This Week in the SUNYAC: Dec. 9, 2004

Déjà Vu All Over Again

This looks familiar. At the midway point of conference play, Fredonia is 7-0 in first place. Just like two years ago, and everybody remembers what happened in the second half of that season. So, will this year be the same?

“These days compared to those days is like apples and oranges,” said Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith.

He has good reason displaying confidence. That reason is offense. This year’s team has some where the team of two years ago did not.

“Back then, we had to do it defensively and rely on [Will] Hamele to steal a game or two,” Meredith said. “We haven’t called on our goalies to steal a game.”

The stats bear that out. The most telling is the leading scorers. In 2002-03, after the entire season, the two leading scorers had 23 points — Erik Hlavaty in 25 games and Mike Fleming in 26 games. This year, after just 11 games, the leading scorer, Matt Zeman, already has 22 points.

Back then, the team scored 2.92 goals per game while this year that is way up to 4.82. Interestingly, the shots on goal per game are virtually identical, 32.0 versus 32.7, respectively, which shows that it’s not an increase in chances, but rather the fact the players are converting this year.

With facts like that, Meredith has every reason to state the obvious, “Our depth up front is so much deeper. We just didn’t score many points back then.”

However, don’t be fooled. That doesn’t mean defense and goaltending have taken a vacation.

“They believe in their system,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said of Fredonia. “I think their system works when they have good goaltending.”

And that good goaltending is coming from Rick Cazares, who for the third time this year was named the SUNYAC Goalie of the Week. He has completely taken over the starting job, playing in nine of the team’s 11 games, with a 2.75 GAA and .895 save pct. The transfer from Division I Michigan Tech has certainly been a huge addition to the Fredonia lineup.

Fredonia survived another test this past weekend by defeating a strong Oswego team, 3-2. It looked rosy for the Blue Devils after the first two periods as Chad Berman gave them a 2-0 lead with a goal in each period. Then, came the third.

“We played as solid a forty minutes as we could play in the first two periods,” Meredith said. “But, we didn’t handle the two goal lead very well.”

That’s when it was Oswego’s Paul Perrier’s turn to score two goals and tie it up. Fredonia escaped, though, with a win thanks to a flukish Evan DiValentino goal with 43 seconds left. Lucky? Perhaps. But, no matter how good a team is, they all rely on a little bit of luck when running the table. Plus, good teams make their own luck, especially those that match goal scoring with excellent goaltending and solid defense.

Gosek said what many are now feeling, “Teams overlooked them.”

Wishing There Was An Infield Fly Rule

The dump in came from center ice in the last minute of the game. A high fly. It bounced in front of Oswego’s goalie, Ryan Scott, took a right hand turn, and rolled in just inside the post. It was the winning goal, and the Lakers were stunned as Fredonia won a key game.

Gosek was philosophical about it. “We didn’t play well the first two periods,” he said. “We played well in the third. We shouldn’t have been in that situation.”

With Plattsburgh floundering, Oswego would have been expected to lead the league. Instead, they come to the halfway point at 5-2, tied with Geneseo for second place, four points behind Fredonia.

“We’re pleased with 9-2-2 [overall],” Gosek said. “The guys have played hard. We’ve played pretty solid all 13 games. We’re going to make mistakes. Overall, I’m pleased.”

Oswego is also in the middle of an eight-game road swing. However, Gosek did add, “Would we like a better record? Sure.”

Oswego did rebound from the fluke goal to work towards a better record with a 5-3 win over Buffalo State. Oswego jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Trevor Gilligan and Gary Bowman, then after Buffalo State’s Mike DeMarco scored, got two more goals by Jocelyn Dubord and Ryan Woodward. The Bengals hung tough by scoring twice to cut the lead to one before the second period ended thanks to Ryan Conroy and Sean Castagna. Andy Rozak clinched the game late in the third period.

This time, Brett Leonhardt was in goal and made 22 saves. There was no need to invoke the infield fly rule or call for a fair catch.

The Return of Brett

Geneseo’s strategy is simple — put Brett Walker in net, and then go out and score some goals. Since Walker has returned from an injury, the Knights are 5-0, and with a 5-2-0 league record, are tied for second place, but they hold the tie-breaker over Oswego.

This past weekend saw two totally different games, but each were saved by Brett Walker with some big saves. First, they defeated Plattsburgh, 3-2.

Michel Bond gave Geneseo a 1-0 lead on a power play goal, then Jordan Smith tied it on a shorthanded tally. The Ice Knights scored two in a row — Trent Cassan and Jay Kuczmanski — to take a 3-1 lead. Plattsburgh got one back early in the third, but despite some strong pressure, couldn’t find a way to beat Walker who ended up with 22 saves.

