It didn’t take long. Just one weekend into conference play, and we already have our first surprise. The Fredonia State Blue Devils refused to listen to the prognosticators who had them eliminated from the playoffs before the season even started. Instead, they upset Oswego State, 3-2, and then soundly beat Cortland State, 5-1.
Leading the way, unsurprisingly, was goaltender Will Hamele with 17 saves against the Great Lakers and 31 against the Red Dragons. Hamele outlasted Tyson Gajda on the first night and outplayed John Larnerd the second. Hamele’s key moment came when he stopped a breakaway with a minute and a half remaining in the Oswego game to preserve the victory. He is establishing himself as a leading candidate to getting back on the All-SUNYAC First Team.
Cortland did beat Buffalo State, 5-1, and would bounce back from the Oswego loss with a nonconference win over Hobart, 5-2. Larnerd made 35 and 34 saves, respectively, for those two wins. Nate Gagnon registered a hat trick against Buffalo State, including a shorthanded goal.
Other minor surprises the first weekend included Buffalo State getting pounded by Oswego. Sure, Oswego was expected to win, but not by an 11-3 score. The Great Lakers apparently were a tad upset for losing the night before, and exploded for five first-period goals. They were up 6-0 before Buffalo State even saw a goal.
With all those scores, only one player, Rob Smith, scored twice. Nine different players got the other goals while Joe Lofberg made 32 saves for the win.
One non-surprise of the weekend was Plattsburgh State, which rolled over its opponents: 6-1 against Geneseo State and 9-0 versus Brockport State. Tony Seriac passed his first test, making 22 saves against the Ice Knights. Craig Neilson got the call and the shutout against Brockport with 16 saves.
Jeff Hopkins and Adam Richards each got a pair of goals the first night while Dave Young, David Friel, and Brendon Hodge all did the same the second night.
Early Bird Special
Restaurants have early-bird specials in order to lure diners during the hours when they tend to have empty tables. There were a few teams last weekend that apparently had the same thought — score some goals early in order to lure the fans during that time when they tend to still be parking their cars.
Unfortunately, the fans won’t learn until the next time.
Those who showed up just 3:41 into the Geneseo at Potsdam State game missed all the scoring. And it would have served them right for doing something I never could understand.
Then again, leaving early is even worse, especially when the game is still in doubt. But, we’ll save that rant for some other time.
Getting back to that game in Maxcy Hall, in a repeat of last year’s first-round conference matchup, the Bears and the Ice Knights played yet another goaltending battle.
Jason Brothers gave Potsdam the lead at 1:58, and then Jay Kuczmanski tied it up for Geneseo at the aforementioned 3:41. That was it, at least for the scorers. It wasn’t for the goaltenders, who didn’t allow the early goals to deter them.
Potsdam’s Ryan Venturelli made 22 saves on the night. Meanwhile, Brett Walker was making 29 saves, including five in overtime as Potsdam outshot Geneseo in that extra stanza, 5-0. In the end, it was a kiss-your-sister day.
Potsdam beat Brockport the day before, 5-2, having to come back from a 2-1 deficit by scoring a pair of goals in both the second and third periods. Anthony Greer and Phil Aubrey got two each for the winners, while Nick Smyth got both Brockport goals. Venturelli made 18 saves for the win.
Other early-bird specials last weekend included Oswego’s Jocelyn Dubord scoring at 2:57 against Fredonia and Rob Smith at 1:06 against Buffalo State, Cortland’s Dave Ambuhl at 2:13 against Buffalo State.
Fredonia’s Jim Gilbride beat them all, notching a goal just 12 seconds in against Cortland.
Folks, get to the game on time.
Here are some trends to start keeping an eye on, even this early in the season.
The Featured Word: Flabbergasted
One of my favorite words in the English language is flabbergasted. I just love the way it sounds, the way it rolls off the tongue, and the meaning of the word. Plus, it is one of those words that just sounds like what it means. Just say it out loud whenever you have the emotion — I’m flabbergasted.
It just works. And sounds cool.
Because it is one of my favorite words, I use it sparingly. Therefore, to consider using it in this new regular feature of my column will necessitate something that blows my socks off. If it happens too frequently, I may have to use duct tape on those socks.
Earlier this week I was perusing the USCHO.com message boards, and saw the thread making picks for this weekend’s SUNYAC contests. What really surprised me were that some of the folks were not regular SUNYAC fans. There were some ECAC West fans, but that didn’t surprise me too much, as those two leagues tend to follow each other.
No, it was the fans of the other leagues participating that surprised me. Fans of ECAC East and NESCAC schools. Then, the shocker came — fans from the NCHA were also involved! What did they care about the SUNYAC?
Who could ever have imagined a decade ago that not only would there be an Internet, but that it would create a community where Division III hockey fans not only could get updates from around the country as the goals were scored, but that it would breed a following where someone from a Stevens Point knew just as much about an Oswego as the students attending Oswego? And on top of that, enjoy following every team in every conference, and doing quite well in predicting outcomes from across the country.
I’m simply flabbergasted!
Game of the Week
One would think that the selection would be the two games at Oswego against North Country rivals Potsdam and Plattsburgh. I’m not going to pick those games. Sure, they are going to be important, and might play a key role in the final standings.
However, this early in the season, I want to keep my eye on a crucial game that will go a long way in deciding Geneseo’s and Fredonia’s seasons, as they face off Friday night at Geneseo.
Geneseo, a team some expected to challenge for a bye, only got one point out of the first weekend — albeit a tough weekend, but still only one point. Geneseo needs to start getting some points now, before it is too late.
Meanwhile, Fredonia has served notice that it needs to be taken seriously this year, but to continue that attitude, it must consistently beat teams like Geneseo.
Indeed, it is the game that will tell us a lot.