BUFFALO, N.Y. — It was the Ryan McCarthy show at the Buffalo State Ice Arena.
The Potsdam forward scored a natural hat trick plus one, netting four straight goals to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 5-2 lead en route to a 5-3 victory over the Bengals.
“We’ve got a couple of guys back at home that aren’t playing and we need some people to step it up,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said. “For the last week, week and a half he’s been struggling with the puck a little bit. Good to see him break out of it at this time.”
With Potsdam down 2-1 late in the second period, McCarthy began his rampage. The team’s leading scorer tied the game on the power play.
The Bears power play struggled to this point, but this time they displayed good, crisp, puck movement. Pat Lemay made a quick cross-ice pass to McCarthy that was too fast for Sean Sheehan to get across the crease. McCarthy easily one-timed the pass into the unguarded net.
McCarthy came out in the third period and scored a natural hat trick in the purest definition of the term — three goals in one period without anyone else on either team scoring. Each goal was assisted by Kevin Tessier and Lemay.
“I think he took the whole team and picked them up today,” Thomaris said. “He knew we needed two points desperately tonight, and he made sure it happened.”
At the 1:18 mark, McCarthy gave Potsdam the lead. His teammates did the hard work, hustling to keep the puck in the zone. Eventually, it wound up on his stick in the faceoff circle. With his back partially facing the goal, he turned and fired a blast that beat Sheehan cleanly.
About a minute and a half later, it was McCarthy again. Amazingly, the Bengals allowed McCarthy to skate deep into the zone unmarked. When Buffalo State lost the puck in their zone during a transition, the quick turnaround by Potsdam gave them a two-on-one down low. Tessier had an open shot, but instead waited till the very last second before dishing it over to his left where McCarthy one-timed it past the hapless Sheehan.
Just over four minutes later McCarthy made it four in a row, coming in a total time span of 10:48. This time he went in on a semi-breakaway and stuffed it between the legs of Sheehan. The refs discussed the goal for awhile, but ultimately agreed it went in.
The score was now 5-2, and McCarthy guaranteed himself the first star of the game. “It was a big night for him,” Thomaris said in the understatement of the night.
The game didn’t start out well for Potsdam. Halfway through the first period, Buffalo State grabbed the initial lead. The Bears got lazy behind their own net and lost the puck. Josh Magnuson stole it and fed it to the front of the net. Morgan McElman’s quick shot was blocked by a defenseman, but the rebound went off to the side where Mike Zalewski was able to knock it in.
Buffalo State took a 2-0 lead early in the second period. Vince Cuccaro received no help from his defensemen and was forced to lunge out and poke the puck away from his net. However, the Bengals picked it right back up, and Matt Samson fired it in.
The Bears struggled to get out of their own zone for most of the second period as Buffalo State did a good job pinning them in.
“One guy going back to get the puck was taken out of the play, and we were starting to rim the puck around the boards and those are tough things to handle,” Thomaris explained the situation. “So, we were trying to get our wings a little bit lower, so we could at least make a more of a direct pass to one of our wingers, and then up and out if we could, and even use our other defenseman who was standing in front of the net to join the rush, and we got some rushes out of it.”
Phil Aubry finally got the Bears on the board with a power play goal thanks to perfect aim. He went in close just off to the side and waited and waited and waited. Sheehan held his ground, but did go down slightly. That was all the room Aubry needed, as he threaded the needle placing the puck between the goalie’s near shoulder and the upper corner of the net.
Then, it was the Ryan McCarthy show, scoring his 16th, 17th, 18th, and 19th goals for the season. With his 12 assists, he now has 31 points.
Buffalo State did get one back on the power play when Sean Burke controlled the puck behind the net, and Potsdam made no effort to pressure him. With plenty of unharassed time, he found Sean Castagna right in front of the net. Castagna easily beat Cuccaro with a rapid one-timer.
The Bengals thought they had scored again seconds later, but it was taken back as it was tipped in with a high stick. Afterwards, though Potsdam took a number of penalties, Buffalo State never came close again.
Cuccaro made 34 saves for the win while Sheehan stopped 22 shots in the losing effort.
Buffalo State is virtually eliminated from the playoffs dropping to 1-8-2 in league play, 5-15-2 overall. They play their last home game Saturday night against Plattsburgh.
Potsdam heads further west to face Fredonia. With the Bears at 5-6 (9-12-1 overall) and Cortland and Plattsburgh both losing tonight, they need to continue to win to hold onto home ice for the play-in round.
“We were hoping to win the game tonight and get some momentum and carry that through,” Thomaris said. “Fredonia is going to be hard pressed tonight against Plattsburgh. Hopefully, they will be a little bit mentally tired and physically tired, whether they win or lose, and hopefully we can sneak one out of there.”