CORTLAND, N.Y. — A goaltending battle came down to a mistake by a defenseman with 31 seconds left, enabling Potsdam to defeat Cortland, 3-2. Rob Barnhardt made 28 saves for the winners while Matt Meacham stopped 31 shots. Many of the saves were on point blank shots, and both goalies did a good job avoiding the fat rebound.
“I thought both teams worked really hard,” Cortland coach Tom Cranfield said. “I thought it was going to come down to a mistake, and we made the last one. Both the goaltenders, Barnhardt and Meacham, played really well and made big saves when they had to.”
Potsdam’s coach, Glenn Thomaris, agreed. “I thought both goalies were outstanding,” he said. “They had to be the way this game was being played because there were some great scoring chances. I thought Matt and Robby did a super job of finding the puck and making the saves when it counted.”
With the goaltenders starting out hot, it was no surprise the first period went by without a goal. The teams had their chances, but Barnhardt and Meacham were not willing to play along.
Cortland finally broke the ice first early in the second period at 1:51. The Red Dragons controlled the puck in the Potsdam zone. Nate Gagnon passed the puck across the zone to Jeremy Nau at the left point. His shot sailed up and over the shoulder of Barnhardt as he went down to make the save.
The score remained 1-0 till late in the second period despite a perfectly executed two-on-one by Potsdam while shorthanded. Ryan McCarthy, the team’s leading scorer, wound up with the puck at the top of the crease. However, Meacham stood his ground, and McCarthy had nothing to shoot at except the pads of the goalie.
The Bears finally did tie the game on a power play. Vince Tarantino on the right point passed it across to Mike Taylor on the left point. Taylor let go of a slapper that Meacham appeared to have in his sights. However, Greg Lee deflected the puck, and though Meacham still got a piece of it, he couldn’t handle it, and it snuck by.
The third period is typically Potsdam’s period. It appeared the Bears quickly made a statement by scoring at the 2:10 mark on a high shot from the left side down low that found the corner of the net. Potsdam celebrated. Cortland stopped playing. Then, the referee waived the goal off, claiming it never went in, but instead hit the crossbar and came straight down.
Midway through, Potsdam did take the lead on a shorthanded goal. Potsdam now has nine shorthanded goals on the season, tied for most in the league with Fredonia. The Bears don’t just kill penalties. They look for opportunities to score while short a man.
“We’ve got some of our quicker guys out there,” Thomaris said of his penalty killing unit. “They’re pretty smart players. We give them open range if they think they can go to try to do it. So far it’s worked for us.”
This time it was the result of pure hustle and hard work. The original shot was saved by Meacham with the rebound sent out to the side. Vilis Abele got to it first, and his shot from the side found it’s way to the front of the net where it was deflected in by Mark Hathaway.
Cortland wouldn’t give up. Two and a half minutes later, they tied it on a power play. Tom Girard faked a shot from the left point forcing a Potsdam defender to go down. Girard skated around him, moved in to the top of the faceoff circle, and let go of a blast to the far side that Barnhardt didn’t have a chance at.
Cortland had a late power play, called a time out to discuss it, put a lot of pressure on Potsdam, but Barnhardt was equal to the task.
“It was discouraging that we got penalties because we mishandled the puck and made some poor passes,” Thomaris said of all the late power play chances for the Red Dragons.
When it appeared the teams were headed for overtime, Cortland committed the mistake that would decide the game.
“We didn’t get control of the puck,” Cranfield said of the play. “The defenseman had time to clear the puck, and just wrapped it around to their defenseman. He made a mistake, a mental lapse, and it cost us the game.”
Mark Stewart quickly centered it for T.J. Sakaluk who was alone in front of the net. He had time to move the puck at will, and did just that forcing Meacham to commit before lifting the puck underneath the crossbar for the win.
Cortland pulled Meacham for the last 12 seconds, but never got a shot off.
Thanks to Oswego defeating Plattsburgh, there is now a three way tie for fourth place between Plattsburgh, Potsdam, and Cortland, all with a league record of 4-6. Overall, Cortland is now 9-11-1 and Potsdam is 8-12-1.
Their next games are this weekend with Cortland traveling to Geneseo and Brockport while Potsdam hits the road to Buffalo State and Fredonia.