This Week in the SUNYAC

Call The Labor Department

Someone should file unfair overtime labor practices for the sake of the Potsdam players.

The Bears have played five consecutive overtime games, and in their 14 games this year, 50 percent of them have gone to the extra period.  Potsdam is 1-2-4 in those seven games.

Three of those overtimes came all three times they played Geneseo, including this past weekend.

“We’ve played an awful lot of hockey,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris said.  “And we’re a little bit tired.”

First, Potsdam faced Elmira, and despite getting outshot by a two-to-one margin, 42-21, the game, naturally, ended in a tie.  Unlike the first time Glenn Thomaris returned to his former home, the second time was not as wild, as only two goals were scored.

It took until early in the second period before T.J. Sakaluk broke the ice with a power play goal to give the Bears a 1-0 lead.  About 12 minutes later, Elmira tied it up.  And that was it.  Well, not for the goaltenders.

Vince Cuccaro made 41 saves for the tie, including 19 in the second period, as Potsdam had to fend off 10 power plays in the game.

“We spent a lot of time killing penalties,” Thomaris said.

The next night the shots were a lot closer, 27-25 in favor of Geneseo, the penalties were even but both teams were still killing off a lot of them as seven power play goals were scored (4-3 in Potsdam’s favor), and as usual, the game was tied, 5-5.

For once, it appeared a Potsdam-Geneseo game would not go to overtime, as the Ice Knights scored a shorthanded goal with 2:58 left to take a 5-3 lead.  Brett Bestwick scored the goal, a shot from center ice with the Potsdam goaltender way out of his net, giving him the hat trick on the night.  He scored a power play goal in the third for a 4-3 lead and an even strength goal late in the first for a 2-1 lead.

However, Geneseo kept visiting the penalty box allowing Potsdam chances.  Each time, the Bears pulled their goalie, Rob Barnhardt, for the extra attacker.  Pat Lemay scored his second of the night with 1:50 left.  Thirty-seven seconds later T.J. Sakaluk scored his second goal, tying the game.

Thus, once again, it was overtime.

“They’ve all been close,” Geneseo coach Jason Lammers said.  “Two equally matched teams, two good goaltenders, and some guys on both teams who can get it done on the power play.”

“I think there’s two teams that really want to win and battle to the bitter end,” Thomaris said.

Potsdam’s comeback was reminiscent of their 5-5 tie against Utica last year, where the Bears scored three unanswered goals, two late in the third period.

Potsdam will be very happy to take a rest over the holidays before getting back to the ice.  They are now 3-7-4, a record they were not expecting at the start of the year.  They will need the break to regroup for a strong second half run.

Geneseo also has a number of overtime games, five in total out of 13 contests, but have never lost going 3-0-2.  The Ice Knights are also looking forward to the break, but for other reasons as they are now 8-3-2.

“Couldn’t come at a better time,” Lammers said.  “We started with 17 forwards, and eight of them are hurt now.  This break is well deserved.”

Speaking of overtime, my pick for game of the week also went the extra period.

Plattsburgh came back from a two-goal deficit to register a tie against Middlebury, 3-3, their only overtime game this season.

After Middlebury scored a late first period goal, Kevin Galen tied it early in the second.  The Panthers came back with two quick goals.  Ryan Busby got one back on the power play before the period was over.  Then, despite a strong third period, Plattsburgh waited till the waning minutes to get the game tying goal.  Mike Thomson scored with 1:13 left
with their goalie pulled.  Craig Neilson made 25 saves.

The game was tied across the board.  Both teams took 28 shots.  Both teams were called for four penalties for eight minutes.  Both teams went one for four on the power play.

“I’m not sad to come over here and get a tie against the defending national champions, who haven’t lost a game yet this year,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery told the Press Republican.

Useless Stats

Here’s another example why the only stat that counts is goals scored.

In the first Buffalo State-Lebanon Valley game, LVC outshot the Bengals by a whopping 50-33.  Yet, not only did Buffalo State win, they shutout the Flying Dutchmen, 3-0.  Buffalo State scored one goal per period by Jason Hill, Greg Prybylski, and Mike DeMarco, a shorthanded empty netter.  Of course, the star of the game was goaltender Sean Sheehan who stopped all 50 shots for his first career shutout.

It was Buffalo State’s first shutout since February 15, 2002 when they beat Cortland, 4-0, in the first game of the SUNYAC Quarterfinals.

The next night, Buffalo State outshot Lebanon Valley, 39-24.  However, it was LVC that won the game, also by a three-goal margin, 4-1.  This time, Sheehan got the loss making 20 saves.

It took until the second period for Lebanon Valley to finally score a goal against Sheehan, who kept the Flying Dutchmen off the scoreboard for 84:14.  Hill tied it up a few minutes later, but three unanswered third period goals by Lebanon Valley gave them the win.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Special teams were the order of the day for Oswego’s pair of 6-1 wins over Johnson and Wales.  In the first game, Oswego’s power play went 3 for 6 and they scored a shorthanded goal.  The second game saw the power play go 2 for 5 … Goals came in quick pairs for Oswego.  Their first two goals the first night were nine seconds part.  Their first two goals the second night were 41 seconds apart while their next two goals were 16 seconds apart … Speaking of quick goals, in Fredonia’s 7-4 loss against Neumann, the Blue Devils scored two goals within 24 seconds to tie it at 4-4 in the third period only to have Neumann regain the lead 12 seconds later … Geneseo took the lead against now Division I RIT on a shorthanded goal midway through the second period … Craig Neilson got the shutout in Plattsburgh’s 6-0 win over Williams making 18 saves.

Game of the Week

There are not many contests before our next column–just four.  Plattsburgh hosts their annual Cardinal Classic over New Year’s weekend.  They first play Skidmore, and then either face Trinity or Elmira.  Certainly, Elmira would be the most interesting game based on their long-standing rivalry.  However, Trinity could be a good game as well, as they will come into the weekend with a 5-2 record.

The two games that have our attention come the Tuesday after the New Year.  One is Potsdam at New England College.  This will be a good measure for how ready the Bears are for the second semester, as the Pilgrams are currently 6-1.

The other game, and my pick, is Plattsburgh at Norwich.  Once again, Plattsburgh is traveling to another Primelink team, this time in a match up that did not occur in that tournament.  Norwich didn’t win a game during the Thanksgiving tourney, so they will be out to prove themselves.  And, like I said last week, anytime you have Plattsburgh going up against one of their Vermont rivals, it’s always guaranteed to be a dandy.

Life Is Good

We’re going to be off for two weeks, as the USCHO writers take a holiday break.  I’ll be spending some of that time in picturesque Asheville, N.C. where my parents enjoy retired life.  I’m hoping it’s going to be a bit … okay, a lot … warmer than up here.  I’ll return the first week in January, looking forward to the second half of the season, which always tends to zip by as the remaining conference games are packed into consecutive weekends.

I hope everybody has a Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah, a wonderful New Year, and enjoys the plethora of college bowl games (go USC!).

May your new year be filled with wonderful, delicious hot soft pretzels.