SUNYAC vs. ECAC West
The past two weeks, and this upcoming week, are filled with nonconference games pitting the New York State Division III hockey leagues against one another. And the fans have been the true winners as old rivals bang each other on the ice.
Last week, five crossover games were played, and no less than nine pepper the coming week. After that, we got the Oswego-RIT home-and-home series. Definitely a feast for the hockey lover.
The big game this past week was the Elmira at Potsdam showdown. Though emotions may have been running high behind the benches as Potsdam’s Glenn Thomaris faced his old team for the first time, it’s the players who ultimately decide the game, and the Elmira players took a 5-4 decision over the Bears.
Potsdam jumped out to an early lead thanks to Chris Brussa-Toi. Elmira came back with three unanswered goals before Chris Lee got one of them back. Elmira again opened a two-goal lead in the third, but Potsdam didn’t give up, tying the game with goals by Mike Taylor and Lee. However, with 3:47 left in the game, Elmira won it on the power play. Ryan Venturelli made 33 saves in net.
Potsdam has one more game against the ECAC West, this Saturday at Manhattanville. The Bears are 3-2 against that conference.
The Geneseo-Hobart home-and-home series featured another pair of great contests, eerily similar. Both games went into overtime tied 2-2, but only the first produced a decision as Hobart won it at the 1:09 mark. Hobart was leading the game, 2-0, when Geneseo was awarded a penalty shot late in the second period, converted by Jay Kuczmanski. Kuczmanski scored again late in the third to tie it up. Brett Walker made 26 saves.
The next night, they played indoors at Geneseo. This time, Geneseo took the 2-0 lead on goals by Ryan Gage and Nick Onody, both in the first period. However, the Ice Knights were unable to hold on, but they did salvage a tie thanks to Walker making 42 saves.
SUNYAC vs. ECAC West Reactions
What do the coaches expect out of these contests?
After a 4-0 loss to RIT, with two more ECAC West opponents this week, Fredonia’s Jeff Meredith said, “It’s good preparation for SUNYAC play.”
The Blue Devils’ next game is against Hobart, a team that has already beaten them twice by the slimmest of margins. Fredonia would love to turn the tide against the Statesmen, but Meredith’s goal is “just [to] try to reach our potential every day. If that potential squeaks out a one-goal win, we’re successful.”
Earlier in the week, Fredonia played two exhibition games, losing to St. Claire College, 6-3, and beating Seneca, 3-2. Tom Briggs scored a pair of goals in the first game, while Max Catelin got one in each. Erik Hlavaty and Jim Gilbride also scored.
Jerry Seinfeld may not been happy to see his least favorite mailman, but Cortland was ecstatic to play the SUNYAC’s favorite ECAC West opponent.
That was because Cortland’s winless streak had extended to a dismal 10 games (0-8-2) — again, we harp on the fact that this all started after a huge win over Plattsburgh, which now seems so, so long ago.
Cortland started the week out losing to Wentworth, 5-4, despite leading 2-0 just 3:26 into the game on goals by Nate Gagnon and Tim Earl. Wentworth came back to take a 3-2 lead before Matt Donskov tied it back up. Again, Cortland was behind by a goal when Dave Ambuhl scored. Putting salt on Cortland’s wounds, Wentworth’s winning goal came shorthanded. Cortland got a teaser with the extra skater, hitting the post with 40 seconds left.
The next night, Johnson & Wales cruised by Cortland, 5-1. Cortland was behind 4-0 before it finally got a goal in the third period by Kyle Colleti.
Then came Neumann to answer the Red Dragons’ prayers. Cortland won … finally … 9-4, despite the fact that Neumann outshot Cortland, 40-29, and led 2-1 and 3-2. Still, a win is a win.
The key moment in the game came with Neumann leading 3-2 when Jason Perry scored twice within 18 seconds, and Cortland never looked back. Seven different players got the other Cortland goals. Mark Paine and John Larnerd split duties in net.
Cortland has to be careful they don’t begin a new losing streak, as their next game is at RIT.
Childhood Friends Do Battle
If you thought the Elmira-Potsdam contest was an emotional coaching affair, the Brockport-Plymouth State game may have topped that. Brockport’s Brian Dickinson and Plymouth State’s Chris Hudon were childhood friends as well as teammates at Amesbury (Mass.) High School. Dickenson came out on top as his Golden Eagles easily won 10-2.
Brockport scored four power-play goals, two of them by Michael Cameron, as well as a shorthander by Kevin Collins. Nick Smyth and Peter Stasko each got two goals. Brian Bauman, John Munshaw, and Mark Digby scored the other goals. Brian Tefft made 22 saves for the win.
The next night, freshman goalie Scott Santora made his collegiate debut, and a fine one it was, as he made 31 saves to beat Framingham State, 4-1, and was named SUNYAC Goaltender of the Week. Christian Christensen, Dave Braunstein, Bryan May, and Cameron scored for the Golden Eagles.
Brockport does the ECAC West this week, hosting Hobart and Utica.
Oswego shut out Johnson & Wales, 8-0, thanks to 66 shots on net. Sebastien Matte made his first start in net in over a year, and made the best of the opportunity coming up with 18 saves, including some key ones in the first period while the game was still close.
However, with that many shots, it wasn’t going to stay close for long. Oswego led 4-0 after one en route to the whitewashing. Mike Lukajic scored twice, and Don Patrick collected five assists. He leads the nation in that category with 23.
