This Is It
One weekend left. Only one thing has been settled — who will be in the playoffs. Other than that, nothing has been decided. Who will finish in first, second, or third? Still unknown. Who will finish in fourth, fifth, and sixth? Still a question mark.
Friday, the games went as expected with all the teams ahead in the standings winning their matches. Thus, Saturday’s matchups became crucial contests.
It started with an afternoon game at Brockport where the Golden Eagles were eliminated from the playoffs when they lost a heartbreaker to Cortland, 3-2, as the winning goal, scored by Kyle Coletti, came with 16.1 seconds left in the game.
Coletti scored the first goal of the game 38 seconds into the second period. Brockport came back to take the lead with a pair of goals by Mark Digby. Matt Schallice tied the game on an early third period power play goal, setting the stage for the game winner as Cortland outshot Brockport in the final stanza, 22-8.
Despite missing the playoffs once again, the Golden Eagles did make improvements this year, and could be a team that will contend for the playoffs next season.
“When you think about the bigger picture, certainly we made the strides,” Dickinson said after the game. “When you think about what we had last year, we weren’t in many games from start to finish. We recruited all these guys with the understanding this really wasn’t the year. They were going to gain valuable experience, and hopefully when they’re sophomores and juniors, that will be the chance to get into the upper echelon of SUNYAC hockey. We made a great push this year to be a playoff contender. It’s all part of the growing experience for the guys.”
Brockport heads up to Potsdam and Plattsburgh, looking to play spoiler on those teams’ hopes for home ice in the play-in round.
Though Cortland lost the night before, the Red Dragons accomplished their goal. “This was the goal we had, take at least one, and this was the big one, so we can put them behind us,” Cortland coach Tom Cranfield said.
Cortland, tied with Plattsburgh for fifth, one point behind Potsdam, gets to be home for its final games against Buffalo State and Fredonia in its quest to finish fourth and get home ice. With that sort of pressure, does Cranfield find ways to relax his team? Just the opposite.
“We want to keep them on edge,” he said. “Keep scraping and crawling the way we’ve done all year, and hope things work out for home ice in the first round.”
One key evening game took place at Fredonia, as the Blue Devils, knowing that one of the two teams they were fighting with for first place would probably lose, and Potsdam, looking to get the edge for home ice, squared off. In the end, they both partially accomplished their goals and partially did not, as they skated to a 6-6 overtime tie.
Potsdam was unable to hold onto a two-goal lead not once, not twice, but three times. Fredonia initially took the lead in the first period on a Wil Barlow goal. T.J. Sakaluk quickly tied it up for Potsdam on the power play. The Blue Devils again took the lead early in the second on a shorthanded goal by Steve Greenberg. On the same power play, Ryan McCarthy tied it.
Then, Potsdam started taking their two-goal leads. The first was built by Pat Lemay and Kevin Tessier. Riley McTaggart got one back on his first goal of the season, but shortly afterwards Mike Taylor opened the lead back to two with four seconds left in the second period.
Chad Berman cut the lead halfway through the third, but Lemay returned the two-goal lead to Potsdam. Fredonia kept the pressure on, outshooting Potsdam in the third, 17-5. Tom Briggs and Evan DiValentino scored in a 1:13 span to knot it up. Despite each team getting five shots off in the overtime, nobody scored.
This leaves Fredonia tied with Oswego for second place, two points behind first. They play each other on Friday in Oswego before Fredonia travels to Cortland.
The one point does put Potsdam in the driver’s seat as that is the margin it leads Plattsburgh and Cortland by for fourth place. However, the Bears may regret not being able to hold onto all those two-goal leads as they have to face Geneseo on Saturday after playing an upset-minded Brockport the night before.
The big showdown for the night was Oswego at Geneseo. And what a showdown it was. The fight for first place lived up to all the billing as a packed, standing room only crowd jammed into the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena.
“You don’t get that atmosphere at some D-I games,” Geneseo coach Brian Hills said. “I hope they come out in the playoffs just like tonight.”
“It was a great game,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said.
Geneseo grabbed the lead in the first period as Matt English scored with each team skating a man down. This goal still has people talking, as the puck either slammed the crossbar and bounced out or went underneath the crossbar smacking the support bar and back out. The ref called it a goal immediately, causing Oswego to argue the call.
After the game, Gosek refused to use that controversial goal as an excuse. “The referee felt it was in,” he said. “No excuse. We still didn’t get it done.”
Oswego tied the game in the second on a power play goal by Jean-Simon Richard. At 10:19 of the third period, Trent Cassan scored the game winner for Geneseo on a shot from the left point that Ryan Scott never saw. Brett Bestwick got an empty netter for the final 3-1 score.
This puts Geneseo in sole possession of first place, two points ahead of Oswego and Fredonia. They head up north to play Plattsburgh and Potsdam. Last year, they faltered on the last weekend. This year, it won’t be any easier, as both North Country teams are fighting for home ice, and both are capable of upsetting the Ice Knights.
However, on Saturday after the game, Hills can be forgiven for not thinking too much about the upcoming weekend. “I haven’t thought much ahead,” he said. However, you can be sure the next day he did think about the last two games, as he admitted he was going to skip watching the Super Bowl in order to prepare for Plattsburgh.
Meanwhile, Oswego now has to fight for second place and the last bye position, as they host Fredonia on Friday, followed by Buffalo State the next day. However, will the team have a letdown after possibly losing first place?
