Neither Rain, Nor Snow…
What’s a little snow amongst Oswego residents? Eighty-five inches in a week? No problem. That’s why God invented snowplows.
However, for Lakers’ fans, they probably wish one of their games were canceled. Once again, Oswego displayed a disturbing inability to beat Plattsburgh in their own barn. It doesn’t even matter anymore which barn it is. Old or new, the Cardinals have their number.
Usually these defeats occur in the playoffs, but this year Plattsburgh handed Oswego their first ever lost in the new Campus Center before the second season begins. To add salt to the wounds, the winning goal was shorthanded.
Plattsburgh never trailed as Nick Rolls scored early in the first period before Rich Zalewski tied it late in the opening stanza. Early in the third, T.J. Cooper scored while Plattsburgh was a man down, and Plattsburgh never looked back. It did take till late in the third period before Plattsburgh could breath easier when Kevin Galan scored followed by Pier-Luc Belanger cleaning up with an empty net goal.
The outcome of Saturday’s game was unexpected coming off of Friday’s results. The night before, Oswego easily disposed of Potsdam, 8-1, firing 57 shots on goal. Brendan McLaughlin got a hat trick, Ryan Ellis notched five assists, and the team scored four powerplay goals.
Meanwhile, Plattsburgh was unable to beat Cortland, having to settle for a 3-3 tie. Plattsburgh again scored a shorthanded goal, a Ryan Busby tally late in the first period to tie it at 2-2. Before that Cortland took a quick 2-0 lead on goals by Barry McLaughlin and Mike Egan, chasing starting goaltender, Karl Helgesson. Joey Wilson got the first one back for the Cardinals. Busby scored again in the second period to take the lead, but Gerard Heinz tied the game 1:23 into the third. Cortland outshot Plattsburgh in the overtime period, 4-3, but no goals were scored.
So, after those Friday contests, who would have expected Plattsburgh to beat Oswego? Well, trend followers would.
There are a few playoff games to be had, and Geneseo will certainly have a lot to say about it, but if Plattsburgh and Oswego meet up again, perhaps Oswego should decline the home ice …
The Midpack Shuffle
Since both visiting teams, Buffalo State and Fredonia, each lost their games at Geneseo the two games in Brockport this past weekend provided us the order amongst the middle positions. Unfortunately for the home team, the Golden Eagles suffered the most, losing both games and sliding into a tie for sixth with Cortland and the last playoff spot. Brockport does hold the tie-breaker over the Red Dragons.
It looked like it was going to start out well the first night when Brockport outplayed Buffalo State. However, they ran into one of the best goaltending performances of the year as Sean Sheehan stopped all 35 shots, including 15 in the third period, for the 3-0 shutout.
“I thought we controlled the game,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “Our guys had the better of the Grade A chances. Sean Sheehan is an All Conference goalie for a reason.”
“It was the Sean Sheehan show,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said. “He’s probably the only reason we got the win tonight.”
Buffalo State scored a goal a period (Mike DeMarco on the powerplay, Travis Whitehead, and D’Arcy Thomas) with the last being an empty netter.
The next night, it was anything but a low scoring affair as Fredonia beat Brockport, 7-4. It was a penalty filled contest as 33 calls (18 in the final period) were made for 112 minutes. Neal Sheehan and Kraig Kuzma scored a pair of goals for the victors while Gordon Pritchard got two in the losing effort.
Empty Net Overtime Winner
After Cortland grabbed a point from Plattsburgh and Potsdam lost to Oswego, their game was indeed for last place as they were tied going into it. More importantly, it meant one team could still be alive afterwards. Well, both teams certainly went for it, ignoring the old adage, defense wins important games. When the dust settled after 60 minutes, the game was tied, 6-6.
This included Jeff Zatorski getting things off to a quick start, scoring 34 seconds after the opening face off to give Potsdam the initial lead. That was it for the first period, but the red light got a workout starting in the second. Cortland scored twice, then Potsdam scored twice, then Cortland scored twice, and finally each team alternated the last four goals. One time, they exchanged goals 18 seconds apart in the first 46 seconds of the third period.
With 36 seconds left in overtime, Potsdam’s Glenn Thomaris felt he could not settle for a tie. So, he pulled the goalie. It almost worked as Ryan McCarthy had a golden opportunity to win the game, but Ben Binga robbed him. Cortland got control of the puck, and Nick Catanzaro scored into the open net with seven seconds left to win.
