This Week in the SUNYAC: Nov. 11, 2004

The Good

The first full weekend of conference play is behind us, so let’s look at some of the highlights that came out of it and some early trends to keep your eyes on.

Oswego, which started last season on a hot streak (9-0-3 to be exact) has once again started the year out sizzling. They were a bit lackluster with two ties against an Elmira team that seems well past their dominating days, but the Lakers showed their stuff with two powerful performances in the North Country, upping their overall record to 4-0-2.

First, it was a dissection of the Bears in Potsdam, 7-2. The game was tied after one at one and 2-2 early in the second, but then the Lakers scored the next five goals to leave no doubt.

As if that wasn’t dominating enough, Oswego defeathered the Cardinals in Plattsburgh, 5-2, ending Plattsburgh’s 19-game regular season SUNYAC unbeaten streak. After surviving a first period where they were outshot 22-6 but up 1-0, Oswego took a 4-2 lead after two periods. Then, they firmly put a choke hold on the game by outshooting Plattsburgh in the third, 17-3, and scoring an insurance goal for good measure. When was the last time a visiting team treated Plattsburgh that badly?

This may have been one of the most dominating weekends for Oswego in a long time. Which makes the upcoming weekend ever so important. Avoiding a letdown, even at home, is something coach Ed Gosek must have on his mind. Especially when you lead off against Brockport, which is anything but a pushover these days, and then Geneseo, which despite their record can still be a dangerous team.

Perhaps even more on Gosek’s mind is to make sure this hot start does not hit the bump in the middle of the season like last year. This is something to keep an eye on.

Individually, Oswego has to be happy with the play of newcomer Tony DiNunzio who leads the team with 10 points on three goals and seven assists. Then there’s senior Jean-Simon Richard with six goals, second in the nation.

Another good from this past weekend was Fredonia. The Blue Devils have gotten off to a strong start at 4-1-1, and cruised through their first pair of conference games, making a lot of prognosticators looking like fools.

After a tight first period which say Fredonia leading Geneseo, 1-0, then down 2-1, then tied at two, Fredonia scored the next three goals over the remaining periods for a 5-2 win. The next night, Fredonia halted a surprising Brockport team, 5-3. Fredonia led 2-0, fell behind 3-2, then went back on top 5-2 before letting up a final goal.

It’s not so much that Fredonia is doing well, it’s how they are doing it — with offense. They are scoring goals, lots of them. Couple that with defense — they let up just one power play goal in 25 attempts over the weekend — and the Blue Devils just might be returning to glory. Those are two trends to definitely pay attention to.

Oh, and let’s not forget that for the second time in three weeks, one of their goalies was honored by the SUNYAC. First it was Rob Stanley and now it’s Rick Cazares. Did Jeff Meredith keep his team under the radar screen when everyone was predicting the upcoming season? Only time will tell. And that telling time will come very soon as Fredonia faces off against Plattsburgh and then Potsdam.

Buffalo State should also be considered in the good category. They came out of the weekend with three points. First they tied Brockport, 4-4, in a game that seemed destined to be tied. Each team scored a goal in the first period, each team scored twice in the second, and each team notched one in the final period. Shots were nearly identical, 35-34 in favor of Brockport and tied 2-2 in the overtime period. However, considering that the Bengals led 1-0, 3-1, and 4-3, they probably feel they let a point get away.

Nonetheless, Buffalo State had to have been happy after thrashing Geneseo, 6-3. The Bengals opened up a 4-0 lead which was enough to hold onto this time. For a team that started the year out expecting to fight for a playoff spot, they may just be thinking about reaching for a home berth in the first round. Now, there is something to keep an eye on.

The key to this trend will be this weekend when the Bengals travel up north. If they can avoid looking ahead and take care of business over a slow starting Potsdam squad, who knows what that momentum can do against Plattsburgh. Even a close loss in Stafford can have the Bengals feeling confident as the season wears on.

The Bad

Geneseo or Potsdam? Take your pick. Both teams are having miserable starts.

Geneseo lost two games it quite frankly should have won when you consider the expectations coming into the year. The Knights went 0-for-11 on the power play against Fredonia in their 5-2 loss. They led 2-1, but then let up four unanswered goals, the final into an empty net. They scored only one power play goal in their 6-3 loss to Buffalo State. Derek Jokic played both games in net as Brett Walker sits out with an injury.

Even though they are 3-2-1, all three wins did not come against strong opposition, and the tie was with Neumann. This is not an Ice Knights team that many expected to make the top teams fight for their wins.

