This Week in SUNYAC

Plattsburgh Wins Primelink

One of the premier tournaments in college hockey changed a bit this year. This alteration meant that only one SUNYAC team is now involved as Potsdam no longer participates with Plattsburgh, Norwich, and Middlebury.

The fourth team is now a different invited guest each year. This season it was St. John’s from the MIAC. However, despite the fewer participants, the SUNYAC won the Primelink Great Northern Shootout as Plattsburgh took the title on their home ice in two hard fought battles.

The first game went into overtime where Shawn Dennis scored the winner at 3:18. Prior to that, it was a see-saw battle all the way with each team notching a goal in each regulation period, but it wasn’t till the third frame before Plattsburgh started playing their game.

“They did a good job of blocking shots and keeping three guys back,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said of St. John’s. “We were getting frustrated for two periods. They had a good game plan. But, by the third, we got back to our game plan, cycling the puck and getting down low.”

The Johnnies took the early lead at 1:50 before Nick Rolls tied it midway through the first. The Cardinals grabbed their first lead at 8:02 of the second when Dan Sliasis scored only to have St. John’s tie it a minute and 44 seconds later.

Plattsburgh again got the lead late in the third with a Mike Schiavi goal. This time, it took St. John’s even less time to tie it: 40 seconds. Plattsburgh’s last goal finally ended the deal. Byran Hince got the win, registering 23 saves.

Next up was Norwich who defeated Middlebury, 5-2. That was nearly the same score in the championship final which Plattsburgh won, 5-3.

Again, Plattsburgh took a lead only to have the opposition tie it. This time it was 2-0 on goals by Sliasis and Riley Hill in the first 6:40 of the game. A late first period goal by the Cadets and then another one 24 seconds into the second period tied the contest.

Nick Rolls and Eric Satim scored 1:31 apart in the second, but Norwich got one back before the end of the period. Andrew Willock clinched it with a couple of minutes left in the contest. Hince made 21 saves for the win as each team got 24 shots.

“The game could have gone either way,” Emery said. “The key was us getting the right save at the right time. We were more opportunistic than they were.”

The Primelink is great for bragging rights, making predictions (seven of the previous nine winners went on to win the National Championship), and a heck of a lot of fun, but now it’s back to SUNYAC games.

“These games are much more important than the Primelink,” Emery said. “We’re only one game ahead in the loss column.”

Showing Improvement

Two teams picked by many not to make the playoffs (outside of Morrisville who is ineligible) were Potsdam and Cortland. Both got off to very poor starts, as expected. However, in recent weeks they have shown signs of improvement. In fact, Potsdam isn’t below .500.

That doesn’t mean the coaches are satisfied.

“We’re not to the point where I thought we could be,” Cortland coach Joe Baldarotta said. “We’ve had some injuries. We’ve had some setbacks.”

However, they did upset Geneseo, 3-2.

“Well, it was an overtime win,” Baldarotta downplayed the accomplishment. “Our guys just kept plugging away. I believe you need three components to be successful — you have to have a style, you have to have the fundamentals, and you have to have a system that allows you to use your fundamentals. For once this year, we had all three components in place.

“The game on Friday versus Brockport was closer, but we took some penalties. We played four bad minutes and that cost us.”

A highlight so far this year is the development of junior goaltender, Mike Mistretta. This has given Baldarotta an option over Ben Binga, whose ability to keep his emotions in check has at times cost his team. Mistretta has gotten more than twice the playing time so far.

On the offensive side, leaders include sophomore Frank Rizzo (5-5-10) and senior Barry McLaughlin (6-2-8). Two players (Zach Dehm and Brent Fallon) have seven assists.

Since beating Geneseo, the Red Dragons have also gotten a win over Morrisville and tied Skidmore. But, Baldarotta would like to see more.

“Couple of steps forward, more steps back, but that is part of the learning process,” he said. “Be consistent; trying to find an identity. We’re starting to get a grasp of that.”

One thing Baldarotta is looking forward to is being back home as they face Fredonia and Buffalo State.

“We already played them once in the SUNYAC Challenge,” he said. “Definitely going to be games up for grabs and up for points.

“We’re going to be back in our building. My bench seems so foreign to me — I’ve only coached two games on this bench so far.”

Potsdam started the season out giving up 24 goals in three games. They also averaged over 44 shots against them.

Since then, the shots and goals have gone down, and the Bears went on a five game unbeaten streak, albeit with three ties, which was snapped in their recent loss to Hamilton.

