This Week in the SUNYAC: Feb. 13, 2003

Oswego Now The Team To Beat

Oswego is not in first place. It may not finish in first place.

However, the Great Lakers’ momentum continues to go up with every week of the 2002-03 season, and they have firmly established themselves as the early favorites to be crowned the SUNYAC champions when the playoffs are over.

The Great Lakers extended their winning streak to 10 with a North Country sweep, defeating Potsdam, 5-2, and Plattsburgh, 5-3.

In the first game, Oswego fell behind early on a goal by Mike Snow. Oswego turned the game around late in that period when Don Patrick and Matt Vashaw scored 50 seconds apart.

At that point, the Great Lakers took control of the game, though they wouldn’t feel comfortable until late in the second when Vashaw scored his second of the night. Jean-Simon Richard iced it early in the third, and after Mark Stewart scored a shorthanded goal for Potsdam, Vashaw finished the hat trick into an empty net.

The Bears were outgunned in the third period, and let frustration get the better of them as they spent a majority of the time a man down. Not the way to stage a comeback. And when they did have opportunities, which were very few, Tyson Gajda was there to answer them, making 13 saves in all for the win.

Next, Oswego had to prove it was indeed the team to beat in the league against Plattsburgh. Despite the Cardinals’ relatively poor season, reputation alone means you have to beat them to prove your worth, which is exactly what Oswego did.

It wasn’t easy, as Plattsburgh jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by David Friel and Ben Kemp. Then, like the night before, Oswego came back with two goals before the period was out by Tony DuFour, just 46 seconds after Kemp scored, and Mike Lukajic. Lukajic scored again in the second period for the 3-2 lead.

That was followed by three consecutive power play opportunities by Plattsburgh, but the Cardinals couldn’t do anything with them.

Oswego took it to the Cardinals in the third period, extending the lead when John Hirliman scored while shorthanded and Lukajic got the hat trick. Brendon Hodge got a meaningless power play goal for Plattsburgh with eight seconds left in the game. This time, Gajda had a little more work, needing 28 saves for the win.

Oswego’s goal will be to finish the season strong, even if it cannot get first place, to at least ensure a first-round bye. The magic number to do just that is two points — unless the Great Lakers finish in a tie with Geneseo, and considering they play the remainder of their games at home against the likes of Brockport, Geneseo, and Cortland, this should not be a difficult task.

Same Old Game Plan, Same Old Result

You have to hand it to Fredonia. The Blue Devils are sticking to their game plan, and it continues to work. The scary part is that this game plan is exactly what tends to be successful in the playoffs — play tight defense, rely on excellent goaltending, keep the game close, and take advantage of opportunities and mistakes to get the key goals you need to win the game.

This is what they did … again … this past week, beating Geneseo, 2-1, and Brockport, 3-1. Not many goals, but not many shots let up either.

The Blue Devils initially fell behind to Geneseo on a first period goal by Brian Avery. Fredonia finally got that back late in the second when Christian Fletcher scored, and then Fletcher did it again early in the third period on the power play for the win. Both goalies, Will Hamele for Fredonia and Brett Walker for Geneseo, made 18 saves.

The next night was no different. Fredonia again fell behind, this time in the second period on a power play goal by Nate VanKouwenberg. Then, as usual, the Blue Devils inched their way back in the lead on second period goals by Kevin Morse and Mike Fleming, and a third period clincher by Steve Greenburg.

With only 11 shots given up by his defense, Hamele only needed to make 10 saves for the win.

The Blue Devils have a bye but still need four points to clinch first — three depending on the tiebreaker situation — so they cannot relax in their final three games which aren’t that easy. They travel to Plattsburgh and Potsdam, before returning home against Buffalo State.

However, as long as they keep sticking to their same old game plan, most likely they will be getting the same old result.

The Streak Ends … In Style

It’s been a long time. Brockport’s SUNYAC winless streak stretched to 37 games back to February 15, 2000, before it finally won in a thrilling overtime victory over Buffalo State, 7-6. Counting the playoffs, that streak was 39 games.

