GENESEO, N.Y. — Plattsburgh took advantage of Geneseo’s inability to properly pick up attackers down low, allowing the Cardinals to take the first game in the SUNYAC championship series, 4-1.
“Plattsburgh’s teams have always been good playing down low,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “We work on cycling all the time. We wanted to try to keep the puck down low as much as we could.”
Right from the start, Plattsburgh took the home crowd out of the game by playing a disciplined, puck control game, mostly in the Geneseo zone. It paid off at the 7:17 mark.
Ryan Burke took what appeared to be a relatively harmless shot from the top of the slot area. However, Derek Jokic was handcuffed, and despite making the chest save, he was unable to hold on. The rebound fell to his side where a streaking Trevor Mallon, untouched by any Geneseo defender, backhanded the puck over the leg of Jokic.
“I thought we were opportunistic and took the crowd right out of the game,” Emery said.
“Nerves are a big part of a game like this,” Geneseo coach Jason Lammers said “It’s playoff hockey and everybody goes out there maybe a little tight squeezing the stick. But after we got rid of that we were ready to go.”
Plattsburgh failed to score on their first power play opportunity, but they succeeded on their second with 27 seconds left in the period. Again, it was the result of the Geneseo defense failing to pick up Plattsburgh attackers.
Nick Rolls’ shot from the right point went just wide. However, it had enough power on it to bounce off the backboard and back out in front. There, Riley Hill was alone, unmarked. He easily knocked it into the near side.
“I think there were a couple of breakdowns,” Jason Lammers said. “Something we’ve worked on in practice but we could do a better job of. They did a nice job of coming to the net on us and getting pucks to the net.”
The second period started the same as the first. However, Geneseo was able to quickly reverse that on a goal coming off a play that also seemed harmless at 2:32.
Nick Onody shot the puck from the top of the right faceoff circle. Craig Neilson appeared to have the angle cut down, but he wasn’t able to handle it, and it deflected off his leg pad and into the net.
“The guys were yelling at me that they were on a line change so turn it up,” Onody said. “I actually was looking to pass the entire time, but I saw their D backed off quite a bit. I just let it rip, and the puck had eyes on that one.”
“That first goal gave their team a lot of life and they rallied behind the fans then,” Emery said.
“That kind of alleviated the pressure the guys may have felt a little bit playing at home,” Lammers said. “That goal seemed to spark us and get us going again. It was an important goal and an important turning point in the game.”
Shortly afterwards, Geneseo had their first power play, but they were unable to convert. They also failed on another power play late in that period, despite a perfect deflection on a shot from the point, but Neilson was able to follow it all the way and make the save.
The game opened up a bit more in the second period as both goalies had to come up with some difficult saves, including a lightning-quick glove save off the ice by Neilson on a point-blank shot.
“I think if we could have caught a couple of bounces, it would have been a different score,” Lammers said. “But their goalie played well, and that was probably a little bit of the difference there.”
“I thought Neilson played pretty well,” Emery said.
After trading penalties early in the third period, Plattsburgh scored on their second power play, just eight seconds after it started at 6:58. It also came as a result of Geneseo failing to mark Plattsburgh attackers.
After Jokic made a save on Kevin Galan’s shot, the puck remained loose in the crease. Dave Friel didn’t have to fight anyone off getting to the puck, and he tapped it past a helpless Jokic.
After that goal, Geneseo applied the most consistent pressure in the game. They forced the Plattsburgh defenders and Neilson to work hard to preserve the two-goal lead.
Geneseo pulled their goalie with 1:37 left in the game, but weren’t able to apply enough pressure to make it pay off. Ben Kemp ended up scoring an empty net goal with 1.5 seconds left after Ryan Busby missed a wide open shot on the open net.
Neilson made 36 saves for the win. Jokic stopped 30 shots in the loss.
“I thought Derek played very well,” Lammers said. “He played solid for us this whole year, and I thought he did a nice job.”
Plattsburgh’s penalty kill once again was strong not allowing a goal in Geneseo’s three power play opportunities (while Plattsburgh went two for four).
“I thought we did a good job killing penalties once again,” Emery said. “I thought we did a good job overall blocking shots and sacrificing our bodies. I thought we did the little things well tonight.”
“Credit goes to Plattsburgh,” Lammers said. “They’re a good hockey team. I think people forget that. Yeah, they finished fourth, but they’re a good hockey team. They’re going to come at us, and they’re going to play well. We need to come out with the same intensity that we did the last 30 minutes and come with that the whole game. We were getting the puck to the net but we need to get some guys around the net and bury some rebounds.”
Since the series is a first-to-three-points format, all Plattsburgh needs is a tie Saturday night to win the SUNYAC championship. Geneseo has to win to force a third and deciding game to be played Sunday afternoon.
“I’m confident the guys are ready to go,” Lammers said. “I’ll see you Sunday.”