The Potsdam Bears defeated the Fredonia Blue Devils, 7-4, in the first game of the season-opening SUNYAC Challenge in a game overshadowed by the new point-of-emphasis penalty calls.
Thirty-five penalties were called in a game where a body check was rarer than a goal. Sixteen of those were some sort of obstruction call while another eight were “normal” holding, hooking, or interference. Fredonia had 15 power plays, but only converted on one while Potsdam scored once with a two-man advantage and once with a one-man advantage out of 12 power-play tries.
Besides those three goals, Potsdam scored two shorthanded goals (one an empty-net goal), and Fredonia got one shorthander. Also, there were two 4-on-4 goals. Only three of the day’s scores occurred with a full complement of players on the ice.
The first penalty was called 19 seconds into the game, and it didn’t stop until the last one was whistled with 13 seconds left.
The coaches weren’t thrilled.
“I got a quarter of my bench just sitting there watching this hockey game tonight. How fun is that for that kid?” said Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith.
“It’s very difficult to get everybody into the game. That’s the hardest part about it,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said.
Fredonia took control of the first period, outshooting Potsdam, 16-2, but could only notch one tally. Brian Kolesar flipped a shot in from the left point on the power play. Rob Barnhardt appeared screened on the shot as he barely moved.
“I think we had some opportunities, but we didn’t cash in on them. We let them off the hook,” Meredith said.
“Fredonia was very hungry,” Thomaris said of the first period. “Our guys didn’t handle situations well. They dominated our play in the first half of the game until our guys got a little bit hungrier and started skating a little bit smarter and moved the puck.”
Fredonia took a 2-0 lead early in the second while shorthanded when Joe Muli lifted a shot over Barnhardt, who had gone down trying to cover as much of the net as possible after making a save on a shot by Jim Gilbride.
Potsdam scored the next three goals to take a 3-2 lead. Greg Lee scored first on a broken play. A perfect setup was missed by Potsdam, but with all the bodies crashing the net, the puck somehow found its way past Rick Cazares.
T.J. Sakaluk tied the game when he whacked the puck in from in the crease after Fredonia failed to clear it. Nic Bibic gave the Bears the lead on a controversial shorthanded goal. The 2-on-1 pass from Adam Gebrara was behind Bibic’s stick. However, the puck hit Bibic’s skate and went in. The referees ruled Bibic was in the normal skating motion, and thus allowed the goal.
Fredonia tied it up before the end of the period on a Gilbride tally.
Potsdam quickly retook the lead after a minute of the third period on the power play. Ben King’s hard shot from the right point went wide, but the rebound bounced out in front to be put home by Gebrara.
“I didn’t think we handled some of the penalty adversity very well in the second half of the game,” Meredith said.
Sean Brackin made it 6-4 when Cazares had trouble handling a loose puck and Brackin was there to bang it home. Fredonia came right back on the only back-to-back full strength goals in the game. Gilbride notched his second of the night when he too took advantage of a goalie unable to handle the initial shot.
Potsdam put the game away on two consecutive goals by Ryan McCarthy, the first on a two-man power play and the second a shorthanded empty net goal.
Barnhardt wound up with 34 saves for the win while Cazares took the loss with 17 saves.
Can anything be taken away from a penalty filled game with no rhythm? “Yeah,” Meredith joked, “We need to spend time four-on-three.”
Potsdam wishes it had another year out of Chris Lee.
Meanwhile, the only injury report was for the penalty box operators who were nursing sore arms from opening and closing the doors so often.