followed by a trip to Brockport on Saturday. Geneseo does have a game in hand against Oswego which will be played before the matchup this Friday.
It’s the type of game that Chris Lee needs to show his stuff in order to make his goal a reality.