This Week in the SUNYAC: Feb. 14, 2002

Now, We Get To Do It All Over Again

We mentioned last week that the middle four teams would be in a wild scramble for playoff positioning. With all the dust settled, we find the key matchups of last weekend (the ones we picked for Games of the Week) will repeat themselves. This time, there will be no next week for two of those teams.

Cortland took third place despite losing the last game of the season to Oswego, 9-6. Solid wins over Fredonia, 9-2, and Buffalo State, 7-3, the weekend before guaranteed them that spot. They ended up tied with Geneseo, but with a 1-0-1 head to head record, they will get to host the sixth place team, Buffalo State.

Geneseo won a key contest against Potsdam, 3-1, when Tony Scorsone scored the winning goal, shorthanded, with just 37 seconds left. They lost the next night to Plattsburgh, 7-0, but rebounded with a 5-3 win over Brockport. Geneseo now gets to host Potsdam, the team they had to beat in order to get home ice.

Plattsburgh and Oswego get to rest a week waiting for the winners of the play-in round. Fredonia and Brockport get to rest for the summer waiting for next year.

They Sure Do Like That Score

Plattsburgh and Potsdam have met three times this season. Every game has ended in a 3-2 score. Potsdam was on the positive end the first time during the Primelink Great Northern Shootout. Plattsburgh won the two conference games, both in overtime.

In their last meeting last Tuesday, Plattsburgh jumped out to a 2-0 lead after a scoreless first period. Jeff Hopkins and Jeff Marshall got the goals.

Potsdam’s Chris Lee got one back with 36 seconds left in the middle stanza. The Bears completed the comeback when Anthony Greer scored early in the third.

Mark Coletta won it for the Cardinals at 3:06 of overtime. Niklas Sundberg made 30 saves for the win while Ryan Venturelli, who always plays well against Plattsburgh, made 28 saves in the losing effort.

There’s a chance these two teams could face each other two more times in the playoffs. If it happens, we’ll put our money on 3-2 scores.

Slumping At The Wrong Time

The last thing you want to do entering the playoffs is have a six-game winless streak. That’s what Buffalo State is doing, not having won since January 26. Since then, they are 0-5-1. Even more disturbing, in the past ten games, they went 1-8-1, and only 1-5-1 in the second half of the SUNYAC schedule.

They did manage to pull a surprise by tying Oswego, 5-5, on Friday. The Bengals never trailed in the game, taking 1-0 and 2-1 leads on goals by Todd Nowicki. A Rocky Reeves shorthander gave them a 3-1 lead only to see Oswego tie it back up.

Jason Comardo and Joe Urbanik gave Buffalo State a two-goal lead again, but they could not hang on for the win as Oswego scored two third-period goals.

Speaking of Oswego and slumps, they are not exactly looking stellar since beating Plattsburgh and Potsdam and looking good to possibly end up in first. Instead, they have gone 2-2-1 since then, including losing to a non-playoff contender, Fredonia.

Only a strong lead over third place prevented a complete meltdown. Instead, they still get the bye in the first round of the playoffs. Oswego will be looking to use that rest to regroup.

A Wild Affair

Despite the mini-slump, Oswego won their last game, 9-6, over Cortland in an entertaining contest for the fans, if not the coaches and goalies.

Oswego jumped out to 2-0, 4-1, and 5-2 leads before the game was even half over. Then the fun really started.

Cortland scored three unanswered goals to tie it at five apiece. And there was still 13 minutes of regulation to play. Oswego’s John Hirliman scored a power-play goal to give the Great Lakers the lead.

However, we still had four more goals to score, all in the final seven minutes of the game. Cortland’s Shawn Jensen tied the game on a shorthanded goal. On the same power play (a major) Oswego scored twice and added another one for three straight goals in a 2:50 span to finally take the win over the pesky Red Dragons.

Brian St. John of Oswego and Dave Ambuhl of Cortland were the multiple-goal scorers with two each. Oswego outshot Cortland, 43-27.

The Format

The first two rounds of the SUNYAC playoffs follow the same format. It’s a two-game total-points series. Both games are 60-minute games with a five-minute overtime.

