This Week in the SUNYAC: Nov. 18, 2004

The Devil Is In The Details

I have no idea what a Blue Devil is (I’m much more familiar with the red ones), but a lot of the teams in the SUNYAC are finding out you don’t want to play one.

As the conference schedule takes a Thanksgiving holiday break, Fredonia finds itself in first place with a perfect 5-0 record. In fact, they’ve only lost one game this year, ironically to a fellow league team (Potsdam) in a non-conference contest.

This past weekend, Fredonia really set the league on notice when it defeated Plattsburgh, 5-2, in Stafford Arena no less. The first period was back and forth as Kyle Bozoian gave Fredonia the lead, but then two power play goals by Paul Kelly and Ryan Busby gave Plattsburgh the lead. Matt Zeman tied it back up while shorthanded.

After that, it was all Fredonia on the scoreboard. Kraig Kuzma gave them the lead for good, Bozoian got his second of the night, and Jim Gilbride wrapped things up in the third while a man down. Rick Cazares made 25 saves for the win.

The following night, Fredonia jumped all over Potsdam, opening a 5-0 lead on goals by Bozoian, Neal Sheehan, Joe Muli, Steve Greenberg, and Adam Haberman before losing the shutout on a shorthanded goal late in the game by Corey McAllister. Cazares was the winner again with 28 saves.

The Blue Devils completed the week defeating Buffalo State, 4-3. This one was a bit tougher. Fredonia fell behind 2-0 on goals by Greg Prybylski and Mike DeMarco. Chad Berman and Kuzma tied it up, but the Bengals once again took the lead thanks to Sean Burke. Fredonia got two goals in the third period by Max Catelin and Scott Bradley to escape with a win. Cazares made 26 saves.

What’s Fredonia’s secret? Nothing really. It’s called executing a simple game plan, hard work, and spreading the scoring around.

“We should take a page out of Fredonia’s book,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery told the Press-Republican. “Keep it simple and work hard. Hats off to them. They won the one-on-one battles and grinded it out.”

A lot of people talk about Fredonia “discovering” offense this year (4.80 goals per game is nothing to sneeze at), but they are still doing it with their classic “D.” In league play, the Blue Devils are tops with 2.20 goals allowed per game and number one in penalty kill at 92.3%. This despite the fact they are the second most penalized team, but a league leading four shorthanded goals can help offset that.

The critics, you know the ones who picked them to finish either fifth or seventh, are probably thinking can they keep it up, remembering the infamous collapse of 2003. They still have to play Oswego twice, but the next time they play Plattsburgh, it will be at home. Unfortunately, their nonconference schedule will not prepare them for any tough battles as they play St. Clair three times and Neumann twice before finally taking on RIT and two games against Utica.

Wake Up Call

The Geneseo Knights have awoken. Faced with the daunting possibility of falling to 0-4, Geneseo responded with a blowout win over Cortland and a wild upset victory against Oswego. All on the road. Most importantly, Brett Walker returned to the lineup.

The Cortland highlights included three players with a pair of goals (Steve Sankey, Mike MacDonald, and Mitch Stephens) and 21 saves by Walker.

With a hot offense, Geneseo rolled into Oswego and the two teams lit up the scoreboard with 15 goals. Amazingly, the game was scoreless after the first period. Take a deep breath as we quickly summarize the final two periods.

Geneseo’s Nick Onody scored the first goal. Oswego came back with a pair of power play tallies by Don Patrick and Ryan Woodward. Geneseo responded with two goals of their own, the first on a power play, by Jay Kuczmanski and MacDonald. The second period ended with Geneseo leading 3-2.

The third period was even wilder. Oswego scored three unanswered goals in the first 7:47, two of them on the power play, by Sean Kotary, Justin Perron, and Woodward. The game settled down for about five minutes before Geneseo struck quickly with two power-play goals in eight seconds. Mitch Stephens scored with two men up and Michel Bond got the more traditional man advantage goal.

The game was tied for two minutes. Jocelyn Dubord put Oswego back in front. However, in a game like this, there was too much time on the board for anyone to feel comfortable. With 1:18 left, MacDonald tied the game with his second of the night. MacDonald did it again for the hat trick with just 20 seconds left to win it for Geneseo.

All this scoring, and the shots were a modest 38-37 in favor of Geneseo.

