If there is one word to describe the 2007-8 SUNYAC hockey season, it would be: streaks. For some, early streaks ensured them a successful season. For others, late streaks turned a season around. For the unfortunate, the inability to get off to any kind of streak doomed them.
Let’s start at the top. Plattsburgh started the season with a seven game winning streak. After a bunch of non-conference games, they stretched their league winning streak to 12 before finally losing to Fredonia. That streak placed them firmly on top of the conference, and with one game to go have clinched first place.
The big difference for Plattsburgh this year has been the goaltending. Bryan Hince sits on top of the conference GAA with a 1.84 GAA and is third in save pct. at .919.
It’s Plattsburgh’s first regular season title since 2004. For a team that tends to dominate the league, that’s a long time. However, nowadays, it’s not as easy as in the past.
“The league is very competitive,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “If you think that you’re going to win the league every year, you’re crazy. Just look at Oswego. Once you have the target on your back, everybody is gunning for you.”
“It’s good,” Emery said when asked how it feels to be back in first place. “It’s the primary goal of any team. However, as with any goal, when you reach it, you need to set another goal. Now, we have to get ready for the playoffs, because that’s the ultimate goal. Anything can happen then.”
Clinching the other bye position, also with a game left, is Oswego.
The defending national champions started out with the wrong streak when it took them till their fourth overall game to record their first victory. Then they started a four game SUNYAC winning streak that stretched into an eight game unbeaten streak, before losing their second in a row to Plattsburgh. They are currently on a five game winning streak.
In non-conference play, the Lakers struggled at times.
“Learning experience,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said of this season. “Learning what it’s like to come off a season like last year and how to prepare and what teams bring against us. Hopefully, we learned the lessons, and can be successful in the playoffs.
“We’re already in playoff mode. At this time of year, you want to be at your peak. Consistency this time of year is important. I think we’ve been pretty consistent lately. We still have room for improvement, but we’re pleased where we’re at.”
Fredonia has clinched third place and thus will host the Play-In round on Tuesday. The Blue Devils were more about consistency this year than streaks. In recent years, they started out slowly and finished strong. Last season was a perfect example of this, as they won the SUNYAC championship with all their playoff games on the road.
“I really am having a lot of fun working with this group of guys,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. “They are very easy to work with. We have some strong leadership that enables us to stay focused.”
In the middle of the pack are three teams whose final position is yet to be determined — Cortland, Buffalo State, and Potsdam. However, they are all in the playoffs, and for Cortland and Potsdam, it’s been a turnaround from dismal seasons the year before.
If the season were to end now, Cortland would have that home playoff berth mentioned last week. This is due in part to a 4-1-1 conference streak late in the season. This after going 1-4 to start the season. The Red Dragons also put together an overall streak of six wins and unbeaten in seven.
“I would love to have a home ice [playoff] game,” Baldarotta said last week when it first looked possible.
The Bengals had their own season saving streak as well. After going 1-4-2 in their first seven SUNYAC games, Buffalo State went 4-1-1 in their next six. This put them in the playoffs, and with some help, would host a playoff game for the second year in a row.
Potsdam struggled to put a streak together, but going 3-1-2 in the first semester gave them enough points to hang onto a playoff spot despite losing five out of seven down the stretch, due in large part to a number of injuries. Nonetheless, considering their last place finish a year ago, it is a step in the right direction.
“Obviously, it’s huge for the program,” Potsdam coach Aaron Saul said. “Our goal was to make the playoffs this year.”
For Geneseo and Brockport, it was not at all the season they expected. Geneseo, which had a streak of two conference championships in a row ended last year in the semifinals, missing out on the playoffs entirely is a huge disappointment.
After winning their first three out of four conference games, they only managed two more wins the rest of the way. They are currently on a four game losing streak.
The huge Brockport senior class did not match their goal of last year of making the playoffs. Going 0-5-1 in the second semester before beating Potsdam last Saturday sealed their fate.
Streaks. They can propel you or bury you. That was the story of 2007-8.
SUNYAC Short Shots
Plattsburgh out shot Brockport, 46-21, but needed two third period goals when they only got five shots, including Riley Hill’s second of the night, to win, 4-2 … Luke Beck, coming back from an injury, scored twice to lead Potsdam over Geneseo, 4-1, as Rick Miller made 34 saves … Matt Whitehead got a pair of goals in Oswego’s 5-2 victory over
Buffalo State … Bryan Goudy got a hat trick, Matt McKeown scored two goals and two assists, and Fredonia went four for seven on the power play in their 8-2 thrashing of Cortland.
Greg Van’t Hof made 36 saves and Tim Crowley scored twice in Brockport’s 5-4 win over Potsdam, 5-4, as Connor Treacy scored twice for the losers … Cortland’s Jarret Gold scored the tying goal in the third period against Buffalo State which ended 3-3 … Fredonia scored first, but Oswego scored the next four in their 4-1 victory … Phil Farrow scored twice as Plattsburgh defeated Geneseo, 6-3.
