Looking For More
The Buffalo State Bengals achieved a first last year — a SUNYAC playoff spot. Now, they will be looking for more, such as home ice in the postseason and a winning record. It won’t be easy, as they lost 10 players, many of them key personnel, and their Western New York rival, Fredonia, will be hungry to get that spot back.
According to coach Jim Fowler, the long-term goal remains the same: “Make the SUNYAC playoffs.” To achieve that, they will have to fulfill the coach’s short-term goal: “Compete every single game.”
On And Off The Ice
Buffalo State was in the national limelight last year when Rocky Reeves won the Hockey Humanitarian Award at last April’s Division I Frozen Four. Reeves not only is a major contributor to society, but he has been a steady producer for the Bengals as well. His senior year should be no different.
Interestingly, Fowler decided to take the “C” from Reeves and give it to senior defenseman Dan Vogel. This was no slight to Reeves, as it was made with his blessing. As Fowler explains, “It’s to let him enjoy his senior season.” Reeves can go out and just worry about playing hockey.
The team will need him because missing from this year’s squad is their all-time scorer and first All-American, Todd Nowicki, and last year’s third- and fourth-leading scorers, Jason Comardo and Jad Ramsay, respectively. Helping Reeves to fill the hole will be the runner-up all-time point-getter, Joe Urbanik, Mark Yoder, Henry Jurek, and Sean Mask.
“Hopefully, my veterans start putting the puck in the net,” said Fowler.
If they don’t, newcomers who could lend a hand are Morgan McElman, Greg Prybylski, Dave Cadarette, and Brian Janke.
Stopping The Puck
Buffalo State didn’t have too many problems scoring last year; it was keeping opponents from doing the same that proved difficult. Returning is Dan Vogel along with Ricardo Hernandez, who took last semester off, and Cyle McCorkie. These three are also great scoring threats.
Mark Infantino and Guy Duquette are the workhorses who will do the pounding down low. Two newcomers will also concentrate on defense rather than trying to score — Matt Stankevich and Matt Connelly.
All three goaltenders return this year. Nick Berti saw action in just over half the games, while Steve Thering and Adam Horvath split the remaining games. This year, the number-one goalie spot is up for grabs.
“Our biggest problem last year was inconsistency,” said Fowler. “One goalie would play great one night, and then falter the next. I challenged the goalies to take the job.”
So far, it appears Thering has won that position.
Avoiding The Collapse
Despite last year’s breakout season, Buffalo State had to stave off a late collapse to hang on to that elusive playoff spot. They started the season out 9-6-0, and that was after dropping the first two games. Then, the bottom fell out, going 1-8-1 before splitting the playoff series with Cortland but losing in the mini-game.
So, what caused this? Injuries, grades, and discipline.
Fowler, however, believes he has that problem licked. He said, “Knock on wood, we don’t have any injuries now. We kept a big roster of 29 guys. Hopefully, with more depth, we won’t have that problem. The folks with the grades really buckled down when they were away from the team, and we took care of the discipline issues.”
The Bengals got a taste of postseason play. They have every intention of not messing with the chance to repeat that experience.