Only The Cardinals Were Chirping
Just one team was in action over the break, and that was Plattsburgh, thanks mainly to their own Cardinal Classic. They defeated Conn. College in the first round, 4-3. They needed overtime despite outshooting the Camels, 58-22.
Conn. College jumped out to 2-0 and 3-1 leads before Plattsburgh came back. T.J. Cooper got a first period goal to cut the first two-goal lead by one. Justin Joy got a second period power play goal to cut the second two-goal lead by one. Justin Rafferty tied the game in the third, and then David Friel won it in the extra period. Tony Seariac started in net, but left after the second Camels’ goal. Craig Neilson finished the game and got the win.
The Cardinals played another one-goal game in the finals, but this time were on the short end of the score, 2-1, against Utica. Utica scored first just past the midway point of the game. Friel tied it up early in the third. Just when it appeared to be another overtime game, the Pioneers scored the winning goal with 37 seconds left.
Later in the week, Plattsburgh did play another overtime game against Norwich, and once again won, 4-3. Norwich got the first goal in the opening period. Then, Plattsburgh scored three straight within a 1:30 time span in the second. Ben Kemp, Ryan Busby, and Shane Remenda did the honors. Despite that outburst, Norwich tied it up, and Plattsburgh needed a Conor McDonough goal in overtime to win. Neilson made 16 saves.
Ranking The Rinks
I’ve been lazy this week. And in that laziness, I nearly forgot about this column. Thus, I wasn’t very prepared by the time I remembered I had to write something. But, fear not.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been taking notes on the SUNYAC rinks with the idea that I would one day write a feature comparing them to each other. Well, I never found the right time to do that article, and pretty soon once the new Oswego rink opens up, it will make this topic moot. So, I gathered those notes tonight and decided to put together something on a slightly smaller scale.
I am going to compare the rinks purely from a spectator standpoint. Thus, I don’t care what the locker rooms are like, how good the benches are, nor whether the press box serves shrimp. This is for the fan who wants to know which rink will give them the best college hockey experience.
I use three categories in this ranking — atmosphere, fan features, and food.
For the top two, this is a gimme. There are two places that will provide the proper atmosphere for college hockey game in and game out. They are of course, Oswego and Plattsburgh.
The Golden Romney Field House may be old and rundown by today’s standards (then again I remember when it was one of the last rinks that still had chain link fencing instead of Plexiglass, the rink was egg shaped, and the penalty boxes had no separation between them and the fans), but like Clarkson’s old Walker Arena, it produces the unique experience of college hockey. Fans are right on top of the ice, noise echoes throughout the building, it’s raucous, and intimidating. In some ways, Oswego may be sorry in what they are wishing for in their new rink. There’s a romantic feeling about places like Romney that can never be replaced by modernization and creature comforts. The referees on the other hand will be very happy to leave Romney behind.
While the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena may be your classic “State College facility,” it’s the largest one in the SUNYAC. That combined with a rabid following from the community and student body produces large, exciting crowds. This is what a small college hockey rink is all about. When you go to Stafford, you know you are at a college hockey game, and you know you are going to have a lot of fun.
After the top two comes another pair, Geneseo and Fredonia. Both are capable of producing the proper atmosphere (as the recent RIT at Geneseo game proved), but not on a consistent basis. When Fredonia is winning, Steele Hall gets good crowds more than willing to make the visiting team and referees miserable. For Geneseo’s Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena, it depends more on who they are playing before they get a crowd that can rival the noise of the ones at Oswego or Plattsburgh.
Potsdam and Cortland are also capable of getting good crowds that get into the game. I rank Maxcy Hall slightly ahead of Cortland. Potsdam has to contend with whether Clarkson is in town the same night, and the Alumni Ice Arena has to contend with whether Cortland is winning or not.
Surprisingly, Brockport’s Tuttle North Ice Arena can get good crowds at times. Brockport has traditionally gotten strong fan support for all their sports teams. And, they are often willing to stay to the bitter end. The problem is, without a winning team, the atmosphere just isn’t there when the fans aren’t into it.
Buffalo State brings up the rear with its large rink and small, quiet crowds.
A good atmosphere will make you forget about what the rink is like, which is fine. However, if the game isn’t turning out the way you would like, there are a number of creature comforts that the fan starts to notice.
This includes seating, temperature, lobby area, and bathrooms. I must admit, I am not a proper investigative reporter. I only checked out the men’s rooms. (On a side note, I still cannot understand the lack of bathrooms at Norwich’s Kreitzberg Arena. The Guinness commercial comes to mind. Architect says, “We’ll design a brand new rink with no bathrooms.” Lackey says, “Brand new rink with no bathrooms? Brilliant!”)
At the top of the list is Buffalo State, the newest rink in the league. Great sight lines, good legroom, and a warm rink. Plus, standing room all the way around, if needed. Plenty of room to roam around between periods, and no problems when you need to make a mad dash to the bathroom.
After Buffalo State come the rinks with seating on both sides — Plattsburgh, Geneseo, Brockport, and Cortland. They are all pretty much the same — excellent sight lines, decent seating, and standing room capability. Geneseo’s sight lines can be partially blocked by the press box if you sit in the back on that side of the rink. Cortland to a lesser extent. Cortland is downright frigid, but there’s plenty of room in the lobby to warm up. They definitely get the thermal underwear rating. Geneseo can be a bit chilly, but not as bad. Its lobby is tiny, and can get packed if there is a basketball game at the same time. Plus, the bathrooms are downstairs. Brockport’s bleachers are well worn, but they still serve their purpose and have excellent sight lines. The lobby is not that big (but not as small as Geneseo) and the bathrooms are small. Plattsburgh simply has lots of room to get a good seat, see the game, and deal with the between period time.