“I’ll be shocked if our guys didn’t come out hard against Fredonia and Buff. State,” Gosek said. “They’re down and disappointed. This is one bump in the road. You learn from your mistakes, and hopefully this will make them a better team down the road.”
With so many possibilities of teams ending up in ties when the season is over, it can get pretty confusing. So complicated, that what I wrote in the Oswego-Geneseo game recap is wrong. (Note to self — do not attempt to figure out problems when writing at midnight after covering seven hours of hockey.)
Let’s start from the top. If Geneseo, Oswego, and Fredonia all end up in a tie, well, it gets wacky, because it all depends on what led to the three-way tie.
- If Oswego and Fredonia tie on Friday, then Geneseo wins the tie-breaker based on head-to-head record amongst the three teams and takes first place and Fredonia finishes second with Oswego in third.
- If Oswego beats Fredonia, and then the teams wind up in a three-way tie (this is possible … I think; I am writing this before midnight), then Geneseo still takes first place with Fredonia in second and Oswego in third. (Caveat — this assumes they use the three-way record to decide all positions. If they first decide who finishes first, and then resort to just looking at the Fredonia-Oswego tie, then second place would be decided on the score that Oswego beat Fredonia. If Oswego wins by more than one goal, the Lakers take second with a better head-to-head goal differential. If not, Oswego should still take second with a superior conference goal differential unless something outrageous happens on Saturday.)
- If Fredonia beats Oswego Friday, then Fredonia wins the three-way tie-breaker for first. They would be tied with Geneseo for the best record amongst the three, but would beat out Geneseo thanks to a +1 head-to-head goal differential. Geneseo takes second place.
Got it? Good, now explain it back to me, so I can understand it…
In the case of two-way ties, Fredonia beats Geneseo and Geneseo beats Oswego. As for the other combination, Fredonia wins out over Oswego if the teams tied each other or if Fredonia beat Oswego on Friday, otherwise most likely Oswego takes Fredonia (see caveat in second bullet above).
Okay, take a breather before we talk about the next three positions.
Since Potsdam, Plattsburgh, and Cortland don’t play each other this weekend, it makes the possibilities a bit simpler. A three-way tie favors Plattsburgh due to goal differential amongst the three teams, followed by Cortland and Potsdam (assuming the same caveat above, otherwise Potsdam takes it on conference goal differential).
In the case of two-way ties, Plattsburgh beats Cortland on conference goal differential, Plattsburgh beats Potsdam on head-to-head goal differential, and Potsdam beats Cortland on conference goal differential. The latter isn’t a definite as right now Potsdam sits with a -9 goal differential and Cortland is at -15. A margin that certainly can change after this weekend.
When Potsdam lost the nation’s leading scorer, Chris Lee, to graduation and the SUNYAC Rookie of the Year, Myles Palliser, who transferred, the Bears lost a ton of points as well as their top two scorers. They combined for 35 goals and 57 assists for 92 points.
Filling those shoes would be nearly impossible, but the Bears needed someone to at least step up. That someone has been Ryan McCarthy.
He was no slouch last year, his freshman campaign, scoring 10 goals (the only other Potsdam player in double digits) and 8 assists for sixth on the team.
Potsdam certainly expected a lot out of him as he was named an assistant captain as a sophomore. The Brampton, Ontario, native has come through. Already the team’s leading scorer, this past weekend McCarthy exploded.
Against Buffalo State, with the Bears down 2-1, McCarthy not only scored a natural hat trick, he did one better, netting four consecutive goals, the final there in the third period. They all came in a span of 10:48, giving Potsdam a 5-2 lead en route to a 5-3 victory.
“It was a big night for him,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said. “We’ve got a couple of guys back at home that aren’t playing, and we need some people to step it up. I think he took the whole team and picked them up today, ‘let’s go get the two points, we need them desperately tonight,’ and made sure it happened.”
McCarthy wasn’t done. The next night in Fredonia, he scored another goal and added four assists, for a total of five goals and four assists on the weekend.
This explosion adds up to 20 goals on the season (overall conference leader) and 16 assists for 36 points. Seven of the goals are on the power play and two are shorthanded tallies.
Chris Lee and Myles Palliser may have been big losses for Potsdam this year, but Ryan McCarthy is doing his best to make the fans forget that.
SUNYAC Short Shots
Potsdam went five for ten on the power play against Fredonia … Geneseo scored three goals in the span of 1:40 in the second period in their 6-1 win over Cortland … Plattsburgh outshot Buffalo State, 53-17, in a 5-1 victory … Rick Cazares registered the shutout in Fredonia’s 3-0 win over Plattsburgh … Fredonia now has 11 shorthanded goals.
I Don’t Get It
In general, I’m okay with the tie-breaker rules for the SUNYAC: best record of tied teams against each other in conference play, goal differential against each other in conference play, goal differential against all other conference teams, and a coin flip.
The only problem I have is that number of wins is not used. This is typically used in hockey to break ties, and I’ve always liked it. Head-to-head record as the first choice is fine. However, second on the list should be number of conference wins. Winning is the name of the game and thus should be more important than goal differential or racking up a bunch of ties.
The SUNYAC needs to add that, otherwise, I don’t get it.
Game of the Week
Just about every game could be picked with all that is at stake this weekend. However, I’ll select one — Fredonia at Oswego. Right now, the teams are tied for second place, so this game will most likely decide who gets to rest next weekend, and who has to compete in the play-in round. It also could conceivable decide first place.