If the series is tied (1-1 or 0-0-2), the teams will play a 20-minute minigame immediately following the second game. If it is still tied, they will then play 20-minute sudden-death periods until somebody scores.

Playoff Previews

Buffalo State (5-8-1, 10-14-1) at Cortland (7-5-2, 13-9-3)

At the start of the season both teams made some quick statements. Cortland won the inaugural SUNYAC Challenge defeating Potsdam, 3-2, and Fredonia, 4-1. Buffalo State took slightly longer to make themselves known when they swept the first league weekend, beating Geneseo, 5-4, and Brockport, 8-4.

The difference in these two teams is how they carried that momentum into the second half of the season. Cortland continued strong throughout the season while Buffalo State stumbled badly.

There are some plusses for the Bengals, namely their goal scoring. They sport the number-one and -four scorers in league play — Todd Nowicki (15-15-25) and Joe Urbanik (11-8-19). Unfortunately, they let up more goals then anybody but Brockport.

Another concern for Buffalo State is their tendency to sit in the penalty box. They rank second in that category, and Cortland is the best power play team in the league with an impressive 24.1% success rate. To compound that, Buffalo State has the second worst penalty kill.

On the other hand, Cortland is the most penalized team in the league (and have been known to commit infractions at key moments of the game, costing them a few times) while Buffalo State is fourth in power play percentage, and Cortland is only one spot better than the Bengals in stopping the power play.

Hint to these two teams — don’t commit penalties.

Cortland is led by Jeff Olsen, the league’s top goal scorer with 14 goals and second in scoring with 24 points. Matt Donskov and Trevor Bauer are tied for fourth with 19 points. Donskov has a league high six power-play goals.

Intangibles in this series fall under the subject of “first time.” This is Buffalo State’s first post season appearance in school history. Meanwhile, Cortland is led by first year coach, Tom Cranfield. The Red Dragons are hosting their first playoff games since 1993 — the last year Cranfield played for Cortland.

These two teams met twice this season, and Cortland won both times handily, 6-1 and 7-3. Quite frankly, we don’t see anything different happening this weekend as Cortland will sweep.

Potsdam (6-8, 11-14) at Geneseo (7-5-2, 10-13-2)

Unlike the other series, these two teams are barely a threat on the power play. Geneseo is a paltry 11.1% with the extra skater. Potsdam is 13.9%, but like we mentioned earlier, if you take out their one performance against Cortland (8 for 13), they drop to 6.8%. Fans needn’t cheer too much when the opposition gets sent to the sin bin.

Both teams are led by strong goaltenders, especially when they are on top of their game. Geneseo’s Brett Walker has appeared to settle down from his wild start. Walker is second in the league with a .920 save pct.

Potsdam’s Ryan Venturelli only has a .894 save pct., but he has become more consistent as the season went on, playing very strongly down the stretch.

Both goalies have extremely quick glove hands.

Hint to shooters — try the stick side.

Both teams rely more on defense than offense. However, leading the way on the scoreboard in conference play for Potsdam with 15 points each is Anthony Greer (9-6-15) and Chris Lee (8-7-15). Potsdam also has the fifth scoring defenseman in Dave Weagle (5-5-10).

Tony Scorsone is the top scorer for Geneseo with three goals and ten assists. He is followed by Pete Boudette, John Hirliman, and Andy Rice.

Geneseo won both of the previous meetings by identical 3-1 scores. However, if Potsdam comes out with the intensity they have shown against teams like Plattsburgh and Norwich, Geneseo will be seeing a completely different team.

Which is why this series is going to go to the mini-game. If goaltending takes it, give it Geneseo. If mini-game experience takes it, give it to Potsdam.


Last Week’s Question

Speaking of Jeff Lupu, what NCAA Division III tournament record did he set?

Jeff Lupu scored the fastest goal in D-III tournament history just eight seconds into a semifinal against Wisconsin-River Falls in 1994. Despite the momentum, and despite Fredonia entering the tournament undefeated, the Blue Devils wound up losing to River Falls, 4-3. Fredonia would also lose the third-place game to Salem State that year.

This Week’s Question

Who is the only player to win the SUNYAC Player of the Year twice outright (that is, without sharing it with anybody else)?