This Week in the SUNYAC: Feb. 6, 2003

The Two Sides Of Special Teams

Geneseo experienced both sides of the fence last weekend when it came to special teams. Friday, it used the power play to upset Plattsburgh, while Saturday the power play was silenced despite plenty of opportunities against Potsdam.

Geneseo defeated Plattsburgh, 4-3, thanks to two late, quick power-play goals by Nick Onody. Previous to that, the game see-sawed back and forth, each time Plattsburgh taking the lead only to have Geneseo tie it up. This set the stage for the double whammy with Plattsburgh leading, 3-2.

The Cardinals committed two penalties a minute apart. The first one was reasonable — Bryan North hauled down a Geneseo player who would have had a breakaway. The second one sent Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery into a tizzy — Jordan Smith slashed a player at center ice for no reason (remember our Featured Word last week?). It was Smith’s second slashing, and third penalty, of the night. Emery immediately sent Smith off the ice.

This allowed Onody to score with the two-man advantage and then again 46 seconds later to give the Ice Knights the lead. Geneseo got itself into a hole by committing a penalty with about a minute left, and with Plattsburgh pulling the goalie, it became a two-man advantage. However, the other side of Geneseo’s special teams rose to the occasion with help from excellent goaltending by Brett Walker, who wound up with 36 saves for the game.

The next night, the tide was reversed. This time it was Potsdam’s penalty-killing unit and excellent goaltending from Ryan Venturelli that frustrated Geneseo. So effective were the Bears that Geneseo didn’t score on a two-man advantage for two minutes when it had the puck in the Potsdam zone the entire time without a single whistle. To rub salt in the wound, Geneseo had a 6-on-3 for the final half minute, and Potsdam held the Ice Knights off.

The Mikes — Taylor and Snow — scored the goals for Potsdam in the 2-1 victory, sandwiched around a Michel Bond score. Venturelli made 37 saves.

Venturelli also played a solid game the night before, shutting out Brockport, 6-0, with 30 saves. Venturelli has now given up one goal in the last 129:21 of play. The sweep by Potsdam not only broke a seven-game losing streak, but kept it in the middle of the SUNYAC battle in fifth place, two points behind third.

Potsdam will have to make do without two players who left during the semester break. One of its top defenseman, Jim Quilty, decided to leave school to try out for Lexington in the East Coast League. Freshman Eric Peter-Kaiser, who made a mark in his first semester, left to make a movie. He may return next year.

Fredonia Beaten, Oswego Stays Hot

The rest of the league can thank Oswego from preventing the second-half fight for first place from being virtually over after just one game, as the Lakers shut out Fredonia, 2-0.

Oswego used defense and goaltending to beat Fredonia at its own game. A quick goal by Gary Bowman, 32 saves by Tyson Gajda, and a late goal to seal it by Jocelyn Dubord, allowed Oswego to pull within three points of the top spot.

The Lakers kept on rolling the next night, blowing out Buffalo State, 9-3. However, it was close for a while, as Oswego was down 1-0 and 3-2 before scoring seven unanswered goals, six of them in the third period. Bowman and Mike Lukajic led the scoring with a pair of goals each.

The Lakers take their eight-game winning streak on the dreaded North Country trip. First up is Potsdam followed by arch rivals Plattsburgh. Will Oswego make the mistake of overlooking its Friday night opponent thinking about the Cardinals?

Not according to coach George Roll. “Even though Plattsburgh is a big rival, we know we can’t think that going into Potsdam because we know they are a good team,” he said. “We have to be up for every game.”

Glenn Thomaris’ strategy to beat Oswego will be very similar to Fredonia’s. “Obviously, we have to be at the top of our game,” he said. “We have to keep them off the board early. We have to make them press.”

Plattsburgh, Fredonia Rebound

Both Plattsburgh and Fredonia were able to put first-night losses behind them and come back to win on Saturday.

For Plattsburgh, it was a rarity — a must-win game against a last place team. The Cardinals didn’t disappoint, and more importantly, allowed their coach to relax … a bit. Plattsburgh routed Brockport, 7-2, getting off 71 shots on net. Everyone participated as seven different players scored. Curtis Cribble only needed to make 16 saves for the win.

Meanwhile, Fredonia didn’t allow its first league loss of the season get it down, but surprisingly got involved in a shootout, beating Cortland, 6-4.

Cortland led 1-0 and 3-1 on goals by Bill Zaika, Kevin Watters, and Kyle Coletti. Then, Fredonia got into gear, and scored three straight goals, including two by Max Catelin, to take a 4-3 lead. Cortland’s Jason Wilson very quickly tied the game only to have Christian Fletcher retake the lead. Mike Fleming added an empty netter to put the game away. Will Hamele made 28 saves for the win.

That loss by Cortland prevented the Red Dragons from gaining ground after they defeated Buffalo State on Friday, 8-4. Eight different Red Dragons scored and John Larnerd made 32 saves. It was a key win as that moved Cortland three points ahead of Buffalo State for the last playoff spot. It won’t get easy though, as Cortland has to travel to Plattsburgh and Potsdam, while Buffalo State hosts Brockport and Geneseo. The Bengals may be able to inch back towards Cortland after this weekend is over.

Fredonia also hosts the Finger Lakes teams of Geneseo and Brockport in a weekend when the Blue Devils cannot afford to squander away any points. They need to head into the following North Country weekend maintaining at least a three point lead, otherwise, first place is up for grabs again.

The Featured Word: Space

I grew up during the Space Age. I remember as kids we ran around the neighborhood shouting, “The Eagle has landed!” knowing full well the ramifications of those words. I remember my parents keeping us up long past our bedtime playing Monopoly, so we could watch the most historic step in human history. When Neil Armstrong stepped on the Moon, anything seemed possible.

Folks older than I tell how they knew without a doubt that America would successfully fulfill President Kennedy’s challenge of landing a man on the Moon and bringing him safely back to Earth before the end of the decade. America accomplished that task in eight years during the greatest social upheaval since the Civil War. Sometimes, I wonder where that can-do spirit has gone.

Like sports, there is always another day. I am amazed every time I talk to coaches of teams that rest in last place struggling for a win. They always look to the next game as a fresh start fully confident that they can get the job done. They get knocked down again … and sometimes again and again … but they keep coming back with all the zeal of a first place team.

It saddened me watching the horror of Columbia plummeting to Earth in pieces. It saddens me even more listening to all those wishing to give up on the space program. Do we need to make adjustments and change game plans? Perhaps, just like hockey teams will change their strategy during a game or a season.

But they keep playing. They don’t pack it in.

What would have happened if Queen Isabella listened to those who felt it was foolhardy to fund Christopher Columbus on his voyage? What would have happened if Thomas Jefferson listened to those who said it was a waste of money to fund the Lewis and Clark expedition? The list is endless.

If we ever stop exploring, then we as a species have stopped living, and merely exist, like any other animal.

Space. It may be the Final Frontier, but we are far from done exploring our limits.

Game of the Week

Oswego at Plattsburgh. No matter what happens the night before, this game most likely will determine whether Plattsburgh has a chance for a first-round bye, whether Oswego can concentrate on catching Fredonia instead of worrying about who is coming up behind, or whether we once again take the second- through sixth-place teams, shuffle them together, and roll the dice.