BROCKPORT, N.Y. — Potsdam has relied on the power play and Chris Lee to generate goals. The Bears are tied for the league lead in conference play and lead the league in overall play with the man advantage.
It was that power play and Lee that propelled them to a 7-0 victory over Brockport Saturday.
The Bears went four for eight — and the four misses were on brief power plays due to overlapping penalties — upping their conference conversion rate to 31.7. Potsdam has also not let up a shorthanded goal all season.
“We need the power play to produce for us,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said. “We’ve been doing that down the stretch run. A lot of different people can score some goals off of that. We’re not generating enough goals five-on-five to be winning some games, so that’s going to be the key for us.”
One-third of Potsdam’s goals this season have come on the power play.
“The penalties hurt us,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson understated. Potsdam penalties didn’t help Brockport either, as the Golden Eagles squandered 12 power-play opportunities.
For the Bears, Lee registered a hat trick, the first two goals coming on the power play, as well as picking up two assists.
His first goal came with four seconds left in the opening period when he stopped a clearing attempt at the left point, and let rip a blistering slapshot that beat Andy Reynolds.
Lee also closed out the scoring in the second period, making it 2-0. With Brockport already a man short, one defender lost his stick. This enabled Potsdam to keep the puck in the zone, which paid off. Lee, standing in front of the net, received a pass from Myles Palliser and swept it into an opening between Reynolds’ skate and the post.
The hat trick was completed when Lee easily tipped in a cross-ice pass from Mark Hathaway, making it 5-0.
The senior now leads the league in scoring in both conference play (25 points) and overall (42). His 12 conference goals are tied for first in that category.
Dickinson was aware of that coming into the game. “We needed to control Lee’s line,” he said. “He’s obviously a talented player. We just didn’t match up well with him.”
Another factor was Potsdam’s goaltender, and not Ryan Venturelli. Freshman Vince Cuccaro got the start and the shutout — the only one for the Bears this season — with 37 saves.
His key moments came in the second period when Brockport had a two-man advantage. Cuccaro came up with some big saves. Then, in the waning moments of the contest, the Golden Eagles poured it on trying to snap the shutout, but Cuccaro was equal to the task. He also stopped a two-on-none breakaway in the third period.
Venturelli was the first one on the ice to congratulate the backup after the game.
“He was real solid,” Thomaris said of Cuccaro. “He saw some shots through the screen that probably could have gone in just as well as not.”
The other four goals were scored by four different players. Captain Scott Craig got the game opener on the power play with an around-the-horn passing play. The puck found its way to the top of the left faceoff circle, where Craig fired a slapshot past the goalie. Palliser and Lee assisted on the quick-moving play.
Ryan Trimble made it 3-0 with both teams skating a man down. Mark Stewart, after skating down the right side, passed it back across the grain to Trimble, who put his whole body into a wrist shot that wound up in the upper corner of the net.
The final two goals were scored by Adam Gebrara on the power play knocking a rebound in, and Mike Taylor, who also slammed home a rebound from in front. The final goal was scored against Kyle Shrauger who relieved Reynolds late in the third.
Despite the officials calling a tight game, it almost erupted in the third period when a melee broke out between the teams. There was more shoving than anything else, but it did result in all the skaters on the ice receiving roughing penalties. The penalty boxes were jammed tight.
Brockport is not out of the playoff picture, just four points behind Fredonia with a game against the Blue Devils this weekend along with Buffalo State, which is also mathematically still in it.
Though Potsdam is safely in the playoffs, the Bears have a chance to finish second and gain a bye in the first round. They are two points behind Oswego, which they play Saturday. Before that, they play Cortland, which could catch the Bears and knock them out of home ice in the postseason.
“It’s going to be obviously a great weekend,” Thomaris said. “Everything is up for grabs in the bye and where they are going to finish. It should be a battle royale down the stretch.”