This Week in SUNYAC

18 Championships

The Plattsburgh State Cardinals won their 18th SUNYAC title with a 4-3 victory over Oswego. Plattsburgh had not won the crown the past three years, tying their longest drought. Interestingly, after breaking that streak last time, they went on to win six straight. Even when they don’t win it, they are always there. Plattsburgh has been in 17 straight finals.

“This is probably the most gratifying SUNYAC championship. The league is getting tougher and tougher,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “Most importantly, I’m happy for the players. They work hard. There are no superstars. We won a lot of one goal games this year. We found ways to win.”

Before the fans could even sit down after the national anthem, Oswego struck. Derrell Levy received a pass from Rich Zalewski and from the high slot, slapped it by Bryan Hince through a screen 10 seconds after the opening face off.

“We got off to a good start, but it was still a feeling out process,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said.

“We were focused on no neutral zone turnovers, and we start the game off with a neutral zone turnover,” Emery said. “Obviously, when you enter a rink and there are 3,000 fans in the rink and you can take the fans out, it’s an advantage. But, our guys were very confident. We came back before.”

Afterwards, Oswego got into penalty trouble, and Ryan Scott was forced to come up big to keep Plattsburgh off the scoreboard as the Cardinals out shot Oswego 11-4 in the period. However, despite three power play opportunities, the quick goal was the only marker on the scoreboard.

The Cardinals finally knotted the game on a Dylan Clarke shot at 2:33 in the second. The goal was due to slow defensive play by Oswego. Plattsburgh dumped the puck in, but had to cycle out four players to avoid an offsides. Yet, despite all that time, Oswego was unable to get the puck out of their zone.

Then, Plattsburgh finally got a power-play goal on their fourth try to take a 2-1 lead. Joey Wilson scored through a screen set by an Oswego defender as Scott never saw it at 6:45.

Oswego stunned Plattsburgh by scoring a goal just after killing off a two-minute 5-on-3 disadvantage. Brendan McLaughlin just out of the box converted a 3-on-1 after Plattsburgh gave the puck away at 14:17.

However, the momentum didn’t last long as Plattsburgh answered with a man advantage goal 1:06 later. Wilson got his second of the night once again through a screen on the power play.

“We live and die by our power play, and it was our power play that scored two important goals,” Emery said.

The second period was jam packed with penalties.

“No flow whatsoever,” Emery said of the whole game. “From a hockey mind set, it wasn’t a good game to watch.”

“Second period was controlled by special teams,” Gosek said. “Hard to get any flow, any rhythm. For us, a team that likes to roll four lines, it was hard to get any flow. Not an excuse, but a difficult period.”

Perhaps the most difficult time for Oswego was when Peter Magagna, on the power play no less, flew into a pile in the crease with an elbow to Ward Smith (who did not return in the third period). Magagna was given a five-minute major, and though Plattsburgh committed a number of penalties negating most of that advantage, it was still a terrible blow to Oswego’s chances.

“It’s not a disciplined penalty,” Gosek said. “He needs to play with an edge to be effective, but he needs to channel it.”

The Cardinals took the only two goal lead of the game at 10:10 of the final period when Oswego coughed it up behind the net. Shawn Dennis wound up with the puck in front without a defender nearby. He easily beat Scott for just his second goal of the year and a 4-2 lead.

“Our D didn’t do a good job on their last goal in the third period,” Gosek said. “Our next goal really should have been the tying goal.”

Oswego cut the lead back to one on another power-play goal at 14:54 by McLaughlin from the slot after Oswego kept it in the zone on an attempted clear off the glass by Plattsburgh.

Oswego was able to pull their goalie in the waning moments of the game, but Plattsburgh held off all attempts and took the championship.

“I give Oswego a lot of credit,” Emery said. “They never quiet. It was not over till the final buzzer.”

“They’re a good team and they found a way to get it done,” Gosek said of his opponents.

Oswego is 16-2-0 when scoring the first goal this year, with those two losses coming at the hands of the Cardinals.

The All Tournament selections are Brendan McLaughlin, Joey Wilson, Tony DiNunzio, Francois Gagnon, Nick Rolls, and Bryan Hince. Hince was named the MVP. He made 23 saves as Plattsburgh out shot Oswego, 45-26.

What Next?

Oddly, the SUNYAC season ended a week before the national selections are made. Was the SUNYAC aware that the NCAA playoffs started later this year?

“We didn’t know till the fall,” Emery said.

Gosek said, “It didn’t get the attention that was needed. Everybody’s schedule was already made.”

