Head West Young Men

I suppose it’s fitting that the two westernmost teams in the east decided to go further west for a pair of games against two Wisconsin schools. Fredonia and Buffalo State took a long bus trip to St. Norbert and Marian. Each came away with a split, some fond memories and a chance to get to know their teammates better.

“It was a great team building experience,” said Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere. “A 12-hour bus ride is a long time together.”

Fredonia’s coach Jeff Meredith agrees. “We spent a lot of time together in the bus, motel, and meals,” he said. “I think it was good for us.”

However, his original goals were a bit different. Meredith left no doubt about what he wanted before heading to the cheese state.

“At this point where our team is, playing close to anyone is not going to satisfy us,” he said. “We want to win those games. I don’t want a moral victory.”

After the weekend was over, he acknowledged there was indeed a lot to gain from the trip.

“I think it was good for us from a standpoint of playing a team like St. Norbert, to play a team that’s well rounded,” he said. “For us, it was a positive because we know more about where we are right now. Friday night in St. Norbert gave us a lot of answers.”

Buffalo State took advantage of their time out there with a team-building activity by visiting Lambeau Field and taking a tour of the stadium. That was after the Marian game which they won, 6-4. St. Norbert, on the other hand, was a different matter.

“They’re a great hockey team,” Carriere said about St. Norbert. “They’re the number two team in the country. Coach [Tim] Coghlin does a great job there. I think we could have put together a better effort, but they are a big, strong team. They’re a good hockey team, and should do very well this season.”

For Fredonia, they had to face St. Norbert first, and lost 6-2. The Marian game was a short turnaround being a Saturday afternoon match.

“Playing 19 hours later, it was good for us to put the game away early,” Meredith said of his team’s 8-1 victory which was a good thing considering the size of the rink. “They play on the biggest sheet of ice I’ve ever seen. I never saw anything so wide except on a lake.”

Both coaches felt the long weekend was worth it in the long run.

“Without a doubt,” Carriere said. “Whenever you go on the road and play a ranked team and then deal with the adversity of a long trip as a team, it helps you get closer as a team.”

As for the effects of the trip this weekend, neither coach was worried.

“We’ve been working hard since day one,” Carriere said. “If anything, we feel rested and ready to go.”

“Not at all,” Meredith said on the possibility of being tired. “We got home at 4 a.m. It wasn’t that much later than after a prime time game at Plattsburgh.”

Buffalo State travels to Oswego for their first conference game of the season, and potentially their last in the Romney Field House.

“From Fredonia when I was an assistant, we’ve never won a single game there,” Carriere said. “I’d like to go out on a high note.”

Meanwhile, Fredonia faces Cortland first before traveling to Oswego.

“They play tough in their rink,” Meredith said about Cortland.

But talking about a tough rink, for their possible last trip to Romney, Meredith said, “I like going there. It’s loud. The people are so close to you. It’s easy for visiting teams to get up for a game as long as you don’t get intimidated.”

One Minus One Equals Two

It’s called hockey math. Here’s how it works.

The SUNYAC Challenge has always consisted of Fredonia, Buffalo State, Cortland, and Potsdam. This year, Potsdam opted out of the season-opening tournament (Brockport took its place).

Potsdam then went on to create its own tournament, calling it the Bears Faceoff Tournament, and this year invited Geneseo, Utica, and Queen’s College. Thus, from one team withdrawing from one tournament, you ended up with two, and between those, six of the eight SUNYAC teams participated.

Fredonia won the SUNYAC Challenge for the second year in a row. This time, they did not have to depend on a convoluted scoring system that’s used because the match ups are pre-determined. The Blue Devils were the only team to win both their games. They defeated Cortland, 3-2, on goals by Kyle Bozoian, Scott Bradley, and Colin Sarfeh which opened up a 3-0 lead. They hung on after the Red Dragons got a pair of goals by Matt Schillace. Simon Maignon made 22 saves for the win while Matt Meacham took the loss despite 39 saves.

The second game was a bit easier as Fredonia shutout Brockport, 3-0. Tom Briggs, Steve Albert, and Wil Barlow scored. Rick Cazares got the shutout with 29 saves.

