This Week in the SUNYAC: Jan. 30, 2003

Third Period A Charm

Domination of the third period allowed Oswego and Buffalo State to sweep weekend series against RIT and Neumann, respectively.

Oswego came into the home-and-home series against RIT looking to see where it measured up.

“RIT has always been a barometer for a lot of programs,” Oswego coach George Roll said.

The Great Lakers measured up just fine, coming away with two victories, 5-2 and 7-3.

The first game in Rochester saw Oswego jump out to a 2-0 lead within 52 seconds after a scoreless first period on goals by Mike Lukajic and John Hirliman.

RIT cut the lead by one early in the third, but Lukajic’s countered that with his second of the night. RIT again cut the lead by one. Despite some poor judgment penalties by the Great Lakers, they were able to hold on, getting two empty-net goals by Rob Smith and Mark Strzoda for the final score.

Tyson Gajda was superb in net, helping Oswego kill off five of six RIT power plays, making 27 saves in all.

“I thought we did a great job against perhaps the best power play in the country,” Roll said.

They did the same the next night in Oswego, allowing just one extra-man goal in five attempts. However, the scoring started out with RIT getting a shorthanded goal before Smith tied it up. RIT again took the lead just before the first period ended, but Smith again tied it up. RIT came back to take a 3-2 lead into the third.

That was when Oswego simply blew away RIT, scoring five unanswered goals and outshooting RIT 14-7. Andy Rozak, John Hirliman, Matt Vashaw, Mike Lukajic, and Jean-Simon Richard all scored.

The momentum shift in the third got started when Gajda made a spectacular — and somewhat lucky — save that pumped his teammates up to get the steamroll going with Rozak’s shorthanded goal. In all, Gajda made 25 saves.

Oswego is the best SUNYAC team outside the conference, one of the hottest teams in the country at 13-1-1 in its last 15 games, and its impressive sweep of RIT propelled it into fifth in the USCHO.com poll.

Meanwhile, in the other sweep for a SUNYAC team, Buffalo State took two at home from Neumann. However, Neumann put a scare into the Bengals on the first night and an outright fright the second. Both times, Neumann opened up first-period leads, hinting at a possible upset.

The first night, Neumann assembled a 2-0 lead before Buffalo State took a 3-2 edge on a pair of goals by Dave Cadarette and a tally by Joe Urbanik. Neumann wouldn’t give up, tying the game midway through the second.

The Bengals then scored six straight goals before Neumann got a consolation score near the end. Urbanik ended up with the hat trick, while Jason Sirois, Sean Mask, and Dan Vogel also scored. Nick Berti made 27 saves for the win.

The next night nearly saw Neumann pull that upset SUNYAC fans feared. The Knights had a 3-0 lead after the first period. However, the Bengals were able to slowly make their way back eventually taking a 4-3 lead on goals by Morgan McElman, Cadarette, Ricardo Hernandez, and Brian Janke.

Neumann wouldn’t back down, tying the game on a power-play goal. Urbanik scored his fourth on the weekend on the power play to give Buffalo State the win. Berti played the first period, making nine saves, but was relieved by Steve Thering, who got the win with 14 saves.

Fredonia Still A Bust Outside SUNYAC

The Blue Devils didn’t do anything to prove their worth in nonconference games as they dropped another, this time to Utica, 4-1. Fredonia scored first in the game after 32-plus minutes of scoreless hockey on a goal by Max Catelin.

However, unlike Oswego and Buffalo State, it was the opposition that dominated the third period as Utica scored four times for the win. Will Hamele was in net, taking the loss with 29 saves.

Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said, “We’re excited to get back into SUNYAC play.” In more ways than one.

Meanwhile, the other SUNYAC teams didn’t fare much better. Brockport lost to Hobart, 5-1. The lone Golden Eagles goal was scored by Nate VanKouwenberg in the third period after the team was already down, 3-1. Brian Tefft faced a flurry of shots, managing to stop 58 of them.

Plattsburgh also only managed a single tally for a loss to Middlebury, 6-1, in a disappointing performance. The Cardinals’ goal was scored by Jeff Hopkins, which at the time gave Plattsburgh the lead midway through the first period.

Last week, Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery was upset with his team’s performance. This week he was downright furious.

“A big problem is that our so-called big players haven’t done a thing the second semester,” he told the Press Republican. “We’ve had guys who are nonexistent. There are no All-Americans on this team right now.”

Back To League Play, With A Vengeance

In the past, as the SUNYAC teams headed into their second half of conference play, there would still be an occasional nonleague game here and there. Not this year. From here on out, it’s all about the SUNYAC. There won’t be a single nonconference game till the national playoffs.

