With the second semester of the 2007-08 college hockey season underway, it’s a good time to take a look at the first semester for surprises, disappointments, and meeting expectations.
Perhaps the two biggest surprises sit on top of the league. One for good reason, the other due to disappointment.
A few weeks back, I talked about Plattsburgh being back as a dominating force. That trend continues. They are undefeated in the SUNYAC at 9-0, and hold an outstanding 15-2 overall record. And their two losses are nothing to be ashamed about. Both were by 3-2 scores against top ranked teams — Elmira and Middlebury — on the road. They have beaten Norwich twice and defeated Oswego on the road.
Their defense continues to be stingy, letting up less than two goals a game while their offense scores over five. It definitely appears to be the Plattsburgh of old.
Back at that time, Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said, “My goal is always to play better at the end of the year.”
They appear right on track to achieve that goal.
One would be hard pressed to say a team which has a 7-1-1 conference record for second place is a disappointment. But when you are the national champions and hold a 10-4-2 overall record, it is not up to par, especially when you only lose one key player from the previous year.
Oswego has struggled by the lofty standards their fans hold them to. However, looking closely at their record, perhaps those fans are being too harsh. They lost and tied Elmira who is currently ranked second in the nation. They lost to Plattsburgh, mentioned above. The Lakers lost to Hobart, another ranked team. Perhaps their only real blemishes on the season are a recent loss to Amherst and a tie against Fredonia.
However, there is no denying Oswego is struggling in the two key areas that won them the national title: scoring goals and goaltending. They have tallied less than four goals a game, and All-American Ryan Scott has struggled.
“Granted we haven’t been scoring the way we had hoped,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said of Scott. “But in those situations, we need him to at least match what the other goalies are bringing.”
As for the team overall, Gosek admits:
“We haven’t been able to have a lot of fun this year. It’s been a grind. We’ve been trying to live up to everybody’s expectation. Teams have come in and played us very hard. At the end of it, we’re sick of the moral victory. We can say we outshoot teams. We’re working hard. The bottom line is we have to get results. I don’t care if we play a lousy game as long as we get the â€™W.â€™ We’ve got 11 games to go here to get things going. We’re at ground zero and have to work our way up and peak at the right time of
Potsdam has been a surprise on the good side of the ledger. The Bears came off a poor year, and most expected rookie coach Aaron Saul to need at least a year to turn things around. But Potsdam sits in third place and has an overall record of 6-7-3, including some strong games against very good teams. They have already won more games in league and overall than last season.
“Very proud of the team,” Saul said. “To be as high as third place in the SUNYAC was a lofty goal by our coaches. Very exciting for the team. Obviously, staying on top is something we’d like to do. We’re better than many thought we would be. We won’t be able to sneak up on teams anymore. Trying to host a playoff game was always our goal, and that is what we are going to try and reach.”
On the disappointment side, Geneseo and Buffalo State would both fall into that category. The Ice Knights are 4-5 in league and 5-10 overall. Included in that record are disappointing losses to Cortland and Potsdam.
“It just comes down to finding ways to win close hockey games with [five] one-goal losses [three in overtime],” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said before the break. “We’re not getting the job done. We’re close, but close isn’t good enough. We knew coming in when you lose [Mike] McDonald and [Mitch] Stephens, those were the big game breakers. Those were the guys you could depend on to get the tying and winning goals and turn it around.”
Buffalo State expected this to be a breakout year. Instead, they are 3-4-2 in the conference (6-8-2 overall), but the Bengals do have two games in hand, and they are currently tied for fourth. They have also won their last four games in a row. If this trend continues, perhaps they can still make this their breakout year.
However, one trend that has to be reversed is the number of penalties they are committing. The Bengals are the most penalized team in the league with 19.3 minutes per game.
It’s tough to determine whether Brockport has been a disappointment or not. Looking at their record, one would say yes, especially since they are currently out of the playoffs at 2-4-1 (3-9-2 overall). However, they have been playing some very good hockey, have given some excellent teams a scare or two, and are the fourth best offensive team both in conference play and overall stats.
Obviously, it ultimately comes down to wins and losses, especially coming off their first playoff year in a long time. With the way they are playing, one can see the Golden Eagles getting on a winning streak that will put them exactly where some expected.
Fredonia sits in a tie for fourth place with a modest 3-2-2 league record and 7-5-3 overall — pretty much what they were doing last year before they got red hot in the playoffs. Cortland also sits essentially where most people expected them to be. At 3-5 in the SUNYAC (6-8-1) the Red Dragons still have playoff hopes on their mind.
Morrisville is in last place. That may be expected, but so far they have not been able to do what they did last year — beat some SUNYAC teams. They are 0-11 in their new conference.
Missed Match Up
After Oswego defeated St. Norbert, 4-3 in overtime, in last year’s national semifinal, everyone was looking forward to the following season’s Pathfinder Bank Oswego Hockey Classic for a possible rematch as the Green Knights were the Western representative in the tournament.
However, the hosts did not accommodate the fans as Oswego lost to Amherst, 3-1, while St. Norbert won their semifinal game, 5-2, against Curry.
