This Week In The SUNYAC: Dec. 8, 2006

Hockey Emotions

Hockey is an extremely emotional game. The result of that is sometimes players follow their emotions a bit too far.

Lately, it seems goaltenders have been in the spotlight for allowing their emotions to get the best of them. A few weeks ago in the Wentworth at Geneseo game, the Wentworth goalie got thrown out for fighting.

This past weekend, two goalies went over the edge, both occurring in the North Country.

Potsdam’s Rob Barnhardt got himself DQ’ed against Oswego with nine seconds left in the game. A scuffle developed behind the net, some words were exchanged, and Barnhardt applied a two-fisted crosscheck to an Oswego player’s neck. Barnhardt got a five-minute major for roughing and a game disqualification. Despite the face off being in Potsdam’s zone, coach Glenn Thomaris did not even bother putting in a goalie to finish out the remaining seconds.

Meanwhile, the same night, Cortland’s Ben Binga lost control of himself as his team was getting blown out by Plattsburgh. After letting up the fifth goal of the game, Binga was replaced. On his way to the bench, he slammed the boards with his stick. Unfortunately, he didn’t hold onto it, and it flew all the way into Plattsburgh’s zone earning Binga a 10-minute misconduct. He was seen yelling at his teammates on the bench and didn’t want anything to do with the coaches who tried to talk to him.

The coaching staff talked to their freshman goalie afterwards, and felt it was okay to start him against Potsdam. Instead, he performed an encore. After Potsdam’s fourth goal, scored by Vince Tarantino 55 seconds into the third period — which went in through a screen where Binga never saw it as he didn’t move — he skated towards the bench and said something, as if wanting to come out. He went back in net, and then Mike Knapp went in on a breakaway. Seemingly, Binga didn’t even try to stop it, simply flopping down without a fight as Knapp put it in at the 1:51 mark.

At that, he did skate all the way over to the bench, flinging his helmet and stick towards his team, nearly taking the backup goalie out. The assistant coach then pointed across the rink, sending him off the ice to the showers.

This is not the first time a SUNYAC goalie let his emotions get the better of him. Brett Walker of Geneseo, like Binga, burst onto the scene with some amazing display of talent in net. However, the inability to maintain his composure cost his team numerous penalties and often playing time for himself.

Cortland coach Tom Cranfield told me he is not giving up on the kid. Nor should he. The Geneseo coaching staff worked with Walker and eventually turned him around, and in the end it benefited everyone. Walker went on to have a stellar college hockey career, complete his schooling, and Geneseo won a conference championship in Walker’s senior year riding their netminder’s talent … and composure.

In the meantime, Cranfield is disciplining Binga. The goalie will not be making the trip to Castleton State this weekend.

That game is an interesting match up, because both these teams are doing much better than the previous year.

“I expect a tough game between two teams who are working extremely hard,” Cranfield said. “We’re two teams that are trying to find an identity, to prove ourselves.”

Cortland may be in last place in the SUNYAC, but Cranfield, though wishing he had a better record, is not too disappointed.

“Overall, we’re a team that had four wins all of last year, and we have a chance to go 6-6-1 at the halfway point,” he said. “We’re a pretty young team. We’re still trying to learn exactly who we are. The frustrating part is we haven’t done well in conference play.”

How well they do in any kind of play from here on out is dependant on how well Ben Binga controls his emotions.

A Lot Of Sister Kissing

I don’t know whether it is a sign of parity by how many tie games there are in conference play, but there sure has been a lot of them this year.

At the halfway point, there have been five tie games (last year there were three all season), with only two teams (Geneseo and Potsdam, which is ironic because those two teams once had a string of ties against each other) not producing a tie this year. The king of ties last year was Fredonia with three. This season, Brockport already has three ties.

Two of those occurred this past weekend when they constantly blew leads. Twice, they had a two-goal lead against Buffalo State, only to wind up tied, 4-4. The next night, they blew an early 3-0 lead allowing Fredonia to come back to tie the game at three.

“It was frustrating that we couldn’t finish it off,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said after the Buffalo State game. I’m sure those would have been his sentiments after the Fredonia game as well.

“All points are crucial,” Dickinson said.

He still got two crucial points, which kept Brockport in third place, tied (of course) with Fredonia. If anybody told Dickinson he would have been tied for third place at the halfway point, he would have taken it in a second.