Game of the Week
Once again, I’m reminded of the one aspect of the new single game playoff format that I don’t like. Based on the scheduling, this column cannot preview the play-in round since they take place this Tuesday and not all the playoff positioning is set.
Unlike the past few seasons where virtually every position was up in the air entering the last weekend of play, this season is a bit more sane. The top three positions are already decided (Plattsburgh, Oswego, and Fredonia, respectively) and the three teams not making the playoffs are known (Geneseo, Brockport, and Morrisville). Though positions 4-6 are going to consist of Cortland, Buffalo State, and Potsdam, their exact spot is still to be decided.
That will all be decided when the travel partners square off this weekend to end the season (there’s also a non-conference game between Geneseo and Lebanon Valley).
Even the game that doesn’t decide those three positions will decide who finishes seventh or eighth as Brockport travels to Geneseo.
“We don’t want to finish in eighth spot, so we are going to go out and work hard,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “It will be a battle because neither team likes each other.”
Thus, the other three match ups are the games of the week. And one might not even matter by the time it is played.
Right now, Cortland is in fourth place because they win the tie-breaker over Buffalo State, and would host the Bengals if nothing changes. Thus, if both Potsdam and Buffalo State lose on Friday, Cortland’s home game against Oswego will be “meaningless.”
Therefore, Cortland will be keeping a close eye on the two key games taking place on Friday: Plattsburgh at Potsdam and Fredonia at Buffalo State.
In the latter game, despite it appearing like a meaningless contest for Fredonia, it could play a role in who they play on Tuesday. If they beat Buffalo State, it could mean they play the Bengals again, which would be a repeat of last year’s scenario, except in opposite rinks.
“We’re approaching it like any other game,” Meredith said. “We have areas of our game that we want to improve on. Friday gives us a great opportunity to do that. Every team would like to enter the playoffs with a win. We need to be focused on Friday. We’re preparing for Buffalo State, then we have three days to prepare for Tuesday.”
“We’re taking this as we want to win,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said. “And if we can get home ice because of it, that would be great. I’ve been a part of that [Fredonia] program and worked with Jeff for awhile, and I’m sure he will have them ready to beat us. They are not going to mail us the two points. We’ll be looking forward to it. It’s
always a spirited battle against Fredonia.”
As for the battle of the North Country, Potsdam will be looking to avenge the 11-1 shellacking they suffered against Plattsburgh back in October while the Cardinals will be looking to keep their momentum going.
“We obviously know Plattsburgh and how good they are,” Potsdam coach Aaron Saul said. “They probably want to go into the playoffs with a win, but so do we. If we can play the way we can, I think we have a good chance to beat any team. We know how good Plattsburgh did and they’ve had a great run this season. We’ll just play as hard as we can, and who knows, maybe we’ll get the two points.”
“We hope to enter the playoffs with the momentum of winning our last game against Potsdam,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “However, Saul has that team playing very well right now.”
What happens if there is a three-way tie? Well, that depends on how they get there. They all have 1-1-2 records in their isolated round robin, so it needs to go deeper into the criteria.
If Potsdam ties Plattsburgh and the other two teams lose, then Cortland wins the tie-breaker based on more conference wins. Buffalo State then beats out Potsdam based on their head-to-head record.
However, if Potsdam wins, and the other two teams tie their last games, then Cortland and Potsdam separate themselves with more conference wins and Potsdam wins the two-way tie based on head-to-head record against Cortland.
And once those playoffs start, the second year of the single knockout format? Well, like Meredith said, “You’ve got just 60 minutes. That’s all.”
On The Periphery
I have not written about hot soft pretzels in a long time. That’s because the status quo hasn’t changed. Brockport still has the best pretzels in the SUNYAC. Buffalo State is next, but they have been inconsistent this year. Though, the last time I was there, their
pretzel was outstanding.
Oswego is a distant third with an average pretzel on the small side. What their new rink is known for are famous Hoffman hot dogs (dee-licious) and a phenomenal chocolate chunk cookie.
However, this past Saturday, a travesty occurred. All day, I was looking forward to covering the Brockport game knowing it would be my last pretzel there for the year. I told my wife during dinner that I had to make sure to leave room for a pretzel. When I got to the rink, I was greeted with construction. The hallway with the concession stand
was blocked off.
I found out they were replacing the windows in the building, and it was that particular hall’s turn. This was actually planned for August where window replacing would make sense, but somehow it fell behind schedule, so they were doing it in a time of year where the weather was more appropriate for replacing igloo blocks, not windows.
This is completely unacceptable. A no-show like that could forfeit Brockport’s status and give the title to Buffalo State. You never, ever turn the pretzel machine off.