UTICA, N.Y. — Four days ago, Utica College was at Hamilton College playing as the visiting team. Saturday, Utica again was at the Russell Sage Rink to play Potsdam, but this time as the home team.
Utica did not lose either time, though a 5-5 tie against probably felt like a loss since the Pioneers held 2-0, 4-1, and 5-2 leads including a two-goal lead with five minutes left in the game.
The home rink originally scheduled, the Utica Memorial Auditorium, suffered technical problems Saturday morning causing the ice to turn to liquid, setting off a scramble to find an open rink. Hamilton College was able to comply, and the game was moved 20 miles south to Clinton.
Potsdam’s coach Glenn Thomaris had no complaints with the situation. “Fortunately for us, Hamilton College were able to accommodate us, and we got the game in without having to reschedule it,” he said. “It’s more of a pain to reschedule it then come another 20 miles to play the game.”
Initially, it didn’t slow down Utica as a surprisingly strong crowd showed up, perhaps lured by free admission. Potsdam committed two quick penalties, and before the latecomers found their way to the rink, Utica had a 2-0 lead. Ryan Webb scored with the two-man advantage, and then Joe Watson got one with a one-man advantage.
“This is really Utica’s second home. They skate here a lot,” Thomaris said. “They were here Tuesday night playing, so they are a lot more used to it then we are.”
Potsdam’s Greg Lee got one back, also on the power play. But, the slow starts for Potsdam continued to plague them, and Utica would again score two straight goals.
John Murphy finished off an end-to-end rush that eventually resulted in a two-on-one down low. Nick Lynch made it 4-0 when he parked himself next to the post and easily tipped it in after receiving a cross ice pass from Jimmy Sokol.
“It’s just a matter of getting out of the gate early, and we’re just not doing that properly — coming out of the locker room to start the game on top of things,” Thomaris said of yet another slow start by the Bears.
First period scoring wasn’t over as Ryan Mattison got one back for Potsdam in perhaps the gutsiest goal of the game. He received a pass in the slot area from behind the net by Mark Hathaway, and while Mattison was knocked to the ice, he was able to get a shot off that beat Adam Dekker who played the wrong side.
Utica regained the three goal lead early in the second period. Once again, Potsdam left a player down low unguarded. This time it was John Ames, who easily tapped the puck in after receiving a pass across the crease from Webb. This would be the last goal Utica would score the rest of the night.
In the past two games, Potsdam has mounted comebacks all while down by three goals. Two games ago against Brockport, Potsdam came back from a 3-0 deficit to win 5-3. Last game against Geneseo, the Bears found themselves behind by three goals a number of times during the game. They constantly fought their way back, though they did eventually lose by three goals.
Tonight would see yet another three goal comeback. “That’s a great accomplishment for our guys especially for today,” Thomaris said. “We’ve done that a lot this year.”
It started with Kevin Tessier scoring a power-play goal late in the middle stanza. With his back to the net, he tipped in a shot taken by Ben King.
Thomaris joked about the situation entering the third period. “We got them in a situation where we’re only down by two — we figured we had them right where we wanted them.”
It took awhile, however, in that third period to get those two goals. Before they did, Utica had an excellent opportunity to put the game away while shorthanded early in the third period. Justin Schachtler found himself in front of a completely open net with the puck after Vince Cuccaro was out of position after making a save. Somehow, Schachtler missed the entire net.
Each team had three power play opportunities in the third period, but neither could get a goal. With just under five minutes to play, Potsdam did get an even strength goal on sheer hustle and hard work. Ryan McCarthy sent a soft shot from the high slot while Dekker was screened with a group of bodies fighting for position in front of him. The puck slid between his legs into the net.
After that goal, Utica tightened their defense, and kept Potsdam away from the net for the next three minutes. However, the Bears once again worked hard to apply repeated pressure on the net fighting to keep the puck in the zone while firing away at the net. Finally, Greg Lee’s shot through a crowd found it’s way in for his second of the night. The game was tied with 1:41 left.
“They worked hard there to get those goals,” Thomaris said. “That’s a good line for us right now. We wanted to get the puck on the net and create a little traffic for the goaltender. He’s a big kid there and can make some saves. We were just hoping to get some shots on the net and hopefully come away with a win. But that didn’t happen, but we got some goals to get even with them.”
Though both teams had some good opportunities in the overtime, thanks to some big saves by the goalies, the game ended 5-5. Cuccaro made 34 saves for his side of the tie, and Dekker stopped 23 of the shots he faced.
“It’s a good sign in the third period,” Thomaris said of the comeback. “The experience is going to pay off in the long run, hopefully. When we come back in January, they know they have a chance to win some games if they play a full sixty.”
Potsdam ends the first semester with an overall record of 4-9-1. They are off till the new year, when they host Elmira on January 8. Ironically, though that is listed as a home game for Potsdam, it will be played at Massena.
Meanwhile, Utica, who is now 7-3-2, plays at the end of the year in the Cardinal Classic at Plattsburgh. Then, when the new year begins, they, ironically, play Hamilton again on January 4. That is listed as a home game for Utica, scheduled to be played at the Utica Memorial Auditorium. Supposedly.