This Week in the SUNYAC: Jan. 27, 2005

Oswego Did Its Job With Ease

There were just four conference games last week as the travel partners squared off. Just four. Yet, the results kicked off the second half of the SUNYAC season with perhaps a foreshadowing of what we can expect in the remaining weeks.

Of the top four teams in the standings, Oswego was the only one that did what it was supposed to do without any problems. The Lakers defeated Cortland, 6-2, outshooting the Red Dragons, 52-33. Well, perhaps it wasn’t quite without any problems, as the first goal of the game didn’t come until early in the second period when Jocelyn Dubord put the Lakers up on the power play. Then, Cortland came back with two goals by Jason Perry and Kevin Watters to take the lead.

Oswego answered with five straight goals. Gary Bowman scored twice, Tony DiNunzio got his 12th of the season, and Kevin Tracey and Bryan Gent also scored. Ryan Scott got the call for this game, making 31 saves. Matt Meacham took the loss while making 46 saves.

Geneseo did win. Give the Ice Knights credit for that. However, they needed overtime against last place Brockport, as they couldn’t hang onto a 3-1 lead, and a controversial goal to get the two points. Chris Tarr scored that overtime goal which Brockport argued was a high stick and some observers thought was offsides to start with.

Jay Kuczmanski gave Geneseo the initial lead before Brent Wiest tied it up before the end of the first. The Ice Knights’ two-goal second period lead was built by Michel Bond and a Mike MacDonald shorthanded goal. Chris Koras got one back at the end of the second, and then Gordon Pritchard tied it with 44 seconds left in the third without having to pull the goalie.

Brett Walker made 26 saves to win while Andy Reynolds stopped 32 shots in the loss.

Geneseo’s coach Brian Hills was philosophical about the ugly win. “The good news is we came out unscathed,” he said. “We got our two points. It wasn’t pretty, but we got it done.”

The other two teams in front of the standings didn’t get it done. The most shocking was Fredonia tying Buffalo State, 4-4, despite the Blue Devils pouring 60 shots on the Bengals’ net. There was no scoring until the 15:48 mark of the second period when Morgan McElman gave the Bengals the lead. Sean Burke quickly made it 2-0. Matt Zeman got one back before the end of the second period.

Buffalo State retook the two-goal lead thanks to Greg Prybylski. The Blue Devils finally woke up, scoring three unanswered goals by Brian Kolesar, Kraig Kuzma, and Zeman’s 16th of the season. However, 23 seconds after Fredonia took the 4-3 lead, Buffalo State’s Mike DeMarco scored on the power play to knot it up. Lots of shots in overtime, 7-5 in Fredonia’s favor, but no goals.

Sean Sheehan made a whopping 56 saves for Buffalo State. Rick Cazares made 42 saves in a game that saw a total of 106 shots.

Plattsburgh didn’t get it done at all as it lost to North Country rival Potsdam, 6-5, in a see-saw affair. Every time Plattsburgh took the lead, Potsdam tied it up. The Bears finally reversed the trend when they took a 5-4 lead on a Mark Stewart goal, extended it to 6-4 on Vilis Abele’s empty netter, his second goal of the night. Plattsburgh did get one back with four seconds left in the game by Dave Young, but it was too little, too late.

Paul Kelly and Shane Remanda each scored twice for Plattsburgh. The other Potsdam goals were by T.J. Sakaluk, Vince Tarantino, and Ryan McCarthy.

Vince Cuccaro got the start for Potsdam and made 23 saves. Craig Neilson made 25 saves in the loss.

What does this all mean? Someone found a kink in Fredonia, Geneseo continues to play inconsistently, Oswego is getting hot, Plattsburgh is still in trouble, Potsdam just keeps improving, Cortland is heading backwards, Buffalo State is thinking playoffs, and Brockport cannot be taken lightly.

In other words, the last three weeks are going to be a lot of fun.

Second Semester King

Andy Reynolds has a knack for starring in the second semester for Brockport.

Before coming to the Rochester-area school, the goalie attended Morrisville State, where he led the Mustangs to the NJCAA national championship in his freshman year of 2002-03 and named co-MVP of the national tournament. The next season, the team took national runner-ups honors and Reynolds was named a first-team All-American.

He then went to the University of Findlay. However, their goaltending situation didn’t include him, so Reynolds transferred to Brockport after one semester. Joining the Golden Eagles in January 2004, Reynolds was immediately given the number one goalie job, playing in every one of the remaining 13 games.

He posted a .868 save percentage and 4.68 goals against average in front of a defense that didn’t provide much help. He also won four of Brockport’s five victories that year, going 4-9-0.

For his senior year, coach Brian Dickinson made wholesale changes, virtually swapping out the entire team with a new crew. Reynolds stayed, but the first semester of his senior year saw limited playing time as freshman Greg Van’t Hof shared duties in net.

“He knew the role,” Dickinson said. “We brought Greg in to be the guy for next year, and we would alternate, and once we got down the stretch, whoever was playing a little bit better, would run till the end.”

However, the stretch was given to Reynolds by default when Van’t Hof was declared academically ineligible for the second semester. Now, the full time duties fell back onto Reynolds’ shoulders.

“Unfortunately, Greg didn’t do well in the classroom, and has got to sit the rest of the year,” Dickinson said.