That means we can get back to talking about Fredonia’s five-point lead, the logjam for second place, and the fight for the last two playoff spots.

Nobody can take any game for granted or afford to have an off night.

Fredonia certainly has the edge, but four of its next six games are on the road. That doesn’t have Meredith too worried, “On the road, we can play a little simpler type of game. Our goal is to just try to reach our potential every day.”

The Blue Devils travel to Oswego in what will be a huge game, and then Cortland. Cortland has had a lot of time to rest, but that doesn’t necessarily please Tom Cranfield.

“We don’t like to have a lot of time off,” he said. However, he planned to take advantage of the time. “We got to use the time to improve in our defensive zone where we’ve been weak all year.”

With Oswego’s big weekend sweep, is Roll concerned about a letdown? “No, I think this gives us momentum. We know our way to the NCAA is through the SUNYAC,” he said.

In other key matchups, Plattsburgh plays at Geneseo, two teams tied for that second spot. Then Potsdam comes into town to play the Ice Knights, a game that could either play a major role in who hosts a first round playoff series or whether the Bears will be fighting for their playoff lives.

Let’s not forget the Buffalo State at Cortland battle with just one point separating these teams from the playoffs or starting up golf early.

Perhaps the most fun all weekend will be seeing how Plattsburgh performs. Another dull effort may have Emery taking shots of Pepto-Bismol.

Stats Fun

Let’s take this moment before the second half of SUNYAC play starts up to look at some statistics.

  • On the national scene, Oswego’s Don Patrick sits third in scoring with 2.11 points per game (10-28–38 in 18 games), and Geneseo’s Michel Bond sits fifth in the rookie standings with 1.33 (5-15–20 in 15 games).
  • Will Hamele has the 10th best GAA in the country at 2.09.
  • Oswego has the 7th best offense (5.61 goals scored per game) and the third best power play (32.3% success rate), Plattsburgh is fifth on the power play at 30.5%, Fredonia has the third best defense (2.00 goals allowed per game), and Cortland is the 6th most penalized team with 25.9 PIM per game.

The Featured Word: Lobotomy

I have this theory. I have had this theory for a very long time. Folks who know me have heard this before.

I believe that all hockey players have had a lobotomy. Seriously. How else can you explain some of the downright stupid things hockey players do? Sure, every sport has guys who do stuff that cause their coaches to prematurely attain gray hair. But, nowhere is it done on such a consistent basis as in hockey.

Take this past Friday’s Oswego at RIT game. With Oswego clinging — and I mean clinging — onto a one-goal lead as RIT was pressing, players fell behind the net. Instead of just getting up and moving on, Oswego’s Tony DuFour decides to punch the RIT player before getting up, with the ref standing right above them. Did DuFour think that the ref was going to close his eyes? Was it really necessary to take a swing at him in this situation?

But wait, there’s more. Still clinging onto a one-goal lead, with under five minutes to go, Mark Strzoda is hit by an RIT player. He may have felt it was a bit of a dirty hit, so he decides to take a run at the player. Right in front of the referee. Naturally, he got called for a penalty. It could have been called a lot of things, in this case it was elbowing. One goal lead, less than five minutes, and Strzoda couldn’t swallow his pride for the sake of the team and move on?

Of course not for both situations. It is hard to think correctly when you have a lobotomy.

Now, I’m not picking on these two players in particular. It happens all over hockey on every level in every rink. These are just two examples of a pattern that cannot simply be explained away without a valid root cause.

So convinced I am of this theory, that I believe in Canada — where hockey is life — doctors ask all the parents after just giving birth, “Do you want your child to be a hockey player?”

If they answer in the affirmative, they perform a lobotomy. And if the parents also would like their male child to be circumcised, then they get the 2-for-1 special. Social medicine has its advantages in the Great White North.

Lobotomy. How else can you explain the common occurrence of hockey players behaving as if they lost their mind?

Game of the Week

This one is an easy pick for me — Fredonia at Oswego. We’ve criticized Fredonia’s play outside of the league, but the fact is, they have always got their act together when the games really count. Thus, the 7-0 record halfway through league play. A win, and the Blue Devils have easy sailing the rest of the season.

Meanwhile, Oswego has been hot, and more importantly, been improving with every game. They are five points behind Fredonia — a loss will virtually eliminate their chances for first place while a win will get them right back into the thick of things.

A big, big game for both teams, as well as for other teams in the league, as this contest also plays a major role in determining the fates of others down the stretch.

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