BROCKPORT, N.Y. — In a must-win game, Brockport came through, defeating Potsdam, 5-3.
The Golden Eagles took control of the game with three third-period goals, breaking open a 2-2 game.
“It had the feel of a playoff game from the opening face off,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “To Potsdam’s credit, they came to play tonight. We had our backs against the wall. Our guys bandied together.”
“A team that plays for their lives is dangerous,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said. “And that’s what it came down to.”
After a scoreless first period and a 2-2 tie after two, Brockport scored twice in a 1:40 span early in the third.
Mike Baxter started it at 6:58 thanks to a blue line turnover by Potsdam. Marcus Farmer kept the puck in the zone at the left point and saw Baxter streaking for the backdoor on the right side. His pass provided Baxter the easy opportunity to redirect it into the unguarded near side. It was not only Baxter’s second goal of the night, but his second goal of the season.
Troy Polino gave Brockport the two-goal lead on a gutty individual effort. Standing in the slot area with a defenseman draped all over him, he still managed to get a shot off while being knocked to the ice. Even better, the shot found its way past Kevin McFarland.
At this point, Potsdam called a timeout. It paid off as 13 seconds later, the Bears suddenly got themselves right back into the game when Mike Foy at the top of the crease stuffed a shot in.
The Bears desperately tried to tie the game up, but that left them vulnerable to quick counter attacks. One of them provided Brockport with the insurance goal at 14:46.
In an almost identical play to Baxter’s goal, a quick pass from Mike Hollander at the left point to Nick Panepinto at the right side resulted in one-timer to the back of the net for his second goal of the night.
“Nick’s been on the whole second semester,” Dickinson said. “Good things happen when you go to the net or when you throw the puck at the net like the first goal. Their goalie had no idea we were shooting it.”
That first goal of the game came at 7:29 of the second period. Panepinto was along the boards on the left side and threw the puck towards the net. McFarland completely misplayed it and it sailed past him.
Potsdam quickly responded, tying the game 41 seconds later. Adam Place was sprung for a semi-breakaway on a long pass by Sy Nutkevitch. Place had a defender to his left, but he was able to rifle a shot into the near upper corner.
The Bears took their only lead of the game at 14:09 on another beautiful goal. Trevor Cope received the puck in the slot with his back to the net. He got off a no-look backhander that went through Oliver Wren’s five-hole.
Exactly two minutes later, Baxter scored his first of the game, tipping the puck in at the post. Potsdam argued he was already in the crease when the puck got to him, but to no avail.
Wren made 31 saves, including key stops in the third period.
“Big game goaltender in juniors,” Dickinson said. “He waited a long time to have a weekend like this. I’m extremely proud of him for battling. Tonight was one of those nights with a lot of odd-angle shots and tips in front. He was our best penalty killer on the five-on-three in the second period. He kept everything in front of him, played really big in the crease.”
The win puts Brockport (9-12-3, 5-8-2 SUNYAC) in a tie for the last playoff spot with Potsdam (8-13-2, 6-8-0 SUNYAC). However, Brockport needs help. Potsdam holds the tie-breaker against Brockport. Thus, if the Bears win on Friday at Cortland or Saturday at Oswego, Brockport’s only other hope is for Geneseo, who is one point ahead of them, to lose to Morrisville and then Brockport must beat the Mustangs on Saturday.