Was Reynolds ready to be the guy in net for the Golden Eagles in the second semester once again? “We had a nice talk with Andy before that opening weekend,” Dickinson said. “We kind of touched on last year how he came in and did great early, and then he kind of faded a little bit when he knew he was going to play every night. We challenged him that we were going to ride him hard in practice and stay on top of him.”

So far he has been up to the challenge. Reynolds played an exceptional game in the overtime loss to Geneseo. Though Brockport has gone 2-3 in the second semester, the three losses have been close. They dropped a 5-3 decision to Wentworth, nearly pulled the upset of the year, losing 2-1 to number one, undefeated Manhattanville where Reynolds helped keep the Golden Eagles in the game, and the overtime loss to Geneseo.

Dickinson knows he has to rely on Reynolds. “He needs to understand that with the type of team we have we are going to make some mistakes and he is going to have to be a rock back there, and give us a chance to stay close against some of these better teams,” he said.

Reynolds has possibly six games left in his college career. He would certainly like to extend the second semester by getting Brockport into the conference playoffs for the first time since 2000.

Dickinson is confident that can happen: “He certainly has risen to the challenge and has done a great job for us.”

Big Test Every Week

Last week I mentioned Geneseo has to face a tough test every week for the rest of the season. This weekend, it’s Fredonia on Friday night followed by a hungry Buffalo State, all on the road. How does Geneseo handle this schedule?

“I’m a big preacher you only look at your next 20 minutes,” coach Brian Hills said. “I don’t even worry about who your next opponent is. When we practice during the week, even if we were playing Fredonia on Saturday night, we wouldn’t think about Fredonia all week. We wouldn’t talk about Fredonia itself until after the game Friday night. You can’t look ahead. You can’t practice ahead.”

Satchel Paige always said never look back because someone may be gaining on you. Hills believes the opposite is also true. He said, “Don’t look ahead, because if you look too far ahead, you may not get the two points before that.”

Since Fredonia is the next game, Hills did talk about that showdown. “I think it will be a great game,” he said. “I think it will be two teams that will play real hard, get up and down the ice, make good plays. It should be a great battle.”

Meanwhile, Fredonia has to be careful not to relax the next night when it faces Brockport. “Fredonia is a team that works hard, have a couple of skilled guys, and great goaltending,” Brockport coach Dickinson said. “I think if we play the way we have the last ten days or so, we can be in a situation to stay close. The longer we stay close against better teams, the more it allows us a chance at the end.”

SUNYAC Short Shots

With inter-conference play complete, the SUNYAC posted a winning record against every conference it competed against: 4-3 against NESCAC, 4-2 against the ECAC East, 4-2-2 against the ECAC Northeast, and a whopping 25-18-7 against their arch nemesis, the ECAC West, for an overall mark against other conferences of 37-25-9 (.585) … Both goals in Fredonia’s 1-1 tie with Utica came on the power play … Plattsburgh chased Middlebury’s starting goalie, Ross Cherry, out of the net after taking a 2-0 lead, but couldn’t hold on in a 4-3 loss … Cortland put 52 shots on net against Neumann, but lost 4-2 … Oswego’s Andy Rozak is tied for the nation’s lead in points with 36 and leads the nation in assists with 27 … Oswego’s Tony DiNunzio is tied for third in the nation for freshmen scoring with 24 points … Oswego’s Ryan Scott is fifth in the nation with a .926 save percentage … Fredonia’s combined special teams ranks third in the nation at 58.2% … Fredonia’s 16 game unbeaten streak (13-0-3) is the nation’s third longest current streak.

I Don’t Get It

I don’t get the way fans and coaches react to a loss. I’m not talking about throwing objects at the television or kicking the locker room door. Heck, I do that. Just ask my wife.

I’m talking about the need to claim that you were not beaten, but instead you beat yourselves. You hear it all the time. For some reason within the psychology of competition, people just cannot admit they were flat out beaten by a better team. Not a team that was better that day because your team didn’t play well, like everyone prefers to claim. Rather, that your team was beaten because the other team was better. No excuses. They were just simply better. This is what really happens more often than not.

Besides, wouldn’t you want to admit you got beaten by a great team? If all the teams you play are inferior, and you keep losing because you didn’t play well, isn’t that degrading your own team?

A perfect — and laughable — example of this is the reaction after an evenly matched overtime game. Nine times out of ten, I hear the losing team, no matter who it is, talk about how they didn’t put the proper effort or some such excuse. Sure, they may praise the other team for a good game, but they lost because they didn’t play a full 60-plus minutes of hockey. The winning goal could have been a fluke of a bounce.

You know what? If that puck took a fluke bounce the other way, that same team would be talking about how strong they played the whole game, how the guys never gave up, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. One bounce of a puck, and the same team suddenly played an entirely different game.

I’m not even going to go into when coaches talk about how their team has no leadership or no fire or didn’t come to play or some such complaint of unpreparedness. Ummm, coach, isn’t that your job?

Sure, it’s hard to lose. Sure, it’s easy to think the other team had no right to beat you. I admit I do it also. But, I still don’t get it.

Game of the Week

I’m going to go with Fredonia at Geneseo. This game means a lot for each team. Fredonia needs to immediately rid any thought of going into a second half tailspin after its disappointing tie against Buffalo State, and simply come out and win against a tougher opponent. Geneseo needs to prove it is a viable contender in the league by playing consistent hockey and beating the first place team. Someone will not attain their goal for this game, and it could have far reaching effects for the rest of the season.