“We’re getting better every week,” Saul said. “We’re getting better defensively in our own zone not giving away as many chances. We’re also getting better on our power play.”

The bright spot offensively has been two transfers, both juniors, who lead the team scoring. Peter Vaisanen from Newmann has five goals and four assists, and Nick Carelli from Morrisville has the reverse, four goals and five assists. Second year player Luke Beck also has nine points with three goals and six assists.

Goaltender statistics are not that great, but that’s because Rick Miller and Rob Barnhardt are simply facing so many shots and good scoring opportunities. That’s something Saul is fully aware needs more improvement.

“You can always improve in every game,” he said. “Defensively, we’re looking to improve our five-on-five play, letting up less shots. Definitely looking to cut down the number of chances in our own end.”

If Potsdam can do that and continue to improve throughout the season, who knows, they just might be in the playoffs after all.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Kevin Galen scored two goals to lead Geneseo to a 3-1 victory over
Brockport … Steve Rizer scored the game winner for Fredonia with 1:09
left to beat Buffalo State, 4-3 … Jordan Delong and Jeff Zatorski each
got a pair of goals in Potsdam’s 6-3 win over Morrisville … The next
night, Peter Vaisanen scored twice for the Bears in a 5-4 win over
Morrisville whose Rob Sgarbossa notched two … Oswego’s Ryan Ellis and
Peter Magagna scored two goals apiece as the Lakers defeated Cortland,
6-1 … Brockport, down 5-1 to Hobart, scored four third period goals
with Mike Gershon scoring the last two to nearly comeback in a 6-5 loss
… Matt Nichols scored twice and Brennan Briggs got a goal and three
assists in Cortland’s 5-2 victory over Morrisville … Mike Mistretta
made 39 saves including five in overtime for Cortland in a 1-1 tie
against Skidmore … Smith’s scored three goals for Potsdam, Lance with
two and Fraser with one, as they tied Babson, 4-4 … Matt Damskov and Rob
Sgarbossa each scored twice for Morrisville, but they lost to Tufts, 5-4.

Game of the Week

This week, it’s more like trip of the week. Brockport and Geneseo
heading up to the North Country presents a number of crucial games.

For starters, you have Plattsburgh on a roll, but facing two teams that
can catch them sleeping if the Cardinals don’t pay attention.

“Both teams are good teams,” Emery said. “They both will focus on team
defense and take advantage of any mistakes we make. Brockport is a much
improved team, and Geneseo is always a good team.”

“We got to go up there and play a good road game,” Brockport coach Brian
Dickinson said. “We have to figure out a way to manage the game and
keep it low scoring. I don’t know what to expect from us — our first
road game of the year after nine home games to start the year.

We’ve got to find a way to contain them and not get beat off the wall.
Plattsburgh is notorious for their cycle and I’m sure Bobby will have
them going again. We got to go up there and play physical and not be
intimidated which with the level of play with the teams we have played
so far, I don’t think that will be the case. I think if we can keep it
close, good things can happen to us. If we keep it simple and work hard
from the opening face off, we’ll take our chances.”

If I was forced to pick a single game, it would be the next night when
Brockport moves over to Potsdam. The Bears, thanks to an easier
schedule and playing more games, are five points ahead of the Golden
Eagles. Brockport cannot afford to fall further behind and depend only
on their games in hand against easier opponents.

Meanwhile, Geneseo faces Potsdam, who surprisingly they are tied with
for second place with each having played seven games. All the while,
the Bears are looking at these games to make a statement of their own.

“They’re going to be very, very good teams,” Saul said. “Both teams
have excellent players. Both teams are well coached. We know both
teams can come in here and win both games. We’re hoping to knock them
off and win some points. If we sweep this weekend, it will be big for
our program which hasn’t seen that for awhile. Looking ahead, we know
these are very important games in the standings.”

Very important games in the standings, indeed. Thus, keep your eyes on
the doings up north, because what shakes out could be very interesting.

On The Periphery

Last Thursday morning, my wife looked outside and said, “It’s white out

Ugh! A white Thanksgiving.

The week before that I was talking to a SUNYAC coach mentioning how my
parents retired in Asheville, North Carolina, a beautiful area in the
western part of the state nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains. An area
that is a lot warmer than frigid upstate New York.

The coach joked, “Yeah, what are doing up here? We need to move where
it’s warmer.” He paused and then said, “But, there’s no college hockey
there. It’s college basketball and NASCAR country down there.”

Warm weather vs. college hockey…

There’s no debate.

They can have their warm weather!