Time to face it — Fredonia is for real. Even when the Blue Devils get outplayed, they find a way to win, a mark of a team that has everything going for it. The Blue Devils are sitting pretty on top of the SUNYAC standings with a 7-0 record.
Funny thing is, even their own coach isn’t convinced.
“We are still the underdog,” Jeff Meredith claims. “Nobody expects anything from us. Our guys have embraced that underdog mentality.”
Sure, they might be 2-3 outside the conference, but they are 7-0 inside of it. And the way the NCAA selections work these days, it really all comes down to how well you do in your own conference.
But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s talk about the first half of the season.
How about 10 goals against in those seven games? Ten goals! That’s all folks. The next closest defensive effort is Plattsburgh at 18 goals allowed.
How about Will Hamele on top of his game? The SUNYAC’s number-one goalie with a GAA of 1.33.
“We’re very proud of our team’s goals against,” Meredith said. “It’s not all Willy. We have to come back hard to help him.”
How about offense? Yes, offense — 28 goals in seven games. That’s four per game. This is Fredonia, remember? The team that couldn’t get a red light turned on last year even playing inside a Niagara-Mohawk’s power station? Now, it’s third in that category and have already scored more conference goals than all of last season.
And, if you were still skeptical, this past weekend erased all doubt. First the Blue Devils defeated Plattsburgh, 5-2 — without Hamele, who was in Michigan to attend his brother’s wedding. Instead, Simon Maignan, from the French National Team, got the start. He stopped 27 shots for the win.
Fredonia opened up a 4-0 lead on goals by Jeff Lumsden, Jim Gilbride, Tom Briggs, and Nick Malina. After Rob Retter scored for Plattsburgh, Lumsden got his second of the night. Jayson Barnhart scored a meaningless goal for the Cardinals to round out the game.
Fredonia next beat Potsdam, 2-1, a team it lost to on opening night in a non-league game. This, despite the fact that the Blue Devils were outskated by the Bears, who scored first on a goal by Chris Brussa-Toi. However, the defense kept the shots on net to just 14, Hamele stopped 13 of them, and with goals by Christian Fletcher and Lumsden, the Blue Devils pulled out the come from behind victory.
Fredonia wraps up the semester hosting Neumann twice. then is off until January 10.
“Our goal was to return the respect of the program,” said Meredith.
Think Fredonia still isn’t for real? One never knows what might happen in the second semester, but right now there is a big goose egg in the only loss column that matters.
The Wackiness Continues
Two columns ago, I mentioned how I had to sit down because my head was spinning so much. Now, I’m resorting to drugs to stop the dizziness. Just when you thought this season couldn’t get any wackier, it does. And not just in the SUNYAC, but across all of Division III.
Since this is the SUNYAC column, let’s just talk about the craziness here:
The Golden Eagles actually had a chance to win that game, as they led 2-0 on goals by Nick Smyth and Mark Digby. However, two third-period goals by Matt Donskov and Tim Earl resulted in the tie. Brian Tefft made 24 saves for Brockport while John Larnerd had 32 stops.
Nick Berti singlehandedly kept the Bengals in the game against Potsdam while his teammates, Dave Cadarette, Rocky Reeves, and Jason Sirois slowly opened up a 3-0 lead. Mike Snow and Chris Lee got the Bears close, but Berti was too much as he made 37 saves.
After Plattsburgh opened up the 3-0 lead on goals by Brendon Hodge, Conor McDonough, and David Friel, Buffalo State came storming back. Mark Infantino, Greg Prybylski, and Andre Hitz tied it up. Alas, the Cardinals’ McDonough scored his second of the night to win the game. Tony Seriac made 20 saves in the win.
Gary Bowman scored first for Oswego, and then Geneseo got control of the game. They scored three goals within 1:08 in the final minutes of the opening period to take a 3-0 lead. Kris Heeres led things off. Justin Corio then scored twice in a 15 second span.
Don Patrick got one back for the Great Lakers, but that was matched by Jay Kuczmanski for another two goal lead. Joe Carrabs once again cut the lead to one, but back to back goals in the third by Brian Avery and Kuczmanski gave Geneseo a 6-3 lead. Rob Smith and Bowman made the game exciting again, but Geneseo held them off. Brett Walker made 37 saves for the win.
The day before, both teams won. Geneseo beat Cortland, 3-1, despite letting up the first goal, scored by Bill Zaika. The Ice Knights then reeled off three unanswered goals, the first two by Heeres and an empty-netter by Nick Onody. Jeff Phelps got the win with 28 saves.
Oswego pounded Brockport, 6-0. John Hirliman got a pair, while Scott Irwin, Jocelyn Dubord, Patrick, and Mike Lukajic also scored. Tyson Gajda registered the shutout with 24 saves.
Where are those pills…
Coach’s Worst Nightmare
The one thing a coach fears most, even more than losing control of his team, is injuries. Especially when the team is off to a great start.