The end result is Geneseo is right back in the race and Oswego lost a golden opportunity to solidify itself at the top of the standings.

Geneseo hosts Brockport this weekend, takes the Thanksgiving week off, then stays home to take on Plattsburgh and Potsdam. It’s the sort of leisurely schedule that could work in their favor. Take at least four points from those three games, and the Knights are in a good position for the second semester.

Meanwhile, Oswego has a tough road ahead. Literally. They play eight straight away games, starting with Cortland and ending with RIT which leads to another game against RIT at home. The key contest in all that will be their match up against Fredonia. This stretch (which includes such opponents as New England College, Williams, Hobart, and Curry) could make or break the Lakers’ season.

The Tournament Of The Year

It’s almost time for the Primelink Great Northern Shootout. The annual Thanksgiving Weekend tournament will be held at Middlebury this year. Potsdam faces Norwich while Plattsburgh takes on the defending national champions.

Though Norwich recently lost to Curry, Potsdam will have a tough time getting an upset. The Bears are struggling. They got back on their feet briefly with their first conference victory, 5-3, over Buffalo State, before losing to Fredonia. Their goaltending is in flux, the young defensive corps is still learning, and they continue to start games slowly. All ingredients a team like Norwich feeds on.

Despite Middlebury being ranked number one, Plattsburgh may have the edge here. The Panthers start their season late, and have in the past not done as well at the Primelink because of this. True, Plattsburgh has disappointed recently, losing two straight home games before ending the skid with a 5-3 victory over Buffalo State with Paul Kelly getting his first even strength goal after netting six power play tallies. However, the Cardinals are still a formidable team, and getting Middlebury early in their season could be just what the doctor ordered.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Plattsburgh got 60 shots on goal in their 5-3 victory over Buffalo State while letting up just 13 shots … Oswego got off 50 shots on goal in their 10-3 win over Brockport … Andy Rozak scored on a penalty shot in that game at 18:47 of the first period to make it 4-1 … The last time Plattsburgh lost two in a row at home was in the Fall of 1990 to RIT and Elmira … Plattsburgh has not lost three games in a row since the first three games in 1995 against Elmira, Princeton, and Oswego … Prior to that, Plattsburgh dropped the last three games of the season before (Fredonia in the SUNYAC finals and two to Middlebury in the NCAA Quarterfinals) thus adding up to a six game losing streak, their longest in school history … There must be something in the air at Maxcy Hall as both Potsdam games took just two hours each to play.

Be Thankful

With the NHL on a seemingly endless lockout, there is still college hockey. That is something to be very thankful for as we count our blessings while stuffing ourselves with turkey.

We’ll be taking a holiday break, so I’ll be back in two weeks.

I Don’t Get It

Polls. It’s not like I don’t get polls. They are what they are — fun and fodder for spirited discussions.

It’s the reactions to polls that I don’t get. There is only one poll in all the land that means anything, and that’s the Division I-A college football poll. And even that one has been superceded by the BCS, though it does use the two opinion polls in its calculations. Other than that one, every other sport has a playoff system rendering the polls completely useless. Heck, even the voters don’t always spend a lot of time on it.

Before writing this column tonight, I was flipping through the channels and came upon ESPN‘s college basketball pregame show. Former Utah basketball coach, Rick Majerus, talked about how seriously the voters sometimes took their jobs, “If I had a Philly cheese steak that day, I would vote for a team from Philadelphia.”

Therefore, I don’t get why some fans still don’t understand the polls are not used at all to select the playoff teams. I don’t get when schools insist on issuing a press release just because they are in the “others receiving votes” category. I don’t understand why fans get all worked up because their favorite team is not ranked as high as they think it should be or the team they love to hate is overrated.

Just take the poll for what it is, like this week’s poll. Looking over it, I see that Middlebury is ranked number one without playing a game. That’s pretty stupid. Just because Fredonia wasn’t ranked before, they are only 12th despite being 6-1-1. Talk about moronic! And how in the world does Elmira get any votes at all when they are .500?! What are these people, freaking idiots?! I mean for crying out loud … what was that … oh … well … um …

Never mind.

Game of the Week

Since we already talked about the Primelink, let’s pick something else. How about Elmira at Plattsburgh. You can’t go wrong when these two rivals with so much history between them go at it. Throw the records out; this promises to be an exciting and emotional game.