Up in Potsdam, the two SUNYAC teams squared off in the first game, and played to a 4-4 tie. Ryan McCarthy gave the Bears the lead before Geneseo scored the next three goals (Kris Heeres, Mathieu Cyr, and Mark Merl). John Rorison got one back for Potsdam before Nick Onody gave the Ice Knights the two goal lead once again. Potsdam came back to tie it up on two late third period goals by Warren Sly and Ben King. After overtime, they needed to determine who would advance, so they went to penalty shots. Potsdam won it 2-0 after just four rounds.

The Bears didn’t fare well in the championship game, losing to Utica, 5-2. Chris Brussa-Toi cut a Utica lead to 2-1 and then Greg Lee cut the lead down to 3-2. But, that’s as close as the Bears would get all evening. Geneseo had a disappointing consolation outing, losing to Queen’s, 7-4, despite grabbing a 2-0 first period lead on two goals by Dan Schofield, one on a power play goal and one shorthanded. Cyr gave Geneseo a 3-1 lead before they gave up six unanswered goals.

Kicking Off Conference Play, Again

Potsdam and Plattsburgh kicked off league play once again this year, this time at the Stafford Arena. Plattsburgh had a relatively easy time of it in a 7-3 win. Potsdam did cut the lead down to 5-3 late in the game, but an empty netter and then a quick regular goal afterwards sealed the game. Brussa-Toi got a pair of goals for Potsdam while Dave Friel scored two for the Cardinals. Craig Neilson made 22 saves for the win.

League play is in full tilt this weekend. Fredonia and Buffalo State travel to Cortland and Oswego while the North Country teams make the jaunt to the Rochester area teams, Brockport and Geneseo.

SUNYAC Short Shots

In the Geneseo-Potsdam 4-4 tie, seven of the eight goals were on the power play … Geneseo scored two goals in nine seconds against Potsdam … Oswego did that one better by scoring two goals in eight seconds against Carleton … Oswego went four for eight on the power play in their 11-4 rout over Carleton … Oswego’s Ryan Ellis scored two goals and three assists in that Carleton game … The second day of the Bears Faceoff Tournament went very quickly — both games took just one hour and fifty minutes each to complete … Games out west can go quickly as well-the Fredonia at St. Norbert contest lasted just 1:58 … Geneseo let up just one shot on goal in the third period en route to a 9-2 victory over Lebanon Valley … Seans ruled the day for Buffalo State in their 6-4 win over Marian as Sean Burke scored a hat trick and Sean O’Connell netted two goals … Neal Sheehan got a hat trick for Fredonia also against Marian … Oswego’s winning goal in their 5-3 victory over Elmira came with one second left in the second period.

Game of the Week

Fans do it all the time. As soon as the year is finished, they look at next year’s schedule and immediately circle the date that has the rematch of the previous season’schampionship final. For SUNYAC fans, that comes up quickly — the first weekend of conference play.

Eight months to the day after Geneseo won the SUNYAC championship, Plattsburgh and Geneseo go at it again Saturday night. And once again, it’s in the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena.

However, Geneseo’s coach Jason Lammers has a game the night before to worry about. “We’re playing for Friday,” he said. “That’s our focus.”

That may be true, but let’s face it, the game on Saturday is the one everyone is looking forward to.

Both teams have new players, and Geneseo has a new coach, but to the fans, it’s all the same. Fliers are up and announcements are being made around campus. Geneseo’s support of their team grew throughout last year into an all out frenzy.

Asked to describe the mood around the campus for Saturday’s game, Lammers needed just one word: “Excitement.”

Life Is Good

You regular readers know my love affair with the hot soft pretzel. So, what better way to start off the new year than with a hot soft pretzel story.

This past Saturday, I was forced to miss two college hockey games (Manhattanville at Brockport and St. Lawrence at RIT) because I had to attend a Bat Mitzvah. At the party, I couldn’t believe my eyes. They had hot soft pretzels!

My wife duly pointed out that the pretzels were on the children’s hors d’oeuvre table. Yeah, like that’s going to stop me. I quickly shuffled over to the kid’s appetizers, snatched a pretzel, and slinked back to my table.

And a delicious pretzel it was! Just the way they are supposed to be-soft, chewy, with just the right amount of salt. They weren’t that hot, but they were sitting out for a little while, so I’ll give them a break.

It was the best Bar/Bat Mitzvah I ever attended. If you are going to miss two college hockey games for any reason, it better be worth it. The hot soft pretzel definitely made it worth it.

That, and the free Labatt Blue.