This Week in the SUNYAC

Break Up The Bengals!

It is extremely difficult for any team–no matter how good they are–to take the trip all the way up to the North Country, walk into always tough Stafford Arena and difficult Maxcy Hall and beat both Plattsburgh and Potsdam in the same weekend, no matter how good or bad those teams’ seasons are going.

The Buffalo State Bengals did just that in dramatic fashion. In the process, they defeated Plattsburgh for the first time (0-21-2 beforehand) and of course their first sweep of the North Country teams anywhere. (It was also only their fourth conference weekend sweep, the other three coming against Brockport and Geneseo, all on the road.)

How did the Bengals pull this off especially following the miserable weekend where they lost twice to Neumann, 6-2 and 7-1? According to Buffalo State coach, Nick Carriere, it was exactly because of that weekend.

“We had an eye opening weekend against Neumann,” he said. “We got outworked, out physicalled, didn’t execute anything like the team we were.”

That led to a soul-searching week of practice.

“We had a tough practice the week after, concentrating on getting tough, getting in people’s faces, and competing,” Carriere said. “That’s how we played. Our goaltender played excellent. We knew what they were going to do on the power play so we were able to take that away. During five on five, we worked hard. We tied up their sticks. We iced it when we had to.”

Jonathan Pietrangelo gave Buffalo State the lead on a first period power play goal. After Kevin Galen tied it up in the second, also on the power play, Paul Gagnon gave the visitors a 2-1 lead late in the second.

Then it came down to the third period of basic hockey which saw just one penalty, and that was on the Cardinals. Outshot 8-7, Sean Sheehan kept the lead for Buffalo State as they iced the puck every opportunity they had, clinging to a 2-1 victory. Sheehan wound up with 26 saves.

Plattsburgh was missing some players, six were suspended for breaking team rules and they started their backup goalie, Chris Molinaro, but make no mistake about it, this is still Plattsburgh and they were at home.

“Plattsburgh didn’t let up,” Carriere said. “They are a good team, ranked number ten in the nation when we played them. They had their chances and so did we. We converted ours.”

Plattsburgh coach, Bob Emery, gave credit where credit was due, telling the Press Republican, “I give Buffalo State credit–they came to play. They played smart and were well coached. They packed it in and iced the puck whenever they had to in the third period.”

After riding such a high, Potsdam probably figured the Bengals were easy pickings. Think again.

Once again, Buffalo State grabbed a first period lead thanks to Sean Burke. Vince Tarantino tied it while still in the first. Greg Prybylski gave the Bengals the lead again early in the second, but Ryan McCarthy tied it up. The match went into the third, and this time Potsdam grabbed the lead with an early power play goal by McCarthy. Halfway through the final period, Jeff Mok tied it with the man advantage.

Into overtime, and it appeared the Bengals would have to settle for a tie. With time winding down, Burke scored his second goal with just .03 seconds left on the clock. Buffalo State had a 4-3 victory and an historic weekend sweep. Sheehan made 34 saves.

Buffalo State is now tied for fourth place with Fredonia, two points behind Geneseo and Plattsburgh. With momentum like that, it seems a shame the first semester conference games are done, and there is just one weekend of play left before the break.

“I wish we had more conference games than we do,” Carriere said. “The Lebanon Valley games this weekend are important games. How are we going to react playing a nonconference game after such a good weekend?”

More importantly, how will Buffalo State stay on a high after the long break?

“Being at Fredonia where they have had some second half slumps, I know how that happens,” Carriere said referring to his years as an assistant coach there. “It’s a hard thing. We’ll focus on our conditioning efforts. Work hard on that. We’ve concentrated on that since September. When we get back, we have a pair of games against Johnson and Wales, and then we got Fredonia and after that the conference schedule starts with successive weekends. Everything happens really quick.”

Quick, yes. But the Bengals will have some time to savor this past weekend.

Buzzer Beaters

Buffalo State’s thrilling win over Potsdam wasn’t the only buzzer beater of the weekend. Our pick for game of the week lived up to its billing as Geneseo won a key contest against Oswego, 3-2, with a goal that went in a breath before the final horn.

After a scoreless first period, the teams lit the lamp four times in the first six minutes of the second period. Geneseo didn’t waste any time off the faceoff as Mike MacDonald scored seven seconds in. Then, it only took 1:20 for Oswego to tie the game on a goal by Rick Varone. A little more than three minutes later, Brendan McLaughlin gave the Lakers the lead on the power play. Just over two minutes later, Geneseo tied it up, also on the power play, thanks to Brett Bestwick.

Then, they went back to playing scoreless hockey for the rest of the second period, all of the third period, and appeared to be all of overtime. That is until Oswego turned the puck over behind their own net giving Steve Jordan one last shot which went over Ryan Scott’s
catching glove before the buzzer sounded. Derek Jokic made 34 saves for the win.

