GENESEO, N.Y. — The first game of a pair between Fredonia and Geneseo in the SUNYAC semifinals didn’t resolve much as the game ended in a 3-3 tie. Fredonia held three separate one-goal leads through parts of the second and third periods, but each time Geneseo climbed back to tie the game.
“I’m glad we responded in the third period,” said Geneseo coach Brian Hills. “We were really resilient and kept coming back. It was nice to see in them, and they kept believing.”
After trailing 1-0 after two periods of play, Geneseo finally cracked the scoreboard during the opening moments of the third period. A protracted battle for the puck in the corner finally saw it squirt out right to Jay Kuczmanski’s stick for Geneseo at the bottom of the near faceoff circle. Kuczmanski lifted the puck past Fredonia goaltender Rick Cazares’ shoulder for the power play goal just thirty four seconds in to the third period.
“We talked about seniors leading the way, and tonight Tarr and Kuczmanski, two seniors, pulled through,” said Geneseo coach Brian Hills.
Fredonia struck right back to retake the lead on a great individual effort by Kyle Bozoian. He stripped the puck off Geneseo Jon Schnepf’s stick right at the Ice Knights blue line, and skated towards the net alone. Bozoian didn’t miss his opportunity and beat Geneseo netminder Brett Walker low for the goal at 3:28.
Just over a minute later, Geneseo was given a 5-on-3 power play when the referee tagged two Fredonia players with penalties. The Ice Knights converted on the power play when Chris Tarr finished off a nifty passing play with a backhander through the 5-hole of goaltender Cazares at 4:45 to tie the game 2-2.
But again, for the third time this game, Fredonia retook a one goal lead just three minutes later at the 7:42 mark of the third period. This time it was Kraig Kuzma who carried the puck across the Geneseo blue line. Just before he got hit, Kuzma launched what looked like a harmless wrist shot towards the Geneseo net. But the puck eluded Walker, fluttering over his glove and in to the net for the goal to re-establish Fredonia’s lead at 3-2.
Both goaltenders made great saves as the period wound down, particularly Cazares as Geneseo was pouring on the pressure to tie the game. The Ice Knights opportunity came at 19:01 when Blue Devil Evan DeValentino hauled down Geneseo’s Mike MacDonald while he was rushing towards the Fredonia net. Coach Brian Hills pulled goaltender Walker, and Geneseo converted on the resulting 6-on-4 power play at 19:38 when Michel Bond tapped in a pass from Mitch Stephens to send the game to overtime tied 3-3.
For the first only time during the game, Geneseo out shot Fredonia during the overtime period 6-1, but neither team was able to score. With the tie final score, the series now turns in to a winner take all with the victor in tomorrow night’s contest winning the two game playoff series.
After a frantic first period, the coaches calmed the emotions down during the intermission and the second stanza was played at a slower and more deliberate pace by both teams.
Fredonia took advantage of its first power play of the game and scored at the 1:40 mark. The Blue Devils won the puck back to the point off a faceoff deep in the Geneseo zone. Kraig Kuzma passed the puck across to Matt Zeman waiting at the top of the slot, who then wound a wrist shot along the ice and just inside the left post for the goal to give Fredonia the 1-0 lead.
Geneseo almost tied the game just a few minutes later, but had two goals waved off within a two minute period. The first, while Geneseo was on the power play, was obviously batted in off a Geneseo glove in to the net. Referee George Delnegro was in position on the goal line and instantly waved off the goal.
The second waved off goal for Geneseo less than two minutes later was a little less clear cut. This time, Ice Knight Mike MacDonald carried the puck in to the zone on a clean breakaway. Cazares blocked the shot, and the puck bounced up in the air. As it was coming down, Fredonia’s Chris Wells tried to grab the puck to throw it clear, but instead knocked it in to his own net.
Assistant Referee Bob Baldwin was on the goal line and signaled a goal. However, referee Delnegro, trailing the play in to the zone, had his arm up in the air for a delayed penalty on Fredonia. After a lengthy conversation between the two, it was determined that Delnegro had blown his whistle for the penalty before the puck crossed the line, and the goal was waved off. The score remained 1-0 with Fredonia on top.
After such a wild start to the second period, play continued for the remainder with each team unable to convert on several great opportunities.
Walker was called on at 13:10 to make an incredible save to stave off a Fredonia tic-tac-toe passing play down the slot while the Blue Devils were on the power play.
“Part way through the second period is when we started to find ourselves,” said Hills. “And I’m glad we did find ourselves.”
On the other end, Cazares kept Geneseo scoreless with only seven seconds remaining in the period, when he barely deflected the puck enough off a shot by Dan Schofield to make it carom off the far post and harmlessly to the boards.
For the second straight period, Fredonia out shot Geneseo, but this time it was by a much closer 11-8 margin.
The first period was played at a lightning fast pace, only taking twenty eight minutes by the clock on the wall. No penalties and no goals usually would mean a boring period of hockey. But with a large crowd and the excitement of the playoffs, a period full of physical but clean checks got the fans in to the contest.
Geneseo tallied its first, and remarkably its only, shot on goal of the period two minutes in to the contest. Fredonia didn’t get its first shot on net until the 5:30 mark, and out shot the Ice Knights 8-1 in the period.
“We wanted to get a quick start. Anytime you are on the road, you want to get a quick start,” said Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith. “They hadn’t played in two weeks and we wanted to get after them.”
Despite the paltry number of shots by both teams, the first period saw a lot of action. But both teams were very stingy when the play moved towards their own net, and clamped down on anything that looked threatening.
“I think both teams like to play hard and physical, like in the first period,” said Hills. “When you play against your own guys in practice, and you have to practice for so many days in a row without playing, maybe you develop some bad habits.”
Fredonia held the territorial advantage in the period, and had three good chances to score. The first came about mid period, and then again in the final minute, the Blue Devils watched as the puck just dribbled wide of the Geneseo net after a scramble near the top of the crease.
Fredonia’s other top-notch opportunity came at 14:25 when Steve Albert ripped a slapshot from the point that clanged off the left post and across the front of the net to the far board to keep the game scoreless.