At first, it looked like the Golden Eagles were going to find every way possible to let another game slip away. After jumping out to a 3-0 lead on a pair goals by Nick Smyth and one by Sean Wheeler, they saw Buffalo State come roaring back with three of its own — a pair by Greg Prybylski and one by Joe Urbanik.

Then, the see-saw really got kicked into action. Mark Digby gave Brockport the lead only to have Urbanik tie it up heading into the third. Digby again gave Brockport the lead followed up by another Golden Eagles’ goal by Christian Christensen.

The Bengals weren’t deterred, as they scored two of their own by Mark Yoder and Prybylski for the hat trick.

Into overtime they went, and once again it appeared that Brockport was going to find a way to lose when VanKouwenberg received a holding penalty, as well as a 10-minute misconduct for good measure. However, if you are going to end a very long winless streak, do it in style.

Kenny Daleo scored a shorthanded goal with a second left on the penalty to give Brockport the win it had been seeking for a very long time. Brian Tefft was a key figure in the victory, making 38 saves, including six in overtime.

Waddling In The Middle

The teams sitting in the middle of the standings fighting for home ice in the first round of the playoffs, continue to … well … just sit in the middle fighting for home ice in the first round of the playoffs. Nobody seems to be willing to make a move as Plattsburgh (and it sure sounds odd to have the Cardinals in this category), Geneseo, and Potsdam all split the weekend. Meanwhile, Cortland took itself out of contention for home ice, losing both games, but could still get fifth place, or worse, fall out of the playoffs altogether.

The final week of the season is always a tough one. You play the final weekend of games, then you follow that up with a game against your travel partner on Tuesday. If you are “lucky” enough to participate in the play-in round, you play two more games a few days later.

The key is to get hot in this very short stretch. Plattsburgh and Potsdam don’t have it easy as they have to play Fredonia as well as Buffalo State, fighting for its playoff life. Then, they get to play each other. It isn’t much easier for Geneseo, who plays Oswego, and another team scratching for the playoffs, Cortland. The Ice Knights do get to finish the season against Brockport, but it’s not a guaranteed win.

One thing is for sure, the winners will be the fans at these games.

The Featured Word: Anthem

As sports fans, we have heard the National Anthem countless times. In fact, if it wasn’t for sports, we probably would hardly know our own National Anthem, even during the most patriotic times. Therefore, we have heard good renditions, bad renditions, and downright ugly renditions. We have heard renditions that sent chills up our spines, made us proud to be Americans, and ones that left us wondering if they were lip-synched. We’ve heard people sing it, play it on every conceivable instrument, hum it, tap it, and who knows sometimes.

So, nothing should surprise us by now. That was until the other week before the Potsdam at Geneseo game when I saw junior Sonya Russell walk out on the ice with a saxophone. A saxophone? Sure, it’s a perfectly acceptable instrument, but for the National Anthem? No way could she pull this off. It’s just too difficult. I was willing to give her kudos for having guts.

Then, she started playing. Oh, what a beautiful, amazing, awe inspiring-rendition it was. Russell didn’t just pull it off, she excelled. Though she is on the softball team, Russell scored the hat trick. It was fantastic. So moved were the players, who usually spend that time thinking about the game shuffling their feet back and forth, both teams gave her an enthusiastic hockey salute by banging their sticks on the ice when she was finished.

If someone from the Sabres organization reads this, give her a call and book her for a game in Buffalo. Others deserve to hear this unique rendition.

Anthem. Just when you thought you heard every possible way to perform it, along come Sonya Russell and her saxophone.

Game of the Week

At this stage of the season, all games are important. Therefore, no one game really sticks out, but we’re going to pick the Geneseo at Oswego matchup.

Why? Well, for one we have to pick something. For another, the teams are separated by four points right now, and a win by Geneseo makes the fight for second place very interesting. And finally, this is the sort of game for both teams that is an excellent measuring stick.

Geneseo has displayed moments of greatness this season. What better time to finish the season off with a bang then against a team like Oswego?

Oswego has certainly been hot lately, but Geneseo is the type of team that can catch Oswego off guard if the Great Lakers are not paying attention. What better time to solidify your streak than against a team like Geneseo?

An interesting game all around.