This Week in the SUNYAC

Bizarro World

Last week I mentioned there was perfect symmetry for the start of the second half of conference play as the travel partners squared off coincidentally giving us the match ups of 1st vs. 8th, 2nd vs. 7th, and so on. With that symmetry, one would have expected some of the outcomes to be quite obvious.

Not so.

However, it wasn’t the fact that there were upsets. It was how those upsets occurred that sent us into Bizarro World.

Leading the pack was the stunning defeat of Oswego at the hands of the last place team with no league wins and only two victories overall. If anyone considered Cortland upsetting Oswego, the only scenario that would have come to mind is a low scoring game where Matt Meacham stands on his head, and Cortland steals a goal or two.

Not so.

Though Meacham played great (making 39 saves) he still let in four goals. It was Cortland’s offense against another stellar goaltender, Ryan Scott, that won the game, scoring five times, three in the third period. But even that wasn’t the most bizarre aspect of the game.

After Cortland took the initial lead on a goal by Justin Bodine, his first of the year, Oswego came back with three consecutive goals in rapid fashion midway through the first period. And, I’m talking rapid here.

Brendan McLaughlin scored on the power play to tie it up. Thirty-five seconds later Ryan Woodward gave the Lakers the lead. Fifteen seconds afterwards Jocelyn Dubord scored.

Three goals in 50 seconds, and Oswego led 3-1. At this point considering the teams involved on both ends of this sudden outburst and Oswego’s 7-1 win earlier this season against Cortland, any reasonable person would come to the conclusion that it was game, set, match.

Not so.

Cortland came back strong in the second period, even outshooting the Lakers, 11-8, managing one goal scored by Mike Caruso, his third of the season, on the power play. That goal made a big difference for the Red Dragons.

“Second semester is always tough,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Everyone is playing for keeps.”

“When we got back into the locker room and were only down by one goal to a SUNYAC opponent, they got inspired and came out strong in the third period,” Cortland coach Tom Cranfield said.

Indeed they did. Buddy Anderson tied the game 1:39 into the period with his second goal of the year. Then, the key moment came when Oswego’s Bryan Gent got slapped with a five-minute major and game misconduct for hitting from behind. Cortland capitalized, scoring twice during those five minutes by Barry McLaughlin and Jon Sandos, also with his first of the year.

Now it was Cortland that was hot, scoring four unanswered goals, taking a 5-3 lead. Oswego’s McLaughlin got his second of the night on the power play with the goalie pulled to cut the lead with 58 seconds left. However, the Lakers were unable to muster another goal with Scott sitting on the bench.

“The win is a tribute to our kids,” Cranfield said. “Our kids always maintained a positive attitude all season. They continued to work hard.”

Oswego’s coach Ed Gosek knew exactly what happened. “The same thing as the Hamilton game,” he said. “You start coasting, take undisciplined penalties, stop playing as a team, get selfish, and the other team starts playing and gaining confidence. Cortland played hard. They deserved to win.”

Cranfield was quick to note that to beat Oswego, you could not rely on one player. “Meacham has played great for us all season,” he said. “But this win was really a total team effort. Guys who aren’t normally on the score sheet got on the board.”

And a team that didn’t have a SUNYAC win, that only averaged two goals a game, not only beat the number four team in the country, but did so by scoring five goals against the stingiest defense while withstanding a three-goal outburst to score four in a row themselves.

Bizarro World indeed.

But there’s more bizarreness that went on last weekend. Take the Potsdam upset win over Plattsburgh. Again, it’s one thing for an upset to occur, but the circumstances behind it makes it interesting. The Cardinals outshot Potsdam, 46-18, the worse margin for any game that night, yet it was the Bears goaltending that held up. I’m talking all their goaltending.

Talk about bizarre. Try this one for size.

Vince Cuccaro started in net for Potsdam. Twelve seconds later, he was replaced by Rob Barnhardt. 1:21 after that, Cuccaro was back in the net. A whole 4:44 went by before Barnhardt took his turn. This continued back and forth until Cuccaro came in with 4:22 left in the first period and played the rest of the way. All together, there were eight switches.

“We decided to switch them every three whistles,” Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris explained.

But why?

“We were trying to help them with their focus,” he said. “I wanted to get their attention, get them focused on just the task at hand and not on the opponent. I felt it was in our best interest to try to do something a little different.”

Thomaris would have continued the goaltender shuffle had it not been for a slight injury suffered by Barnhardt.

It did seem to initially work as the Bears opened up a 3-0 lead midway through the second period. Ryan McCarthy scored with both teams down a man and Pat Lemay got a power play goal with 32 seconds left in the first period. Greg Lee got another power play tally for the 3-0 lead.

However, Thomaris admits it was more than switching mania to their initial success. “Plattsburgh played extremely well,” he said. “We got the bounces. They hit the crossbar and post two to three times. We were lucky to keep them off the board.”