Geneseo continued their winning ways the next night, defeating Cortland 6-2. Michel Bond scored a hat trick and Chris Kestell notched four assists. Geneseo jumped out to a 3-0 lead before Cortland got on the board. Geneseo then finished the Red Dragons off in the third. Jokic made 19 saves.

The win prevented a shaky start to the season from turning into a large hole to dig out of in the second half as now the Ice Knights are tied for second with Plattsburgh two points behind Oswego.

Oswego rebounded after the heart breaking lose to beat Brockport, 5-2. Ryan Woodward had a hand in all five goals scoring four times and assisting on the other which was scored by Ryan Ellis. His four goals came every which way–a power play, even strength, shorthanded and an empty netter. Perhaps we should call that scoring for the cycle.

Scott made 21 saves for the win as Oswego outshot Brockport, 41-23.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Buffalo State’s North Country trip helped erase the nightmares of two particular trips from the past. On February 2-3, 1996, the Bengals lost to Plattsburgh, 16-4, and Potsdam, 4-0. On February 3-4, 1999, they lost to Plattsburgh, 9-3, before getting shutout again by Potsdam, 12-0 … Potsdam’s top power play fizzled this past weekend as they went 1-10 … Brockport went three for six on the power play in their 6-3 win over Cortland … Potsdam scored twice within 29 seconds in the second period to take a 3-2 lead over Fredonia before the Blue Devils tied it for a 3-3 final … Plattsburgh and Fredonia traded goals 46 seconds apart early in the third period as the Cardinals won 4-1.

Game of the Week

Though I considered a number of interesting games, I decided to go with an easy, but certainly not boring, pick.

First, some of the other games I considered. There is the Geneseo at RIT game. This will most likely be the last time these two teams face each other. RIT is in their Division I transition year, and they scheduled a few games against Division III opponents. This would be a more interesting game if Brian Hills were still at Geneseo as the friendship and friendly rivalry between him and RIT coach Wayne Wilson has been documented often. It’s still interesting as Hills is now the assistant coach at RIT and will be facing the team he led to the SUNYAC Championship last season. With RIT at Division I, other than Rochester bragging rights, this game won’t even count in Geneseo’s PWR rankings at the end of the season.

Another interesting game is Potsdam at Elmira for no other reason than the last time these two teams met at the Murray Athletic Center, and the first time Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris returned to his old stomping grounds (this will be the second) it was one of the wildest third periods I ever witnessed. Eleven goals were scored in that final period. Potsdam saw a three-goal lead erased, jumped back in front by two, and then that was erased and surpassed as Elmira eventually won 9-7. Oh, and there was a penalty shot in the second period as well.

After Potsdam and Geneseo play these games on the road, they face each other in Geneseo. This could be an interesting game, except it is not a conference game. In fact, these two teams meet four times this year, with only two of the counting in the standings. With no points on the line, and both traveling back from Friday night games, it will be very interesting to see what strategy each team brings to the ice.

Williams at Plattsburgh Saturday night is an interesting match up. However, that gets trumped by our game of the week pick which takes place the evening before–Plattsburgh at Middlebury.

Plattsburgh is coming off a tough weekend that dropped them out of the polls while Middlebury is number one in the nation. Earlier, these two squared off in the Primelink Shootout championship game, which the Panthers won, 3-2. When these two teams meet, it is always a good game, as pride is on the line as well as possible future national playoff seeding. And, the schools are close enough that their respective fans, who travel well, make their presence known in the opponents rink. In this case, the Cardinal faithful will be there in Middlebury cheering their team on in a game that should be another great contest in this old rivalry.

Life Is Good

Have any of you been to an NHL game this year? A few weeks ago, I went to the Sabres game against Washington. I liked what I had seen on TV this season, but not until you actually go to a game do you get the full effect of the new rules. And they work!

The NHL game is once again what hockey was meant to be–fast, furious, free-flowing and fun. It’s not any particular rule that makes it a better game. It’s all the rules combined–the holistic whole–that makes the game so much better than the stagnant, boring, trap style that plagued the NHL before the lockout.

Some of the rules that stand out are the elimination of the two-line offsides (college always had this), the delayed offsides (college kept this rule when the NHL abandoned it), and restricting the goalie’s zone to play the puck behind the net (though college does not have this rule, let’s face it, most college goalies do not have the skill level to play the puck the way the pros did that caused this rule to be enacted).

In other words, the NHL is playing the style of game that we all know was the best in the world–the college style. So, what took them so long?

Speaking of Buffalo, the hot soft pretzels in the HSBC Arena are huge. They are a meal onto itself. And quite good.