GENESEO, N.Y. — One week ago, Fredonia beat Geneseo, knocking the Ice Knights out of second place. The Blue Devils’ reward was to play Geneseo in the first round of the SUNYAC playoffs. One would think that Geneseo would come out with a vengeance.
Instead, it was Fredonia that came out still flying high from that victory and defeated Geneseo, 5-3, in the first game of the two-game play-in series.
The key differences in the game were fundamentals of hockey — checking, goaltending, and power plays.
“I think they [Fredonia] did a great job finishing checks for two periods,” Geneseo coach Brian Hills said. “Every time our guys got the puck, they [Fredonia checkers] would go through them.”
The first two periods set the tone as Fredonia built up a 4-1 lead, and then after making it 5-1 early in the third, hung on when Geneseo started to apply the pressure in the final stanza.
However, Geneseo did score first, 16 seconds after they went on a power play. Mitch Stephens, displaying strong puck control, skated from the faceoff circle into the slot, then wristed a shot through a crowd that beat Rob Stanley waist high.
Two minutes later, Fredonia tied it up on their first of three power play goals (out of four opportunities) skating four-on-three. It was a bang-bang play that left Tom Briggs alone off to the goalie’s right side. With Brett Walker bedazzled by the quick passing, Briggs had plenty of time to set, aim, and fire it into the open near side.
“Our power play has actually been solid all year,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. But, when trying to explain the goals this night, he was almost besides himself, merely exclaiming, “that’s good stuff.”
More good stuff came on an even better power play goal when Kyle Bozoian let go of a highlight reel shot from the faceoff circle. It ricocheted off the near upper corner of the goal and into the net to make it 3-1.
As if that couldn’t be topped, along came their third power play goal that made it 5-1 midway through the third period. Once again, the set play allowed Briggs from the goalie’s right to be patient and fire it in, this time into the opposite corner from a tough angle. Though nearly identical to the first goal, this play exhibited even quicker passing that left some still wondering where the puck was.
Fredonia’s second goal, early in the middle period, showed that Brett Walker was not up to his usual self. After Geneseo failed on what should have been an easy clearing attempt, Max Catelin skated the puck in and put a soft on-ice shot through Walker’s legs.
The Blue Devils’ fourth goal came on a breakaway, but one that Walker played poorly. Erik Hlavaty faked the forehand and swept it across the goal mouth to his backhand. Walker recommitted to the original fake and was unable to move quick enough. Hlavaty converted the easy backhand into the relatively unguarded net.
At various times in the game, Walker struggled coming up with what should have been basic saves. One time, the puck dropped behind him on the goal line when he thought he had it in his glove all along.
Hills was not going to blame his goaltender. “Can’t fault Brett too much with the situation he was left with,” he said. “Their guy made some outstanding saves.”
“Robby started playing towards the end of the year, and he’s obviously on a roll,” Meredith said of his goalie. “He does a real nice job and is a calming influence for us back there.”
Geneseo started to pour it on in the second half of the third period. Matt Caren gave the Ice Knights some life when he avoided being checked off the puck in the slot area, shot it through the defenseman’s legs, and beat Stanley between the stick and post midway up.
The crowd got back into it when Geneseo scored again, this time on their second power play goal (out of four chances). Stanley made the initial save and apparently steered the puck harmlessly to his right side. However, Jay Kuczmanski was there, and from a difficult angle managed to squeeze to by Stanley before he could react.
Fredonia called timeout to try and calm the troops, but Geneseo continued to apply the pressure, including pulling their goalie with two minutes left.
However, as Hills said, “We turned it up too late.”
The second game of the series will be played at Geneseo again at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday. The Ice Knights must win to force a mini-game; a tie won’t do. Geneseo will get the services of senior captain, defenseman Paul Weismann, back after sitting out a suspension from that last Fredonia matchup.
The question is, will Geneseo finally get mad at Fredonia for spoiling the end of their season or will Fredonia continue the momentum and truly spoil the Ice Knights season?