It doesn’t get easy for Geneseo. They travel to Cortland, who may be inconsistent but when they are on, they play very well, and a red hot Oswego team.

Meanwhile, Potsdam has opened up the season at 1-5, and the Bears are letting up a lot of goals, 28 so far. The young defense that Glenn Thomaris has brought in is not gelling, yet, and that has to be a concern. After losing to Oswego, they dropped a 4-3 decision to Cortland. However, they were outshot 44-32 and were down 4-1. Their last goal came too late in the waning seconds to make a game of it.

The Bears’ only bright spot so far has been the expected good play from Ryan McCarthy who leads the team with four goals and the early fulfillment of freshman T.J. Sakaluk, also with four goals. Adam Gebrara is also doing what he was expected to do, leading the team with six assists and along with three goals leads in points.

Potsdam does get to stay home, but it first faces Buffalo State. The Bengals, who always gives Potsdam fits, this time comes in playing good hockey. Fredonia is next. Despite the Blue Devils being Potsdam’s only victim this year, Fredonia is also playing very well, and getting stronger each game.

Both Geneseo and Potsdam could conceivably lose two more games this weekend. That is something that neither can afford, because if they do in a season where the perennial cellar dwellers are anything but, they will have a huge hole to dig themselves out of.

The Ugly

There is of course the tennis ball incident, but I’ll save that for later in this column.

How about my pick of Fredonia to finish in seventh place? Now, that’s pretty ugly. Here is a team that has two solid goaltenders, is starting to score lots of goals, an average of nearly five a game, has a power play percentage of 21.3, a decent penalty kill at 86.1, and leads the nation with four shorthanded goals.

What was I thinking?

It can get pretty ugly if you take a penalty against Plattsburgh. That’s because Paul Kelly has five goals, all of them on the power play. That leads the nation, and he’s only played three games.

Thank You

As I write this on Veterans Day, I want to give my heartfelt thanks to all you veterans who served our country and enable me to do what I can do in freedom.

For those of you currently serving, a huge thank you and be safe.

I Don’t Get It

I don’t like fanatics. Not at all. Even when they are on my side.

That’s because you can’t reason with a fanatic. They are so hell bent on their belief that they become downright dangerous. And a real pain in the backend. Essentially, they have no social skills and become completely consumed by their obsession to the point where they are useless to society.

Ironically, when it comes to sports, I live up to the true definition of what a “fan” is short for — fanatic. As a third generation diehard Yankees fan, my feelings towards the Red Sox finally winning the World Series coincides with the headline in the Daily News, “See You In 2090!”

It’s impossible for me to talk reasonably after a Jets lose, I go into deep depression when the Rangers lose a playoff round (of course, I have trouble remembering far enough back to when they were actually in the playoffs), and if you talk racing with me and mention Tony George, I’ll rip your head off.

With that being said, it’s hard to argue with Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery when he told the Press-Republican “I’m getting prepared to play with no fans in the building.”

That’s because the tennis ball “tradition” has now run amok. When the fans thought Plattsburgh scored their first goal, the tennis balls came raining down on the ice. However, Oswego made the save.

After Oswego’s third goal, something was thrown on the ice, and Plattsburgh suffered the consequences — a delay of game penalty. Plattsburgh survived that power play.

When the Cardinals did indeed score their first goal, more balls came flying from the stands. Another delay of game penalty was awarded. It helped kill Plattsburgh’s momentum and ended a power play the Cardinals would have still been on.

Now granted, Oswego opened up a 3-0 lead, and Plattsburgh did score again after its first goal to cut the lead to 3-2. So, perhaps in reality, the fan interference didn’t play a part in this particular game. However, it is still fans playing a role in the outcome of a game.

Will Oswego fans not learn the lessons of the Plattsburgh fans and continue to stick with the bagel throwing “tradition” when these two teams meet at Romney? If so, talk about dumb and dumber.

College basketball used to have this problem with fans throwing confetti onto the court after their team scored their first points. That was eventually eradicated with severe rules punishing the home team and active security throwing out the offending fans.

Why doesn’t that approach start being implemented in college hockey before we have a Bartman incident?

I don’t get it.

Game of the Week

It may be early in the season, but a lot of teams are at a crossroad right now. One team I’m really interested in seeing how they do this weekend is Fredonia. And no game will highlight that as much as its contest against Plattsburgh. It’s the Blue Devils’ chance to make a statement while Plattsburgh needs that game to rebound after its poor effort against Oswego, and get things back in order.