Potsdam could still wind up in a three-way tie for sixth place, but the Bears lose the tie-breaker. Thus, Potsdam will not make the playoffs for the first time since the 1992-93 season.
In the exhibition game at the start of this season, Carleton got just 13 shots on the Potsdam net. Six of those went in. That summarizes the entire season for Potsdam.
It took me all season to figure out why I didn’t like the play-in round being held on a Tuesday — I can’t provide a preview of the games in this column …
The two-game series were eliminated for this year replaced by the single game knockout format. One of the reasons for the two-game format was to make it a bit harder for upsets to occur, thus giving an advantage to the favorites. Now, the scheduling provides a distinct advantage to the top two seeds. Not only do they get a bye, but their opponent in the semifinal round will have played just four days prior. If the lower seed team won on Tuesday, then they are even more worn out having to travel twice in that short time period.
Imagine if you are, say, Buffalo State and travel all the way to Plattsburgh for a Tuesday game, manage to win, and then have to turn around and travel all the way to Oswego. Those top two teams definitely have a distinct advantage.
The two bye positions are set — Oswego has clinched first place and Geneseo has clinched second. The play-in round match ups are not settled yet.
In fact, no one can even lay claim to any position. The only sure thing is Plattsburgh will host. However, it may be from third or fourth place, as they are two points ahead of Fredonia, but the Blue Devils win the tie-breaker.
Fredonia can end up anywhere from third to fifth. Buffalo State can wind up either fourth or fifth as they win any tie-break with the teams below them.
The last spot isn’t even decided yet. Brockport and Cortland are tied with the Golden Eagles owning the tie-break. They both play the top two teams in the conference, so if any of them can squeak out one point, that may be all that is needed to get them into the playoffs.
Like I said, there is nothing about the first round of the playoffs that I can write about in this week’s column.
Game of the Week
Here is an interesting statistic — the team with the least amount of league wins is Brockport. They have only two victories, yet they may make the playoffs with just those two victories while Cortland and Potsdam have three victories each. Five ties through the course of the season has put Brockport in playoff contention.
Brockport coach Brian Dickinson isn’t satisfied with that though: “That means now if we don’t win, we have to count on Oswego to win. That’s not the way to go into the playoffs on a high.”
The Golden Eagles host Geneseo, so it will not be an easy task for them.
“It’s going to be a tough task to play a two-time SUNYAC champion in our finale,” Dickinson said. “We have to come and be ready to work hard. We have to be able to control our emotions.”
Every game on the final day of the regular season is important as at least one team has something riding on it. Only one game has both teams needing a win which is the game of the week — Buffalo State at Fredonia.
Barring a Plattsburgh loss to Potsdam, the western New York match up has a unique twist to it. The winner gets to host a rematch of these same two teams for the playoffs.
“It’s a playoff game,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. “You want to win that to have momentum going into the playoffs.”
Despite Fredonia’s recent record at home, they would still love to play in their own barn where it’s tough to beat them.
Buffalo State got really hot after a slow start going unbeaten in seven games. However, they are 2-3 in their last five. Nick Carriere said before their game against Geneseo his team has to stop making mistakes and turnovers if they hope to win. The same is true for their contest against Fredonia, otherwise they will be making a return trip four days later.
On The Periphery
With the possibility that Brockport could end the season on a seven-game winless streak and still make the playoffs, the inevitable comments about the Golden Eagles backing into the playoffs will be made.
I have never bought into the concept of backing into the playoffs. If you have a better record than another team, you are in the playoffs. It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t matter when you win and lose during the course of a season, as long as you get more points than the team you are trying to beat out. The only thing you can discern is whether a team has the ability to win under pressure.
If Brockport opened the season with a seven-game winless streak and then poured it on, everyone would be praising them despite ending up with the same record anyway. In fact, why isn’t the scenario of a bad start and great finish where a team doesn’t make the playoffs criticized as a too little, too late effort? That situation seems to be more acceptable than “backing into the playoffs” even though the team didn’t even make the playoffs.
I will acknowledge that there is a difference between entering the playoffs with good momentum versus poor momentum. And, you could argue that the best teams at the moment do not make the playoffs as a hot team that misses out could be better than a team that gets in on a losing streak.
However, as long as you measure a playoff spot by a team’s record, it doesn’t matter how good they are at the moment the playoffs begin. The NCAA at-large berths do sometimes consider this for some sports as they sometimes have as one of their criteria a team’s record in the latter part of the season.
The bottom line is, a season consists of x number of games and at the end, teams have y points. If a team’s record is better than another, they make the playoffs. Period.