SUNYAC Weekly Column

A Season Nearly Spoiled

It takes hundreds of nuts to hold a car together, but it takes only
one nut to scatter it all over the highway.

That analogy can apply to most anything, including a sports team. It
takes so many intricate details and hard work to put a team together,
but a few bad decisions can destroy the whole effort.

This past weekend, Brockport hosted a pair of games against Manhattanville. On the first night, the Golden Eagles dressed just 13 skaters. The second night, they had 14, but one less goalie. This was all due to various members of the team violating school rules.

“Players broke some team rules, and we had to discipline them,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “Penalties were handed out. All the players served their suspensions. We’re hoping we can move forward. The players are remorseful for what happened.”

The team may have dodged a bullet. The school could have decided to make an example of the hockey team, and severely punish them, spoiling their entire season. A season that the players have eagerly looked forward to as a conclusion to the rebuilding effort started four years ago.

Amazingly, despite being so shorthanded and going up against the number four ranked team in the country, Brockport did not get embarrassed. In what had the makings of two blowouts, the Valiants ‘only’ won 4-0 and 4-1, though Brockport did get out shot badly (53-18 and 48-18, respectively). Todd Sheridan (49 saves) and Greg Van’t Hof (44 saves) stood on their heads to keep their teams in it.

The irony of this situation is some good may have come out of it in terms of the team believing they can achieve some lofty goals this year.

“We talked a lot had we had a full complement of players, we could have done better,” Dickinson said. “We’re proud with the effort that our guys worked hard all sixty minutes.”

Looking forward, Brockport has two key games at home this weekend against Fredonia and Buffalo State.

“Fredonia and Buffalo State are two teams that were one and two points ahead of us last year,” Dickinson said. “We feel we’ve improved as have they. They’re teams that play sixty minutes hard and don’t finesse you to death, and that’s the type of team we like to consider ourselves to be.

“We know these are two types of teams that we need to beat, and we would love to start the season out with some points.”

A season that was nearly spoiled by a few bad decisions.


Plattsburgh’s victory over Potsdam was Bob Emery’s 400th as coach, all of them with the Cardinals.

“It doesn’t mean anything to me,” Emery said. “There are guys with 400 wins but with 400 losses. I am happy with the fact that we did it in so few years. But actually, getting 400 could just mean you’ve been coaching a long time.”

It may mean he has coached a long time, but getting to 400 wins in his 19th season means that Emery has a winning percentage that places him fifth amongst all coaches. It is currently .732.

He becomes the sixth coach in Division III to reach that milestone. Tops on the list is the only non-active coach in that category, Don Roberts (32 years at Gustavus Adolphus, 1965-1996), with 515 victories. Next is Bill Beaney (24 years at New England College, 1978-84, and Middlebury, 1987-2007) with 487, John Rolli (22 years at UMass-Dartmouth, 1985-2007) with 466, John Dunham (32 years at Trinity, 1975-2007) with 441, and Bill O’Neill (25 years at Salem State, 1982-2007) with 424. (Note that the above numbers do not include this

Mike McShane is listed with 502 victories, but a good portion of those were at St. Lawrence and Providence. If you only count his years at Division III Norwich, the number is 258.

Interesting, too, that all but Beaney did their entire tenure at one school.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Plattsburgh outshot Morrisville, 50-9, and Ward Smith scored two goals and two assists as the Cardinals won the first game, 5-1 . . . In their second match up, the shots were 48-18 in favor of Plattsburgh with Nick Rolls getting a pair of goals in a 6-2 Cardinals’ victory. For the weekend, Plattsburgh went 9 for 18 on the powerplay . . . Steve Seedhouse scored a hat trick, Tim Crowley got a shorthanded goal, and Chris Koras assisted on four tallies as Brockport beat Lebanon Valley, 9-1 . . . No one scored in the first 37:10 of the Fredonia vs. Manhattanville game which ended in a 2-2 tie . . . Rick Miller made 40 saves and Peter Vaisanen scored a pair as Potsdam beat Adrian, 6-4, despite getting
outshot, 44-18.

Fredonia’s Colin Sarfeh scored shorthanded to close out the scoring in a 5-2 win over Cortland . . . Geneseo scored twice within 39 seconds in the final two minutes, but it was too little, too late in a 5-4 loss to Neumann . . . Buffalo State lost to Manhattanville, 4-2, with the difference being two powerplay goals on delay of game penalties . . . Plattsburgh outshot Potsdam, 52-16, Mike Baccaro and T.J. Cooper each got a pair of goals, and the Cardinals went 5 for 11 on the powerplay in an 11-1 trouncing . . . Fredonia lost their first game against Utica, 3-2, with eight seconds left in overtime . . . They came back the next day to win, 4-3, thanks to a pair of goals by Jordan Oye and a shorthander by Neal Sheehan.