Next year, as Oswego will take a return trip out west, the two teams are guaranteed to meet each other.
“We definitely wanted to see Oswego,” St. Norbert coach Tim Coghlin said. “I wanted Oswego. I wanted that match-up. I promise you this, when they come back to us next year, and I already talked to Eddie about this, I said if we get the opportunity to see each other here, then he’ll probably play somebody else next year in the first game, but because that didn’t happen you’ll probably see a St. Norbert-Oswego game in the Friday opener at our place.”
Coghlin did get an appreciation of what hockey means to the Oswego community.
“They have treated us exceptionally well,” he said. “Just look at the venue. It’s unbelievable. The little restaurants where we stopped for a bite to eat. The fans here, they are rabid. I honestly being in this game as long as I’ve been around didn’t realize the hockey tradition and history in the city of Oswego. The people here have been spectacular. We would make this trip any day of the week. We’ve had a tremendous experience for us kids.”
SUNYAC Short Shots
Kyle Gunn-Taylor made 43 saves and let up three goals in Buffalo State’s sweep of Lebanon Valley, 4-1 and 3-2 … Garren Reisweber scored a pair of goals in Oswego’s 7-1 win over Morrisville … The next night, Keith Williams scored a pair of goals for Morrisville and Brett Freese made 44 saves, but the Mustangs still lost to Oswego, 6-5 … Plattsburgh scored two goals in the last 2:11 with the goalie pulled, but it was too little too late as they lost to Middlebury, 3-2 … In Brockport’s surprising 4-4 tie against Elmira, Gordon Pritchard scored the final goal 56 seconds into the third period … Plattsburgh only got 19 shots on goal against Williams but scored eight times by eight different players going 5-10 on the power play while letting up one goal on 48 shots as
Bryan Hince stopped 47 … Brendan McLaughlin scored two goals and one assist as Oswego took third place in their own tournament by beating Curry, 4-1.
Nick Petriello scored twice in Buffalo State’s 5-3 win over Morrisville … The Bengals won the second game, 3-2, on Nick Lynch’s goal with 59 seconds left … Plattsburgh and Tufts traded goals in the first minute of the game, in the third period the Cardinals scored three goals in 49 seconds with Riley Hill scoring twice in 18 seconds as Plattsburgh romped, 9-2 … Oswego always led in their 4-3 victory over New England College … Brockport which trailed Skidmore by two goals twice scored a third period shorthanded goal by Steve Seedhouse to tie the game only to lose in overtime 4-3 … Potsdam and Castleton State only got 19 shots each as the Bears won 3-2 on two goals by Jeff Zatorski … Fredonia
scored two goals within 16 seconds and then another two goals within 19 seconds as they routed Wentworth, 8-1 … Seven different Blue Devils’ players scored in their 7-2 second game victory over Wentworth.
Jarrett Gold got a hat trick for Cortland as they beat Lebanon Valley, 6-1, with 29 saves by Mike Mistretta … Bryan Hince was the difference for Plattsburgh against Norwich as he made 31 saves in a 3-2 victory sealed by Dylan Clarke’s second goal with 1:14 left … Ryan Ellis and Tony DiNunzio each got a pair of goals as Oswego scored twice within 1:05 in the second and twice within 32 seconds in the third to beat Hamilton, 5-1.
Game of the Week
With non-conference match-ups dominating the schedule before league play resumes, the most important games are the three conference match-ups that are taking place. All of them include Morrisville as first they host Fredonia for a pair and then travel to Cortland.
Needless to say, the Blue Devils need those four available points as these are the two games they have in hand over the three teams ahead of them. They cannot afford to be caught napping. Meanwhile, Morrisville is probably eyeing Cortland as an opportunity to grab their first SUNYAC win this year. After this week, the Mustangs will have only two league games left (at Brockport) and three all together.
Nothing too exciting amongst all the non-conference games with the only game that attracts some attention is the Elmira at Geneseo contest. Despite the Ice Knights struggles, they are still a team to be reckoned with. Elmira learned what happens if you take a SUNYAC team too lightly on the road. This has the potential to be an exciting game.
On The Periphery
Did any of you get to see the NHL Winter Classic, a.k.a., the Ice Bowl between Buffalo and Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day? I thought that was great fun to watch. I love the college bowl games, but I couldn’t turn away from the hockey game even though at one time there were four bowl games going on the same time. That outdoor game was simply a blast.
So, it naturally got me thinking about whether an outdoor game would work for Division III. Yes, I know Hobart has been doing it forever until this year, but I’m talking about a special outdoor festive affair like the Michigan-Michigan State game a few years ago.
I think if you pick the right school in the right place, it could work, especially if you schedule a rival at the same time. You don’t necessarily need to pick a school that already has a football stadium, as any good spot in the town will work.
How about Oswego in the middle of Oswego Speedway? Now, that would be interesting! Places like Plattsburgh, Middlebury, Norwich, Stevens Point could all be possible successes. Or, how about the famous (and sometimes infamous) Colby-Bowdoin games in one of their football stadiums? Now, that’s a game that would get me to drive all the way to Maine to see!