That is the nightmare that Potsdam’s Glenn Thomaris is facing. After the Bears opened up at 7-2-1 and ranked 10th in the USCHO.com poll heading into the PrimeLink, it has all fallen apart in the trainer’s room. Since then, they have gone 0-4-1, and worse, dropped their SUNYAC record to 2-4-1.
When it rains, it pours, as all their injuries have struck key players.
Their top defenseman, and perhaps their best player, especially when you gauge the impact of his loss, Dave Weagle, has been hampered by a deep charley horse. During that losing streak, he has either been out or played hurt, which has resulted in a greatly reduced power play effectiveness and problems on defense.
Defenseman Mike Smitko has been out with a bruised knee. Then, to compound the problem, another key blueliner, Jim Quilty, was forced to miss the Buffalo State game for personal reasons.
As if that wasn’t enough, freshman forward Eric Peter-Kaiser, who has made a quick impact on the team as one of their fastest skaters and best puckhandlers, went down with an injury as did another forward, Lou Demers.
“Through the bump and grind, fifteen games in the first semester took a pounding,” said Thomaris. “We hope they heal them all up, and come back for the final ten games.”
That may be the one blessing in all this — Potsdam only has ten games in the second semester. If the players are able to get themselves rested over the break, the Bears will have the luxury of playing the fewest games down the stretch.
Here’s a mathematical exercise to ponder.
Fredonia has a five-point lead halfway through the season. That means there are 14 points left to be had in the final seven games. Therefore, Fredonia needs 10 points to clinch first place.
Assuming (which this year is a very dangerous thing to do), the Blue Devils don’t have any problems with Cortland, Buffalo State, and Brockport the second time they play them, that is six points right there.
Thus, all they have to do is split the other four games against Geneseo, Oswego, Plattsburgh, and Potsdam to take the regular-season title.
Here’s another interesting stat — the point differential between second and seventh place is the same as the difference between first and second.
What this all means, is not only will the second half be just as exciting as the first half of the season, but the conference playoffs could be just as insane.
In the past five games (actually the four games previous to the Fredonia game, since nothing happened in that one), Potsdam has let up five shorthanded goals while only scoring four power-play goals.
There is no truth to the rumor that Glenn Thomaris is lobbying the rules committee to allow the option of declining a penalty.
Since beating Plattsburgh, Cortland has gone a horrendous 0-6-1 (it couldn’t even beat Brockport).
There is no truth to the rumor that Tom Cranfield is trying to get Plattsburgh scheduled 25 times next year.
Oswego has scored 40 times, the most in the league, while only letting up 19 goals, third-best. Yet the Great Lakers are only 4-2-1, in a three-way tie for second place.
There is no truth to the rumor that George Roll is trying to get GF-GA used to order the standings instead of W-L-T.
The Featured Word: Speed
I’m not averse to speed. In fact, I embrace it. I love it.
I should. After all, I race cars. Blasting down the back straight at Watkins Glen at over 130 mph with my nose tucked underneath the rear of the car in front of me, and the guy behind me doing the same to me, leaves you hoping nobody sneezes.
Heading into the first turn at Nelson Ledges at over 100 mph with a slight brush of the brakes with the left foot — all the while keeping your right foot hard on the gas pedal — sliding through the flat 90-degree right turn in a car class where street tires are used, gets your adrenalin pumping.
Speed is great. It should be no surprise that my two favorite sports, auto racing and hockey, are fast sports.
However, there are times when speed is not the way to go. Such as … well … this is a family website, so we won’t mention that.
It’s also not all that great when a hockey game is over so quickly. Recently, the Plattsburgh at Buffalo State game took just 1:46 to play. An hour and 46 minutes! The day before that, Potsdam at Buffalo State played out in 1:55. Oswego at Brockport took an even two hours.
Sure, there are some games that take too long, like every single NHL game. The Brockport at Cortland game took 2:40, thanks to 28 penalties and of course an overtime period.
The 15-second faceoff rule is great … for the NHL. As soon as I saw it in the Olympics, I was praying they would institute it in the pro game.
However, I never accepted the fact that it was needed in the college game. Especially, on the Division III level, where virtually none of the games are televised and thus subject to TV timeouts. Of course, a rule in college has to be for all levels, but quite frankly, the games are too short. The quick faceoffs make the game feel unnecessarily rushed. I feel like I’m getting ripped off.
Speed. There is a right and wrong time for it.
Game of the Week
Between now and when this column returns, there are two candidates.
A pair of games take place on January 7 that makes it appear it is a mini-PrimeLink as all four teams in that tournament square off. Coincidentally, the pairings are the only two matchups that did not appear back in November at [nl]Vermont — Middlebury at Potsdam and Norwich at Plattsburgh.
Take your pick. Both are worthy of Game of the Week.
With the students and teams heading home for the holidays, we too will be taking an extended break. When the games pick back up, so will we — our next column will appear on January 9.
Everybody have a Merry Christmas, a Happy New Year, and may your favorite team return from the break well-rested to finish the season strong.