Fool Me Once…
Fredonia fans have seen this all before.
“These days compared to those days is like apples and oranges.” That’s what Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said in December, confident a collapse couldn’t happen again. Ironically, he’s right, but not the way he meant it — the collapses are different.
Two years ago the Blue Devils got out to a great start, going undefeated in the first half of the season in the SUNYAC, just like this year. The second half started out with a loss to Oswego, but then they won their next three league games. The season was still looking good.
Their collapse came in the final three games, losing them all, and dropping from first to second. Two of those games were on the road against tough teams that year — Plattsburgh and Potsdam. The final loss was at home to Buffalo State.
This year, they are embarking on a collapse of epic proportion.
They started the second half of the season winless in three straight games. They went 1-1 against the only two teams that have occupied last place — Buffalo State and Brockport. They have let up four goals in every game while scoring four in a tie against Buffalo State, two in a loss to Geneseo, and zero, that’s right zero, in their shocking loss to Brockport.
Factor in this team has more depth than two years ago, Matt Zeman, and a goalie, Rick Cazares, who can get the job done just as well as Will Hamele. Plus, the effects on the standings are worse this year. They have dropped from first to third. Forget home ice advantage throughout the playoffs. They lost their free pass into the semifinals, unless they turn things around.
Fredonia stays home, but they play Plattsburgh and Potsdam, both teams that are struggling themselves. However, both teams are quite capable of adding to Fredonia’s misery. Let’s not kid ourselves; Fredonia must get four points out of this weekend, especially since Geneseo and Oswego will be busy knocking each other off.
The first three teams (Oswego, Geneseo, and Fredonia) are separated by one point. The next three teams (Cortland, Plattsburgh, and Potsdam) are tied for fourth place. The last two teams (Brockport and Buffalo State) are separated by one point.
Hiccup, and your season is spoiled.
While everyone rightfully talked about Neumann’s goaltender, Mike Collichio, and Brockport’s Andy Reynolds, Cortland’s Matt Meacham rode under the radar last weekend, but was just as impressive.
He was the key reason why Cortland surprised Plattsburgh, 6-3. Plattsburgh outshot the Red Dragons, 47-23. In the third period alone, the Cardinals held the shot edge, 14-2, but couldn’t score a goal. Meacham made 44 saves as Plattsburgh never solved him.
It also helped that Cortland scored five times against a not too stellar goaltending effort from Plattsburgh’s Tony Seariac and Craig Neilson. Ryan Busby did give Plattsburgh the initial lead just 1:02 into the game, but Cortland scored five unanswered goals — two in a row by Nate Graves, Jeremy Mau, Jason Perry, and Nate Gagnon. David Friel and Busby cut the lead to 5-3, but Tim Earl stopped the comeback before the scoreless third.
The next night, Matt Meacham again gave the opposition fits. This time it was Potsdam, but their goalie, Rob Barnhardt, was equal to the task, producing a goaltending battle that was settled with a Cortland mistake, allowing T.J. Sakaluk to score the winning goal for Potsdam with 31 seconds left.
These teams need every point they can get to break this logjam. Potsdam hits the road again, traveling to Buffalo State and Fredonia. They cannot afford to slip in either game.
“It is a tight race, and we’re playing a lot better now then we did earlier in the season,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said. “We got nothing to lose. We can go out and play hard. Our goaltending has been really solid. We’ve got to get Friday night’s game with Buff. State. That’s a must win for us. We got to take that momentum, a win there if we can, into Fredonia the next night.”
Cortland’s next two battles are at Geneseo and Brockport. Lose them both, and the Red Dragons might not be playing in the playoffs.
Cortland coach Tom Cranfield stated the obvious. “Every league game is a battle,” he said. “Every point is crucial at this point because none of the teams are out of it. Brockport is still in it. Buff. State is still in it. So, every game is crucial, and it’s always going to be a hard fought battle.”
Meanwhile, Plattsburgh faces off at Fredonia first, facing a Blue Devils squad that will be looking to break out of their funk. Then, they head to Buffalo State. Could the Cardinals actually wind up playing on the road in the first round of the playoffs? They could if they don’t get all four points this weekend.
The Golden Eagles are flying, as talk of playoffs is being whispered around the Brockport campus.
Brockport has won three of their last four games (and the one loss was a controversial overtime decision), but more importantly, they swept their SUNYAC competition last weekend.
Ironically, they had a tougher time against the new last place team than against the former first place team. On Friday night, they defeated Buffalo State by just one goal, 4-3, despite outshooting the Bengals 46-29. Brian Bauman scored first for Brockport late in the first period. In the second, Jason Sirois tied it, then Mike Pye gave Buffalo State the lead. Chris Koras knotted it at two before the second period ended.
Brockport took the lead on a power play goal by Gordon Pritchard and added an insurance goal by Brian Sargent. Good thing, as Buffalo State got one back on the power play by Sean O’Connell.
Saturday night produced the most shocking result of the weekend. Or, perhaps not. With the way Brockport and Andy Reynolds have been playing coupled with Fredonia falling off the cliff, maybe the outcome wasn’t as much of a surprise. However, the score definitely was.
