This Week in the SUNYAC

Crank Up The Stress

“For all the coaches, I’m sure it’s stressful,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said.

I have always written that I believe the SUNYAC playoff system is the best in all of college hockey because it allows for every team-no matter what position they are in-to fight for a spot in the standings that means something.

The upper echelon are fighting for the two first round bye spots. The middle are fighting for home ice in the first round. Those on the bottom are fighting to get into the playoffs. Every two spots in the standings gives you something the positions below you don’t have.

This year, with two weekends to go and eight points available, the teams that are going to be in the playoffs is essentially decided. The only hope that Cortland and Brockport have is to sweep all eight points and then hope for a second miracle that Buffalo State and Potsdam tank the rest of the way.

However, considering that Cortland plays Brockport the last weekend, that means one of these two teams is automatically eliminated. It’s just a matter of which one. And as for the other, the magic number is one point to eliminate that one. Ergo, the playoff teams have been decided.

This is perhaps the earliest in a long time that the six playoff teams are known. In the past, it has often come down to the last game, once even to literally the last second of the last game.

However, what is lost in this case of lost drama is more than made up by the remaining six teams being in such a dogfight. Each position is separated by one point from the one below it, sequentially down the line.

“It certainly would be a lot better if you had some cushion,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “But, once you get to this point of the season, every game is a playoff game.”

Nobody is going to be able to so much as hiccup, or their lot in the playoffs will drastically change.

“I haven’t seen it this tight since I’ve been here,” Gosek said.

“It’s exciting,” Emery said in perhaps the understatement of the year. “You have to play good solid hockey to win.”

Which Plattsburgh did not do this past weekend. They did have an easy time against Brockport, winning 7-3, as they had 3-0 and 6-1 leads. Shane Remenda and Justin Rafferty led the way with a pair of goals each and Ryan Busby got three assists. Craig Neilson and Chris Molinaro split duties in net.

However, the next day, Geneseo defeated the Cardinals, 5-2, despite being outshot, 32-18. Mike Thompson put Plattsburgh in the initial lead early in the first, but Geneseo came back with two goals two minutes apart by Chris Kestell on the power play and Casey Balog.

The score remained that way through a scoreless second period. Trent Cassan gave the Ice Knights the all-important two-goal lead on the power play. Nick Rolls got it back, but Mike MacDonald once again put Geneseo up by two on a breakaway. Jack Bullard finished off the game with an empty netter.

Derek Jokic made 30 saves for the win.

However, the night before, Geneseo wasn’t able to beat Potsdam (see this circular food chain pattern developing which is why the standings are so tight), losing to the Bears, 6-5.

What must really hurt for Geneseo is they blew a 3-0 first period lead. Michel Bond and Nick Onody scored 48 seconds apart. Kestell then scored late about ten minutes later.

Potsdam came roaring back in the second scoring four unanswered goals. Their first two goals also came quickly thanks to two successive penalties by Geneseo. Dan Quartucio got the first with a two-man advantage. Forty-four seconds later, Ryan McCarthy scored while one man up.

Corey McAllister got a shorthanded goal, and then McCarthy put Potsdam ahead with his second on the night. Cassan stopped the bleeding by scoring a power play goal late in the second to tie it.

Midway through the third, McCarthy, again on the power play (they went three for eight), finished off a hat trick to put the Bears up for good. McAllister got his second on the night late in the game followed 45 seconds later by a Kris Heeres goal.

Vince Cuccaro made 24 saves for the win.

Perhaps the most shocking part of the game is that a Potsdam-Geneseo contest did not go into overtime. As if to make up for, Potsdam did need the extra period the next day to defeat Brockport, 3-2. This is the ninth overtime game for Potsdam this year, one short of 50 percent of their schedule.

Once again, the Bears fell behind in the first period, this time 2-0, on goals by B.J. Quinto and Tim Crowley. Once again, Potsdam came back, this time with three unanswered goals.

Greg Lee scored a shorthanded goal with 29 seconds left in the second period. McAllister tied it up in the third. In overtime, it appeared the Bears scored the winning goal, but the ref did not signal it.
However, they were able to keep the puck in the zone, and T.J. Sakaluk did put it into the net.

Once again, Cuccaro was the winner making 27 saves.

Meanwhile, out in the western part of the state, no one was able to come away with four points, thus assuring the closeness in the standings.

The big match up proved to be a draw as Oswego and Fredonia played to a 5-5 overtime tie. The teams traded goals throughout the game, usually in rapid fashion.