The next night saw a relatively sane game turn into a wild affair by the third period. Geneseo held a 4-2 lead over Potsdam after the second period, and held on for a 9-6 win after nine goals were scored in the final period. Kuczmanski led the way with a hat trick and two assists for five points on the night.

Geneseo went five for nine on the power play, but let up two shorthanded goals. The last one was when they were up by two men with 1:12 left which cut the lead to 7-6. Nonetheless, Walker made the saves when it counted in the first two periods.

Despite the recent success, Geneseo coach Brian Hills admits there is some work to be done. “We gave up six goals,” he said after the Potsdam game. “Last night against Plattsburgh we just gave up two. I think we still have a number of things to work on.”

However, after their game against RIT on Saturday, they have a long period of inactivity. “The problem is now you take a break after December 11, and we don’t come back till January 2,” Hills said. “So you go another wave of training camp in the first couple of weeks in January.”

Losing Flight

What’s going on with the Plattsburgh Cardinals? Have they become nothing more than chicken wings?

Halfway through the season, they are mired halfway down the SUNYAC standings, in fourth place at 4-3-0. Overall, they are only at .500 (5-5-0).

Like Fredonia of two years ago, Plattsburgh is having trouble scoring, despite 3.60 goals per game overall and 3.86 in league play. However, take away the nine goal outburst in their last game against Brockport, and those averages drop to 3.00 in both categories.

Their latest woes came against Geneseo, losing 3-2. The next day, Plattsburgh did finally break out with a 9-0 shellacking of Brockport. Jamie Wright and Smith led the way with two goals each. Tony Seariac registered the shutout with 18 saves.

The slow start has baffled coach Bob Emery who was not upset with his team’s efforts in the Geneseo game. They played hard and created chances, but couldn’t beat Brett Walker.

However, when a team has the likes of Dave Friel, Paul Kelly, Ben Kemp, Smith, Dave Young, Ryan Busby, and Bryan North, amongst many other talented skaters, don’t expect the Cardinals not to regain their wings. Anyone who thinks otherwise will be in for rude awakening in the second semester.

The Cardinals take a long break before their annual Cardinal Classic at the end of the year. It’s a break they could probably use before beginning the season anew in their own tournament.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Potsdam coach Glen Thomaris won his 300th game against Brockport currently giving him a career mark of 300-158-18 … Oswego and Buffalo State traded goals in the second period 26 seconds apart and then later in the period traded goals 20 seconds apart … Since losing the first game of the season, Fredonia has not lost … Since going 3-0 to start the season, Brockport has won one game in the subsequent eleven … Buffalo State has lost seven in a row … The Oswego at Fredonia game is listed as a sellout with 812 spectators while the Cortland at Fredonia game is also listed as a sellout, but with 958 spectators, an 18% increase in what’s considered a sellout.

I Don’t Get It

Bandwagon fans. Now, there is something I don’t get.

Apparently, fans were all over Bob Emery during his weekly radio show in Plattsburgh. It’s always interesting that fans of the most successful teams are the first to run for the sharp objects when a hiccup occurs.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a little criticism or even concern when the season isn’t going as well as many expected. However, there is no need to suddenly think the sky is falling.

Plattsburgh fans need to take a look at what the Geneseo men’s soccer team did this year. They started the year out at 3-2 (and soccer has a shorter season than hockey), and then went on a roll that saw them go all the way to the national semifinals.

When you have talent, all you need is to get hot at the right time, peak for the playoffs, go on a mini-run, and the next thing you know you won the SUNYAC and are heading for the NCAAs.

Can Plattsburgh do this? Maybe. Maybe not. But, they are capable of it. And if they do, I hope all the fans who broke their leg jumping off the bandwagon, don’t break their other one jumping back on.

Game of the Week

Just a sprinkling of non-conference games this week. The Oswego at Hobart game is an interesting one.

Potsdam at Utica doesn’t look half bad. Those two teams have played exciting games in the recent past.

“We have to get ourselves ready to go wrap up the first half of the year and play a good solid effort,” Thomaris said of the upcoming Utica game. “They play very good in their rink. They’re aggressive. They score a lot of goals. So, we have to play tight D and get them frustrated and hopefully we can get some goals on them.”

The game that really stands out and is the pick for this week is the Battle of I-390, RIT at Geneseo. This rivalry has become interesting mainly because of the close friendship between Hills and RIT’s coach, Wayne Wilson. A friendship that also includes an intense competitiveness between the two.

This, combined with Geneseo fans getting more into this rivalry, sometimes trash talking on the message boards, has made it a game worth seeking out.

Hills attempts to downplay his role in the contest, instead looking at the game in more practical terms. “Let’s see if we can get that last one before the break,” he said explaining his goal for the game.

That makes sense, but don’t try to make me believe he doesn’t want to beat his buddy, Wayne, like there’s no tomorrow.