Brockport got three goals in the second period, two on the power play (Pritchard 27 seconds into the period and Ian MacLean) sandwiched around a shorthander (Chris Cantara). That held up through the third as Ryan Shannon added an empty netter.
The key was Andy Reynolds’ 43 saves, shutting out the Blue Devils, 4-0. Brockport was outshot in the third period, 15-6.
Brockport is still three points behind the next three teams in front of them, but they do have some fate in their own hands. They play every one of those three teams in the last three games of the season.
After hosting Oswego on Friday, they play Cortland, then travel to Potsdam and Plattsburgh the following weekend. No excuses for the Golden Eagles. They have the opportunity to determine their own fate. In the end, that’s all you can ask for. After that, it’s up to you.
“They could be 20-0 and we could be 0-20, and it will be a great game.” That’s what Oswego coach Ed Gosek said before their showdown with Plattsburgh. As the Cardinals came in suffering yet another loss, this time to Cortland, some wondered just how great of a game it would be.
The crowd of over 2,000 that jammed into the Golden Romney Fieldhouse were not disappointed, It was a great game.
Gosek said the night before, “It seems like in the past, the teams start out tight, and then as soon as a team gets a goal, the other one starts pressing and it opens up in a hurry. It will be a fun game.”
How right he was. The first goal didn’t come till halfway through the game, as Oswego’s Paul Perrier scored on the power play. Plattsburgh came right back 12 seconds later when Paul Kelly tied it up. Three minutes later, Plattsburgh had the lead on a Ryan Busby goal.
A thrilling third period saw the Lakers tie it up at the 11:59 mark on a Jocelyn Dubord goal. Jean-Simon Richard scored the winning goal for Oswego with 1:40 left in the game on the power play.
Ryan Scott made 32 saves in the win while Craig Neilson stopped 25 shots on the losing side.
“It’s a great college rivalry,” Gosek said. Indeed it is.
SUNYAC Short Shots
Brett Bestwick scored a hat trick in Geneseo’s 11-1 thrashing of Buffalo State. It nearly was a natural hat trick, as all three goals came in the second period with just one Buffalo State goal between them … Geneseo got 53 shots on net in that game as Buffalo State used all three of their goaltenders … Rick Janco picked up a minor for hooking, a major for hitting from behind, and a game misconduct all at the 19:20 mark of the first period … Geneseo’s Mike MacDonald leads the league overall with eight power play goals … Ryan McCarthy of Potsdam has five shorthanded points (2-3–5) to lead the league overall … Fredonia and Potsdam each have nine shorthanded goals … Oswego has won four straight; Plattsburgh has lost four straight.
I Don’t Get It
I’m not one to criticize the officiating. I was a soccer ref once myself. And, if I were going to criticize the officials, it certainly wouldn’t be in this column. It would be improper and unprofessional.
However, I am going to point out a possible disturbing trend. Granted, without hard data coming from all the games for many years, it’s impossible to truly determine whether there is an issue here or not. However, there is enough anecdotal evidence to warrant mentioning it.
I don’t get why the referees are apparently missing so many goals. I witnessed three of them myself. At the Plattsburgh at RIT game, the Cardinals apparently scored when the puck crossed the line, but RIT’s goalie pulled it back out. The refs never saw it go across. This one I actually didn’t see even though I was taking pictures at that end. I was looking down at my camera momentarily. However, most in the press box which is on that side thus affording a direct downward view, thought it went in.
A few days later, the Fredonia at RIT game saw an even more obvious goal not called. This one I saw clearly once again standing behind the net. The puck clearly went into the corner of the net on the ice, bounced off the metal, and back out. My jaw dropped when it was never called a goal.
A recent Plattsburgh game apparently had a goal ruled not a goal. This past Saturday, Potsdam beat Cortland’s Matt Meacham up high over his shoulder. The puck clearly went into the upper portion of the net before bouncing out. Even the players thought it went in. Potsdam celebrated. Cortland stopped playing. Heck, the whistle blew.
Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the referee ruled it never went in. He claimed it hit the crossbar, came straight down, and bounced out.
Granted there are goal judges, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the ref to rule a goal. Besides, most of the time the goal judges are merely student workers.
If this is indeed a trend, I have a theory. With the referees being pressured to look out for the points of emphasis, they are being distracted from making the most important decision they have to rule — whether the puck goes into the net or not.
Otherwise, I don’t get it.
Game of the Week
There is no question about this choice, but first a mention to the runnerup — Cortland at Brockport. Depending on how Friday’s games go, they could be separated by one point all the way up to five points. If the former, then this game could very well decide the final playoff spot. Two years ago, Brockport was one second away from beating Cortland which would have put the Golden Knights into the playoffs. They get another chance to get the job done.
The top game is at the other end of the standings — Oswego at Geneseo. Barring any upsets on Friday night, which this year is an assumption one should never make, this game between the two teams tied for first could ultimately decide the season champion. It is the biggest game for Geneseo in a long time. They have been drawing great crowds for big games this year: 1,722 for the RIT game, and 1,150 for the Fredonia game, both with great atmospheres. There have been other games where attendance has been very strong. Saturday’s attendance should be even larger. The Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena will be rocking like that place hasn’t experienced for many years.