In the first period, Fredonia’s Neal Sheehan scored on the power play, but 33 seconds later, Ryan Ellis tied it up.

In the second period, the Blue Devils again got the lead on a shorthanded goal by Steve Albert. On the same power play, Peter Magagna tied it up 1:13 later.

Oswego then decided to lead the dance, and went ahead on McLaughlin’s power play goal. It took a whole 3:09 for Fredonia to get it back thanks to Matt Zeman. Less than a minute later, Ellis retook the lead for Oswego, but 27 seconds later, Fredonia scored on a rare and embarrassing play-Oswego put the puck into their own net.

With a delayed penalty called against the Lakers, Oswego pulled their goalie. They controlled the puck deep in Fredonia’s zone, but a hard pass from the corner out to the point bounced over the stick of the defensemen and made its way all the way down the ice into the empty net, despite a gallant effort by Oswego players to chase it down.

To add insult to injury, the goal was awarded to Albert-the player the penalty was being called on in the first place.

Ellis got a hat trick to give Oswego the lead in the third period. This time it took a while before Fredonia was able to tie it. Zeman finally did with just over four minutes left in the game. Despite getting three shots each in overtime, neither team was able to win it.

Rick Cazares made 43 saves for Fredonia while Ryan Scott stopped 29 shots.

The other games went according to expectations. Oswego defeated Buffalo State, 6-4, with C.J. Thompson leading the way with two goals. Like the Cortland game last week, Oswego opened up a 4-2 lead which should have been good enough to put away their opposition.

However, the Bengals scored two quick goals late in the second period 38 seconds apart to tie it. Unlike the week before, the Lakers overcame this, and scored twice in the third to win.

Fredonia defeated Cortland, 4-2, but they too had a tough go of it. It took till the second period before anyone scored. The Blue Devils then grabbed a 2-0 lead on goals by Wil Barlow and Shawn Walker going into the third where Cortland’s Zach Dehm and Tom Girard scored to knot the game.

Zeman came to the rescue to give Fredonia the lead for good while Kyle Bozoian added an empty netter.

Cazares made 22 saves for the win while once again Matt Meacham kept his team in the game stopping 35 shots.

Cortland lost twice as they were defeated the next night by Buffalo State, 5-4. Buffalo State went two for five on the power play and Sean Burke got a hat trick. Cortland went three for six with the man advantage. Two of Buffalo State’s goals came 21 seconds apart.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Potsdam has won three conference games in a row … This was Potsdam’s first four-point conference weekend since the last weekend of the 2003-04 season … Cortland has lost four in a row … Brockport is winless in their last five games … Oswego’s Ryan Ellis leads conference scoring with 24 points and is tied with Ryan Woodward in goals with 12.

Game of the Week

With the standings so tight, just about every game has major significance. Tough to pick the top game in that situation.

Fredonia at Geneseo is certainly a strong candidate as this game could decide second place … or first … or fourth.

Certainly, all eyes are going to be on Romney as Oswego plays their last regular season games at the historic arena. At first glance, I may be inclined to pick the very last game, Potsdam at Oswego. However, though that game will be very important to each team’s final position, I have to go with the other game.

Plattsburgh at Oswego.

There’s really no other team that Oswego could play to get Romney rocking as loud as it does when the Cardinals come into town. Throw into the mix potentially the last time these teams will ever meet at Romney. Then, consider that Plattsburgh still has a shot at first place if they can win this contest while Oswego would love nothing more than to put some distance on the rest of the league by beating their arch rivals.

But will Oswego be able to maintain focus with all that is going on around the Romney Field House farewell tour?

“We’ve talked about it all week to just focus on what’s important, and what’s important is the game,” Gosek said. “You want to feed off the energy of the crowd, but you want to focus that energy. You don’t want to run around in circles or take dumb penalties. They know it’s important.”

If you remove the intangibles, what will the game come down to?

“So much emphasis these days is on goalie performance,” Emery said. “It’s going to come down to whose goalie plays better.”

If it does, then the edge goes to Oswego. However, I wouldn’t place a bet on this rivalry.

All these ingredients add up to a guaranteed helluva game. And lots of flying bagels.

Life Is Good

All this talk about how gorgeous the new Oswego rink is going to be is one thing. It will be great. From everything I heard, from the pictures I’ve seen of the construction, and artists renderings on the Connor Design web site, there is no doubt it is going to be an
unbelievable place.

It will also have a full fledged snack bar with a large lobby area with plenty of room for tables to eat at.

However, the only question that really matters is, will the new place have a good hot soft pretzel? For if it doesn’t, then Oswego wasted $22 million.