Concerning the bad luck Plattsburgh has suffered in trying to score, coach Bob Emery said, “It’s something we haven’t been talking about because I don’t want my guys to be squeezing the stick harder.”

Kevin Galan broke the shutout on a power play goal with 34 seconds left in the second period. Galan got his second of the game midway through the third period, also with the man advantage. Then came what should have been the clinching moment for Potsdam, but instead nearly turned into a heartbreaker.

The Bears had a power play late in the game, but it was Dave Friel who scored the shorthanded goal with 1:18 left in the third period without even needing to pull their goalie.

“Plattsburgh played their best the last three to four minutes of the game, and we didn’t,” Thomaris said. “They had excellent chances at the end.”

With the game tied, the only non-bizarre moment of the whole weekend occurred–Potsdam was involved in yet another overtime contest.

Thanks to a Ryan Busby hooking penalty, the Bears won the game on a Adam Gebara goal.

“The penalty probably deflated them a little after tying it,” Thomaris said.

Despite the loss, Emery is not upset with his team: “I’ve been happy with my team’s effort all year long.”

Plattsburgh blew their chance to move into a first place tie with Oswego, but Geneseo didn’t let the opportunity go by, defeating Brockport, 6-3, and moved into a tie for first place.

Geneseo went four for eight on the power play (Brockport went two for seven themselves) and also scored a shorthanded goal. Geneseo got some quick goals themselves, taking a 2-0 lead when Mitch Stephens and Mathieu Cyr scored 21 seconds apart in the first period.

The shorthanded goal was scored on an empty net with 37 seconds left in the game giving Stephens his second on the night.

Even this game had a bizarre moment. The period with the largest shots on goal margin was the second when Geneseo outshot Brockport, 19-5, yet Brockport outscored the Ice Knights, 3-2.

The one game that was a toss up was perhaps the only game that went according to expectations, at least in style. Fredonia beat Buffalo State in a low scoring, tight 2-1 battle with all the goals coming on the power play.

Sean Burke gave the Bengals the early lead in the first. Fredonia came back with two goals in the second by Jim Gilbride and Matt Zeman. And that was it, as defense took over the rest of the way.

Romney Farewell

We are still over a week away from the last regular season games at the Romney Field House in Oswego, but if you want tickets to this historic weekend, you better act fast.

A special pre-sale ticketing procedure has been enacted due to the expected high demand. Oswego students can pick up their free tickets at the Tyler box office. General admission tickets will go on sale starting at 9:00 a.m. on Wednesday, February 1. Cost is $4 for the general public, $3 faculty and staff, and $1 for non-Oswego students. For more information, the Tyler box office number is (315) 312-2141.

A block of tickets for Plattsburgh and Potsdam fans will be made available at their respective campuses to ensure the visitors have a fair shot at attending their particular game.

Be sure to keep your eyes on USCHO Extra in a few days, as I will have a special feature on the history of this storied building.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Trent Cassan who scored twice against Brockport also scored twice against St. Clair in Geneseo’s 5-4 exhibition win … The last three goals in the Potsdam and U.S. Under-17 Team game came within 36 seconds in the Bears 7-2 loss … Coaches hate giving up goals in the final minute of the period, but how about goals scored in the final 10 seconds? Of each period. In Cortland’s 6-5 overtime loss to Skidmore, the Thoroughbreds scored with eight seconds left in the first, Cortland scored with one second left in the second, and Skidmore got the tying goal with an extra attacker with five seconds left in the third.

Game of the Week

With last week’s outcomes, just about every game this weekend is a key matchup.

There’s potentially the fight for first place between Geneseo and Plattsburgh. The Ice Knights have done well this season in their effort to repeat as champions. Though Plattsburgh has played well, too, they are having the aforementioned scoring problems.

“Now we are going to try a different approach,” Emery said. “And try to focus on our mental toughness and score some goals. We have to keep working hard and see how things fall into place.”

Oswego hosts Buffalo State and Fredonia, and both games are key matchups in the standings shuffle.

“We won’t be taking anybody lightly,” Gosek said of the fallout from their Cortland loss. “We have to refocus. We got six games to go. We still control our destiny.”

However, if you want a guarantee overtime game, then the game of the week has to be Geneseo at Potsdam. Three times these teams met, and three times they have gone to the extra period.

Geneseo got the only win in those contests, and they were smart enough to do it in the only game that counted for points. This game also counts for points, so neither team will be happy with a tie.

Even if it takes more than 60 minutes to decide the outcome.

Life Is Good

Can it get any better than Bizarro World? Sure it can. Get to a game, buy some hot soft pretzels, and enjoy some great college hockey. This SUNYAC season is turning into one fans will talk about for years.