Then come Potsdam and Fredonia, mainly because I’m not a big fan of single-side seating. Potsdam would rank higher because it has two layers of seating while Fredonia only has one. Fredonia also does not have as good sight lines as Potsdam and is definitely colder than Potsdam, which used to be the coldest rink in the league and one of the coldest in the country. However, heat was finally added to Maxcy a number of years ago, and you can now take your coat off at a game. Both have large lobbies to roam around between periods and adequate bathrooms, though Potsdam’s can be difficult to find if you don’t know where they are at the end of the hallways.
At the bottom is Oswego. What Romney offers in atmosphere is exactly what it loses in fan features. Seating is terrible, but you have to stand anyway on the sides because sight lines are even worse. Though not as cold as it once was, there is no place to put your coat anyway. The bathrooms are cold and sometimes lack soap, and if you want to stretch your legs, you can’t because there is no place to go to stretch them. Oswego is not a place to take a friend who has no real desire to see a hockey game.
Concessions round out the fan experience for a hockey game. The schools sell various souvenirs at various times, so we’re not going to rate that since it all depends on when you go.
Food is always an important element especially when you have to rush to a weekday game and haven’t had time to eat dinner. Also, it’s nice to deal with those midgame hunger pangs. (Note — I have not eaten at Stafford for a number of years, so they are not mentioned in this section.)
By far, the best place to grab a bit to eat is Buffalo State. I purposely leave early when attending a game at Buffalo State just so I can eat supper there. They have a large area with permanent tables and chairs to eat, overlooking the rink, so you can watch the warm ups. The large built-in concession stand serves big, tasty hot dogs, decent pizza, jumbo pretzels, the usual snacks and drinks, and even beef jerky. This is one place I have no problem wanting to eat supper at.
The next two places that have good food unfortunately have no place to eat it. Oswego and Fredonia both do a good job of providing variety with Oswego’s pizza probably the best in the league (tasty, hot, and cheap) with Fredonia also serving good pizza. However, there is no place to eat it. Oswego has a trio of stand up tables while Fredonia has nothing.
Brockport is even worse. They have no place to eat and you cannot bring food into the arena. At least their food is good, though, so grab some, but eat quickly.
Potsdam has places to sit down and eat, and their food is decent. However, the last time I was there, they opened late, and when they did, they were s-l-o-w. If you’re not one of the first ones in line at the end of the period, you will miss part of the next period. That is unforgivable.
Cortland has an excellent seating area, second only to Buffalo State. However, their selection is virtually nonexistent. The last time I was there, the only thing they served (besides snacks, candy, and drinks) were hot dogs. If you didn’t want that, you could have hot dogs. And, if you begged for something else, they would give you … a hot dog. They weren’t even very good hot dogs. If there is another event going on, they will run out of those precious hot dogs.
It could be worse. Geneseo has nothing. Nada. Zilch. Oh, they have some vending machines, but sometimes they are empty! The last time I was there, they did have one of the sports teams selling pizza that was brought in from a local pizzeria, which is fine. Many rinks do that. However, they ran out quickly. If you haven’t eaten while heading to a Geneseo game, make sure you stop at a fast food place before getting to the campus.
Despite everything I wrote in this section, there is really only one way to measure the food at a rink. You longtime readers will know that I have a love affair with the soft hot pretzel. Some call it a fetish. In my mind, you are not a proper sports venue if you don’t serve a hot pretzel (Oswego, Geneseo, and Cortland don’t at last check). If you serve a proper hot pretzel — not cold inside but not burnt on the outside, chewy not soggy, served fresh not wrapped in foil, and not too much salt — then you jump to the number one ranking.
There is only one SUNYAC rink that serves a great pretzel. That accolade goes to Brockport.
When you really get right down to it, the best rink is the one where your team plays at.
SUNYAC Short Shots
Despite a lot of history between the two teams, Plattsburgh and RIT have not played each other all that much. The Cardinals lead the series, 16-12-3, according to Plattsburgh’s media guide. RIT’s media guide has it at 16-14-3 … The next two Potsdam “home” games are on the “road.” The Bears “host” Elmira at Massena and then “host” New England College at Lake Placid.
I Don’t Get It
I don’t get why Fredonia is playing so many exhibition games and all against St. Clair. Granted, one of them allows them to play 26 games for the year, so in reality, I’m only complaining about two games. I also understand it is often difficult to schedule games especially when you are located in a relatively remote area as far as Division III college hockey teams go. However, it hurts you when it comes to playoff selection time if you are trying for an at-large bid, and it robs the fans of seeing other Division III schools come to town.
Game of the Week
A lot of games coming up this week, but no question of which one stands out. Plattsburgh at RIT. Granted, if you go by records, I should pick the Fredonia at RIT game. That is definitely a close second, and will be a key measuring stick for the Blue Devils. However, fans on both sides are going to get a lot more excited about the Plattsburgh-RIT game simply because of the history of this contest, not the least of which was their 2001 national championship final.