Similar To Last Year
Last year for the play-in round, one game was tight, the other not so much. The same scenario occurred again this year.
The tight game was once again the Buffalo State-Fredonia match up. This year the teams met on Fredonia’s ice in Steele Hall.
“Good hard fought game,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. “These Buffalo State-Fredonia games are pretty good college hockey games. It’s become quite the rivalry.”
The Blue Devils jumped out to a 1-0 lead at 17:29 of the first period when Andrew Dissanayake successfully converted a 2-on-1 for his first goal of the season and only second of his career. Richard Boyce made it 2-0 at 10:06 of the second on the power play.
At this point, Fredonia started getting into penalty trouble. Buffalo State converted a power play at 15:27 by Joe Curry. Then, the Bengals shocked Fredonia, tying the game 11 seconds before the second intermission on a goal by Tyler Soehner.
Once again, these two teams were battling to the bitter end. Meredith knew he had to calm his troops down quickly.
“Coming into the locker room, we met right away,” Meredith said. “Tried to settle things down. I told them it’s useless to focus on what’s in the past because none of us can change that. We can only focus on what’s ahead. I really liked the way we came out in the third.”
The pep talk worked as Fredonia retook the lead at 5:13. Neal Sheehan picked off a clearing pass along the boards. With the defender playing another Fredonia player, Sheehan had room to walk it in. He pumped fake and then buried it through the five-hole.
Buffalo State pulled their goalie with a minute and a half left and were able to produce some scrambles in front of the net. However, Fredonia held them off, and after a time out, the Blue Devils won the face off. They cleared it off the glass and out, and the footrace was won by Bryan Goudy by half a step. He deposited the puck into the empty net for the final 4-2 score.
Pat Street got the win with 26 saves as Fredonia travels to Oswego for the semifinals.
The other game saw Potsdam continue their hot streak, beating Cortland, 7-2. The Bears came out inspired.
“It was a long time since we had a home playoff game here in Potsdam,” Bears coach Aaron Saul said. “It was a goal the guys set for themselves, and I think they were very excited when the game started.”
Potsdam scored twice in the first period on goals by Chris Beaudoin at 3:36 and Colin MacLennan at 15:06. The Bears got a quick goal in the second at 1:52 on the power play by Vince Tarantino.
However, Cortland started to reverse the tide.
“We got into some penalty trouble and then the 5-on-3 gave them some momentum,” Saul said.
During those power plays, Rob Barnhardt saved the day for Potsdam like he did a few days before against Plattsburgh.
“Rob played fantastic,” Saul said. “He made some really good saves especially on the 5-on-3. He definitely saved the game in the second period.”
Cortland did eventually score but at even strength at 14:13 by Nick Catanzaro. With 1:17 to go, Connor Treacy gave the Bears their three goal lead back, 4-1.
Then came the penalty that essentially finished off the game. Cortland’s Mike Maier was called for a major and game misconduct for hitting from behind in the waning seconds of the period.
“It was 4-1 after two,” Saul said. “I told [assistant coach] Darcy [Pettie] if we could get one that would great, and we ended up getting two on the power play, so that was pretty much the nail in the coffin.”
Those power play goals opened the third period by Brandon Cribari and Peter Vaisanen. Zach Dehm got one back for the Red Dragons late in the period followed by Greg Lee’s last minute goal to finish the scoring.
Barnhardt ended the game with 27 saves. The Bears now get a return date with Plattsburgh, the team they just beat to get home ice in the first round.
The Second Time
Only once before did a player win SUNYAC Rookie of the Year and then later in his career take the Player of the Year honors. That was Plattsburgh’s Tracey Belanger who won the first award in 1996, shared the second award in 1998, and won it himself the following year.
Until now. Oswego’s Ryan Ellis is now the second player to perform that feat. He won the Rookie of the Year two years ago. Now, in his junior year, he was named the Player of the Year. He led the league in goals (11, tied with Geneseo’s Mathieu Cyr) and assists (14, even with Brockport’s Chris Koras) and points (alone with 25).
Ellis and Cyr made the All-Conference First team along with Riley Hill (Plattsburgh), defensemen Gerard Heinz (Cortland) and Nick Rolls (Plattsburgh), and goaltender Ryan Scott (Oswego).
The Rookie of the Year went to Buffalo State’s Nick Petriello (8-10-18). It must have been a close vote between him and Plattsburgh goalie sensation, Bryan Hince (1.92 GAA, .916 save pct.), and Dylan Clarke (10-9-19).
Interestingly, both Hince and Clarke made the All Conference Second Team while Petriello didn’t even make honorable mention.
The Coach of the Year award must also have been a close vote. It went to Potsdam’s Aaron Saul. He took a last place team and not only put them in the playoffs but got home ice as well. Cortland’s Joe Baldarotta also took a non-playoff team and put them in the second season and must have garnered some votes. Then, there was Bob Emery who returned Plattsburgh to the top with an excellent job behind the bench. And, let’s not forget the quiet but effective job Jeff Meredith has done with Fredonia this year.
SUNYAC Short Shots
Jordan Oye scored the game winner for Fredonia at the one minute mark of overtime to defeat Buffalo State, 2-1 … Potsdam scored twice within 1:36 in the third period to take the lead and eventually upset Plattsburgh, 4-2, with Colin MacLennan getting the game winner and Rob Barnhardt made 35 saves … Casey Balog scored the first two goals of the game as Geneseo beat Brockport, 4-1 … Ryan Scott made 37 saves for his ninth career shutout in Oswego’s 3-0 victory over Cortland … Derek Jokic stopped 27 shots in Geneseo’s 4-2 win over Lebanon Valley.