Geneseo defeated Morrisville, 5-2, with the final two goals by Mathieu Cyr including a penalty shot . . . Oswego’s Matt Whitehead tied the second game against Elmira, 4-4, with 1:22 remaining which is how it ended . . . Barry McLaughlin got a hat trick and Brent Fallon scored shorthanded as Cortland beat Lebanon Valley, 6-3, after trailing 3-1 . . . Geneseo and Morrisville traded their first goals 21 seconds apart in an Ice Knights 3-2 victory.

Game of the Week

Two games stick out, but for opposite reasons and both take place on Friday.

At the bottom of the heap, you have Potsdam at Cortland. The winner could be the team that has a shot at sneaking into the playoffs while the loser may very well be heading down a track they want no part of.

At the top, and the game that is not to be missed and obviously the pick, is Plattsburgh at Oswego. After all, how can you pass up any game in this rivalry?

The Lakers have gotten off to a bit of a rough start, losing and tying Elmira on their opening weekend.

“It was obvious we played not to lose instead of to win,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said of Friday’s game. “On Saturday night, we played much harder. Competed much harder. But we didn’t have the discipline to win.”

They now go up against Plattsburgh in their first SUNYAC game while the Cardinals already have six points in the league.

“They’re rolling,” Gosek said. “They won three convincing games. We know we have our hands full.”

Plattsburgh may be 3-0, but it hasn’t been against top-notch competition.

“Our guys know we haven’t been challenged,” Emery said. “For our guys to think we have is the wrong perspective. We’re playing the national champions and they have everybody back. They’ve lost just one guy. We’ll be ready to play emotionally. Whether we are successful, we’ll have to see.”

If Plattsburgh is ready to play, expect an entertaining game.

“I’m expecting a skating game,” Emery said. “They want to play. They want to skate. Not every team wants to do that. We want to play. We want to skate. It should be a wide open game for the fans.”

Gosek repeated what he always says because it is so true: “It’s Oswego-Plattsburgh. It wouldn’t matter if they were 20-0 and we were 0-20 and visa-versa. It’s a great rivalry. It’s what college hockey is all about.”

Which is why you shouldn’t miss the game.

On The Periphery

The first five years of my life were spent in West Babylon, Long Island. Famous residents of West Babylon include Captain Kangaroo, Jessica Hahn, and Geraldo Rivera. It also includes four time Olympic gold medalist in the discus, Al Oerter.

In fact, Oerter was our next door neighbor. My older sister and I used to play with his two daughters. I didn’t know him too well — after all I don’t remember too much of those years. However, he was my first connection to a famous person.

I remember our family sitting around the TV rooting him on during the 1968 Mexico City Olympics where he claimed his fourth consecutive gold in the same event, a record that he held onto until Carl Lewis won his fourth straight gold in the long jump in 1996.

Unlike Lewis, Oerter was a pure amateur, working his whole career at Grumman Aerospace and practicing the discus in his spare time.

I did call him once when I was in college. I was doing a paper on the use of computers and video in helping athletes perfect their form. Oerter was a big believer in this technology, and used it to help make a comeback at the age of 43 for the 1980 Olympic team. When I told him who I was, he was very nice and generous with his time. That interview and information probably was a key reason I got an A on the paper.

Oerter passed away last month of heart failure at the age of 71. What struck me most about Oerter is that he was the quintessential clutch performer. All four of his gold medal throws were Olympic records. All four of his wins were over the current world record holder.

In 1964, he competed with torn rib cartilage and a disc injury. In 1968, he won in pouring rain. Twice he made the Olympic team only because they held two U.S. Olympic trails, using the second one to finally qualify. He did hold one world record, becoming the first person to throw over 200 feet.

What effects me most about Oerter was his puritanical sports philosophy. He truly believed in the pureness of competition — the ideal of sports as a joyous pursuit and not as means to material gain.

He once said, “It’s not ‘What do you get for this?’ A lot of people think, ‘Why do this unless you get something?’ The reward of getting a feeling of yourself, of challenging yourself and seeing what you can do, is not perceived.”

Remember this, the next time you lose perspective while competing or spectating. Remember that Oerter religiously followed the Olympic creed:

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

It may make the whole experience a lot more enjoyable.