The next night, Oswego wiped out Wentworth, 9-1. Interestingly, with all the noise that Wentworth has made and the number of good teams it has beaten or tied, Oswego has had no problems against Wentworth as the Great Lakers won earlier in the year, 5-1.
Patrick got two goals and an assist, to up his point mark to 34, also tops in the country. Gary Bowman and Lukajic also got a pair of goals. Tyson Gajda made 18 saves for the win.
Oswego gets the weekend off before hosting Hamilton. The Great Lakers have to be careful not to look beyond Hamilton to the two-game series against RIT.
There was one other nonconference game which saw Plattsburgh defeat Williams, 5-1. Jeff Hopkins scored the final two goals to clinch the game after Peter Ollari, Jordan Smith, and Jason Kilcan gave the Cardinals a 3-0 first period lead. Tony Seriac got the win with 22 saves.
Wake Up, Bengals
Never wake a sleeping tiger, they say, but what about a Bengal? We’ll find out as Buffalo State finally returns for its first action in 2003 after a very long slumber. The Bengals play a pair of games at Milwaukee School of Engineering and then travel to Hobart.
The Featured Word: NYCHA
Okay, so it’s an acronym. Give me a break this time. I didn’t want to get into another car crash just to come up with The Featured Word …
NYCHA stands for the New York Collegiate Hockey Association, a league that existed within the ECAC West back when everybody and his brother belonged to the ECAC West. Old-timers lament the loss of those days, when everybody was together in one grand league setting up some super rivalries — before the SUNYAC split off, the New England schools went parochial, and the remaining teams struggled to keep the ECAC West afloat.
However, not everything was as rosy as some remember. There was no formal scheduling amongst the schools, resulting in oddball league records, controversy in using winning percentage to select the playoff teams, and the idea that the ECAC West was kind-of-sorta split into two “divisions.”
Take 1981-82 as an example. Although the teams constantly changed, the NYCHA consisted of the teams from New York State, essentially the teams that existed back then who now make up the SUNYAC and ECAC West.
Plattsburgh did not belong to the NYCHA, instead remaining in the “regular” portion of the ECAC West — finishing in first place — along with North Adams State (now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts), Norwich, Williams, Union, Westfield, Hamilton, and Middlebury.
The order I listed those teams was the order they finished that year. Yes, Middlebury was in last place.
The NYCHA consisted of (also in standings order) Oswego, RIT, Elmira, Potsdam, Cortland, the University of Buffalo (not to be confused with Buffalo State), Geneseo, and Brockport.
The teams played a schedule within the entire ECAC West, but the standings were kept separate for the two “divisions.” On top of that, not everyone played the same number of league games, so winning percentage was used for the standings. Then, to complicate matters even more, the top four from each division made the ECAC West playoffs despite the cockeyed scheduling.
This caused some problems, such as Union playing 23 ECAC West games (12-10-1) and Potsdam only playing 14 (8-5-1). Plus, Union beat Potsdam handily that year. However, Potsdam finished fourth in the NYCHA while Union, which did not belong in the NYCHA despite being a New York State school, finished fifth in the West, so Potsdam made the playoffs.
For those who are curious, the number of league games played ranged from a low of 12 (Geneseo) to a high of 25 (Norwich).
The icing on the cake for this crazy setup was after the teams made the playoffs just within their own division, all eight were clumped together for the postseason, ranked, and then paired off. Oswego was ranked number one, but was upset by Potsdam making its playoff debut, 6-5, with the winning goal coming 17 seconds into overtime, in one of the greatest games I have ever witnessed. Oswego still got an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.
Meanwhile, Plattsburgh cruised through the playoffs, beating Elmira (7-3), Potsdam (11-3), and North Adams State (14-3). The Cardinals then beat Babson (4-3,1-1) in the two-game NCAA quarterfinal series, Gustavus Adolphus (4-3) in the semifinals, before finally being stopped by Lowell in the championship game (6-1).
So, whether that system really was better, or we just like to recall it as the “good old days,” is open to debate. So though there’s no formal scheduling between the SUNYAC and the ECAC West today, there wasn’t back then either.
And with the number of games between the two conferences being scheduled these days, just enjoy the situation for what it is, and don’t worry about whether it was better or worse in another time.
NYCHA. It was interesting, but perhaps when recalling those days with a critical eye, it really wasn’t any better.
Game of the Week
There are a lot of good games this week. No argument there. However, is there really any doubt as to the game of the week?
Plattsburgh at RIT. How can it be any other?
The two perennial powers of the two conferences we’ve been talking about throughout this column have had some significant encounters over the years. In 1999, Plattsburgh won the RIT tournament by beating RIT. In 2001, RIT returned the favor in the Plattsburgh tournament.
In the NCAA playoffs, they have faced each other in epic battles. In the 2001 championship game, Plattsburgh took the title against previously unbeaten RIT in Rochester. The following year, these two squads clashed again at RIT, this time in the quarterfinals. Both games ended in a tie before Plattsburgh took the series in the mini-game. Back in 1998, Plattsburgh again eliminated RIT in the quarterfinals.
The coaches will be pumped. The players will be pumped. The fans will be pumped. And, if you are in the Rochester area and don’t go to the game, you’re crazy.