“They’ve [the players] been talking about the standings and where we are as a program,” Dickinson said. “We got enough talent that if we stay focused and work hard we’ll be in games for the duration of the game.”

Apparently, that means tying a lot of those games. … Speaking of ties, Potsdam and Plattsburgh are also tied in the standings for fifth place. A mere two points separates third through seventh.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Buffalo State scored two powerplay goals in the final 3:18 of the third period to tie Brockport, who led twice by two goals, 4-4 … Brockport blew another lead on Saturday, this time 3-0, two of them scored by Gordon Pritchard, over Fredonia who came back to tie it 3-3 … Fredonia scored their two goals against Geneseo in the final minute of the first and second period, respectively, for the 2-1 win … Oswego’s Brendan McLaughlin scored two goals and one assist, Ryan Ellis got a goal and three assists, and Peter Magagna got four assists, the Lakers went 3 for 9 on the powerplay, scored their first two goals in the first 1:38, and held Potsdam to 15 shots in an 8-1 rout … Ellis got another two goals and an assist against Plattsburgh, but Pier-Luc Belanger scored his second goal of the night with five seconds left in regulation to give the Cardinals a 5-5 tie … Plattsburgh held Cortland to just 13 shots, all of which Karl Helgesson stopped in a 6-0 shutout … Geneseo went 5 for 10 on the powerplay with Trent Cassan scoring two of them in a 5-2 win over Buffalo State … Cortland’s Barry McLaughlin got a hat trick against Potsdam but to no avail as the Bears won 7-4 with seven different goal scorers.

Game of the Week

Teams wind up the final weekend of the semester with non-conference play. Not too much jumps out in this week’s schedule. Neumann at Fredonia for a pair of games could be interesting. Neumann is having a great season so far, but Fredonia could be the sort of team that catches Neumann by surprise. Especially with the Blue Devils great home record the past few years.

Skidmore at Geneseo is another game that normally would be ignored, but with Skidmore’s strong start as well, they will face a real good test against the Ice Knights.

Cortland has an opportunity to finish the first semester at .500 against Castleton State (see above concerning that game), and Oswego is trying to finish the first half undefeated with what should be two easy games against Johnson and Wales.

Elmira at Potsdam, despite both teams having miserable first halves, is interesting only because of the connections that the Bears’ coach has with both schools. The Potsdam radio announcer joked with me that he is going to call this game the Glenn Thomaris Cup.

The game that stands out the most and gets my pick this week is Middlebury at Plattsburgh. Just a couple of weeks after the Cardinals defeated the then number one team in the nation in the Primelink Tournament, they meet again. Middlebury continues to struggle with a shocking loss to Southern Maine while Plattsburgh is coming off a strong weekend with an easy win over Cortland and an emotional tie against Oswego. This may be a non-conference game, but it means a lot for Middlebury to break out of their funk, and a lot for Plattsburgh to continue their momentum. Besides, when these two marquee programs meet, it’s always a game that has a lot of fans talking about.

On The Periphery

Another college football season has gone by along with another round of debate over the BCS. In all the clutter, nobody has asked the question, “Do we really have to have a national champion in every sport?”

Seriously.

Would your enjoyment of college hockey diminish if the season ended with the crowning of conference champions? And if so, enough to make you stop watching college hockey?

And what is the purpose of a national tournament? To find the best team in the country? I don’t think that happens all the time. Do you honestly believe that Villanova was the best college basketball team in the country in 1985 when it upset Georgetown? I certainly don’t. That’s not to take anything away from Villanova. They won all the games in a tournament that provides such a team with a trophy that says National Champion on it. I wouldn’t dare suggest that Villanova should give up that trophy, but it doesn’t say “Best Team in the Country” on it.

Why is it that we are so obsessed on having a national champion in every sport? Maybe it’s okay if we don’t have one. Maybe in some sports, like football, it’s just not worth adding a bunch more games when the injury rate is so high and many promising careers can be ruined before making it to the pros.

Admittedly, I do enjoy the BCS title game when a team I root for is in it, but overall, my enjoyment of college football has diminished with the BCS concept.

If a proper playoff system is not going to be implemented, give me my Rose Bowl with the Pac-10 champion against the Big Ten champion every year, no matter where those teams are ranked, and trash the BCS.

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