One semifinal is a repeat while the other consists of the northern most travel partners. Fredonia will look to repeat last year’s upset in Oswego while Plattsburgh tries to stop a hot Potsdam squad.
The single game format is in the second year, so everything is on the line Saturday night. If the game is tied, they will go to 20-minute periods until someone scores.
(All statistics in the previews are for conference play only.)
Fredonia (10-4-2, 15-8-3) at Oswego (13-2-1, 17-5-2)
This may be a repeat of last year’s semifinal match-up, but the teams come in with different circumstances.
Fredonia is a much better team this year having won twice as many conference games. They have been playing consistently good hockey throughout the season which enabled them to finish third after a fifth place finish last year. They have won five of their last six games.
Meanwhile, Oswego struggled early in the season before peaking just in time for the playoffs, winding up second after finishing first a year ago. The Lakers have won 10 of their last 11 games, with the one loss coming in overtime.
“I’d like to think we’re playing our best hockey this season,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said.
As is typical with the Blue Devils, they are very stingy in front of their own net. They are third best in the league, letting up 2.5 goals a game. On the other hand, Oswego has allowed just 2.0 goals a game.
Offensively, Oswego has the edge with 4.75 goals a game while Fredonia scores 3.25 per contest.
“Oswego is just so explosive,” Meredith said. “They got guys on the fourth line that would be top line guys on most teams.”
The key for Fredonia is to keep it close.
“They’re a good team,” Gosek said of his opponent. “The games they had against us, they played very solidly defensively, good goaltending, and were opportunistic. When you give them an opportunity, they take advantage of it.”
“Let’s be honest,” Meredith said. “We’re playing the defending national champions in their building. We just have to go in there and try to keep control of the game. Using a basketball analogy, we want to just go in and keep it close and hope we have a chance at a jump shot at the end.”
Like any playoff game, this one will most likely come down to goaltending. Pat Street has played extremely well for the Blue Devils, topping the league with a .935 save pct. and third with a 2.21 GAA. Will he be the Kevin Amborski of these playoffs?
On the flip side, Ryan Scott, like his team, got off to a shaky start, but finished strong. He finished the season with a 1.74 GAA to lead the league and second in save percentage at .933.
“Most impressive is Ryan Scott is back on his game and is playing very solid,” Gosek said. “And, he’s got the confidence of his players back. And in turn, they are not as tight and are more confident in their play.”
The teams tied in the first semester at Oswego, 3-3, and the Lakers won the return match, 4-1. However, the key game was last year in the semifinals when Fredonia stunned Oswego in front of their home fans, 3-2 in overtime, en route to a surprising SUNYAC championship. Oswego rebounded to win the bigger prize: the national championship.
“The success we had there last year — I’m sure that will benefit us,” Meredith said. “The long and short of it is we have to play our ‘A’ game.”
“We learned an awful lot about ourselves last year,” Gosek said. “The Fredonia game and then getting a second chance against Norwich, St. Norbert, and Middlebury. Found ways to get it done last year and finding ways to overcome adversity was part of what formed us.”
Potsdam (6-7-3, 10-12-4) at Plattsburgh (14-2-0, 21-4-0)
Both teams had a resurgence this year. Plattsburgh returned to traditional form taking the regular season title. The Bears returned to the playoffs, at home no less, and won their first playoff game since 2003.
“Aaron [Saul] has put his heart and soul into it,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “You knew as the season went along, they were going to get better, and they are peaking at the right time.”
The Cardinals know that all too well. In the opening SUNYAC game for these teams, Plattsburgh walloped Potsdam, 11-1, outshooting them, 52-16. In the last SUNYAC game for these two teams, Potsdam won, 4-2, scoring three goals in the third period.
“It’s great confidence for our guys knowing we beat them once,” Saul said. “But we are going to have to come in with our best game to have a chance to do it again.”
Saul knows the playoffs are a different beast, and Plattsburgh always seems to know how to step it up.
“We expect a real good game,” he said. “I’m sure they will be ready to go. They are one of the best teams in the country.”
The reason they are one of the best teams in the country is because of freshman goalie Bryan Hince, who’s second in the league with a 1.92 GAA and third with a .916 save pct. More importantly, Hince comes up with the save when his team needs it most, something that has been missing in front of the Cardinals’ net the past few years.
Meanwhile, goaltending for Potsdam has not always been stellar, until recently. Rob Barnhardt in his final year has been exceptional at times down the stretch. Expect him to get the start again, but if need be, Rick Miller has also proven himself this season.
How hot the Potsdam netminder is will decide the game. Plattsburgh has the second best conference offense with 4.69 goals per game, and if they start scoring a lot, it will be difficult to beat a team that only lets up two goals a game.
Then, there’s Plattsburgh’s power play which is a league best 28.2%. And don’t expect to get many opportunities against the Cardinals as they are the least penalized team in the league.
“Try to stay out of the box,” Saul said as the key to Potsdam’s success. “Their power play is very good. Their speed up front, we’re going to have to try to slow down if we can.”
Finishing in first has its advantages — Plattsburgh got to rest on Tuesday and gets to play in front of a friendly crowd.
“I think it’s an advantage to play at home,” Emery said. “I always say we have the most dedicated fans in Division III hockey. But, it’s not an automatic, obviously. I’m sure they’ll be pumped up as they always are when we play them. No one is going to sneak up on anyone.”