Last year, Fredonia won the SUNYAC Championship. However, one thing they failed to do was beat Cortland, a team that didn’t even make the playoffs, despite three opportunities to do so. That won’t be the case this year as Fredonia defeated Cortland, 5-2, in the opening game of the 2007-08 campaign.
The teams played at Buffalo State in the first game of the SUNYAC Challenge, a non-conference tournament. The Blue Devils scored twice late in the first period to break a 1-1 tie and never looked back. Jordan Oye, a freshman playing his first collegiate game, got a point on all the first period scores.
“It’s nice to get a W against a team that beat us three out of three last year,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. “That’s pretty important to us.”
Meanwhile, Joe Baldarotta, coaching his first game for Cortland after a 16-year reign at Wisconsin-Stevens Point, got a rude welcome to the SUNYAC.
“Of course we made some mistakes; I was expecting that,” Baldarotta said. “New coach, new system, new everything. I was expecting that a little bit.”
The first mistake occurred before the game even started — a protocol violation. Fredonia technically didn’t score on the power play, but took advantage of the man advantage anyway when they scored three seconds after the penalty was over.
Jordan Oye’s pass across the crease was put in by Steve Rizer under a sliding goaltender, Ben Binga. It was Rizer’s first collegiate goal in his first game.
Cortland tied it up on their first power play of the game. The Red Dragons controlled the puck very well with the man advantage, and eventually it ended up on the stick of Gerard Heinz at the left point.
He fired a shot that clinked off the near post and past Pat Street.
Fredonia scored twice within 1:34 at 14:19 and 15:49 to gain a 3-1 lead, the first on a power play.
Richard Boyce jammed it in after a few chances. Oye got his second assist. The goal came after Cortland had two excellent shorthanded opportunities thanks to odd-man rushes.
Oye scored his first goal after assisting on the first two. He received the puck from Neal Sheehan in the slot area. He had to settle the bouncing puck, but had the time to do so. Once flat, he flipped it through a screen which prevented Binga from reacting in time.
The teams traded goals in the first half of the second period. First, Fredonia took a 4-1 lead at 3:33, once again on the power play. Bryan Goudy tipped the puck in from in close on a shot by Sheehan.
Four minutes later, Cortland got it back on a nice rush and quick passing. Nick Shackford’s pass to the front of the net was easily redirected past the goalie by Frank Rizzo.
Fredonia closed out the scoring midway through the third period on a goal by Colin Sarfeh. Sarfeh’s shot from the right point went under a jumping teammate which most likely distracted Binga, as it sneaked by him.
“I thought the last part of the game we did things simple; we got pucks deep,” Meredith said.
Street ended up with 23 saves for the win as Binga stopped 16 shots. Cortland out shot Fredonia, 25-21.
“Rome wasn’t built in a day,” Baldarotta said. “We did some things extremely well. No one cares how good we are right now. They are not handing out any trophies or rings right now, and we know that. We got 24 more games to try and get us ready for the playoffs.”
The first of those 24 games comes against the host team on the second day of the SUNYAC Challenge, Buffalo State at 7:00 p.m. Saturday evening.
Meanwhile, Fredonia plays the early game at 4:00 against always tough Manhattanville.
“A typical first game of the year,” Meredith said. “You got a lot of things that you know right now that you have to work on that you didn’t know two hours ago. It’s a good start for the year.”