There were discussions to move the play-in game to the weekend after the regular season ended, and then spread out the semifinals and championship on the two following weekends which would have stretched the schedule back out to avoid a gap. However, the coaches voted against that proposal.

“Having a week off only hurts you if you think it’s going to hurt,” Emery said. “Look at Oswego last year. They had a week off and did just fine in the nationals.”

Speaking of Oswego, they once again are in the position of putting their fate in a committee’s hands. This year, it’s going to be a close call as Oswego has to hope there are no upsets in the other conference tournaments.

“We hope for the best,” Gosek said. “We certainly think we’re a top 10 team in the country. I don’t know how other teams did since December, but we only lost two games [now three] since then. I’d like to think they will put teams in that are playing great down the stretch and not teams who played great in October. We still feel good about our chances.”

“It would be nice to get two SUNYAC teams in,” Emery said.

In the meantime, Oswego will continue to practice as if their season will go on.

“We’ll give them tomorrow off, then come back and practice the rest of the week,” Gosek said. “Pretty much same schedule as always.”

Plattsburgh knows exactly what they are doing and probably where. They just have to wait to find out who they will be playing.

“99.9% sure we’ll host a game in the first round,” Emery said. “We’re going to practice on Monday. We’ll have a couple of extra days off. We’ll scrimmage this Saturday.”

With the national tournament just a bit over an hour away in Lake Placid, does Plattsburgh have an extra incentive to win their quarterfinal game?

“I would hope that when you play the game you don’t need any extra incentive,” Emery said. “It’s going to be nice if we make it since it’s being played down the road, no doubt about it, but you should be playing as hard as you can all the time.”

All Rookie Team and Defensive Awards

For the third year, in order to bring some publicity to players who are not recognized by the traditional end of season awards, the coaches felt there was a need to name an All Rookie team as well as awards for the best Defensive Defenseman and Defensive Forward.

A reminder on how these were selected to avoid any confusion. I did not make these selections. Since the SUNYAC did not wish to expand the number of awards they hand out, I volunteered to mediate the process. The coaches made the selections following the same rules as the other SUNYAC awards — the coaches nominated candidates from their own teams, they then voted for their choices from the nominated players without being allowed to vote for any player on their own team, and I tabulated the results based on the same scoring system. They may not be sanctioned by the conference, but I believe they hold the same credibility as the other officially sanctioned SUNYAC awards.

Here are the 2007-8 All Rookie Team and defensive awards:

F: Dylan Clarke (Plattsburgh)
F: Nick Petrels (Buffalo State)
F: Eric Satim (Plattsburgh)
D: Ryan Corry (Plattsburgh)
D: Brent Fallon (Cortland)
G: Bryan Hince (Plattsburgh)

Best Defensive Defenseman: Mike Novak (Oswego)

Best Defensive Forward: Steve Seedhouse (Brockport)

It should be noted four of the six players on the All Rookie team are from the squad that won the regular season and playoff championship. It certainly bodes well for Plattsburgh’s future and indicates how much work the rest of the league has to do.

The voting this year was very close, so I’m going to mention a few other players who just missed being named to the above list as sort of an unofficial honorable mention.

Two forwards who almost made the All Rookie team were Rob Sgarbossa (Morrisville) and Fraser Smith (Potsdam). Steve Rizer (Fredonia) deserves mention on defense. For the Best Defensive Defenseman award, Steve Sankey (Geneseo) who won it last year, and Jeff Sylvester (Fredonia) received a lot of support as did Greg Lee (Potsdam) for the Best Defensive Forward.

On The Periphery

What does one do when he covers a league that ends one week earlier than the others? Why, go to a hockey game somewhere else. Even if that somewhere else is almost 500 miles from home.

I spent this week in Fort Wayne, Indiana on business. This time I got lucky. The Fort Wayne Komets were in town on Wednesday, and I went to the game.

Normally, when it came to going to games, I did so in New York state, thoroughly enjoying yet another year covering the SUNYAC.

It’s not just the great hockey but the folks who are involved. The coaches have been great this year putting up with my phone calls and always calling me back when they are not immediately available. A special thanks to them, but let’s try something new for next year guys, like no changes for next season.

Thanks to all the Sports Information Directors, especially to those who had to put up with my last minute requests for a piece of trivia, a photo, or a press pass. I appreciate all those radio and TV stations that ask me to be a part of your broadcast. Thanks to our new Division III editor, Nicholas Jon Wood, who helped make me look good.

Then, there are you readers who make this all possible and worthwhile. For those of you who told me the first thing you do Friday morning is read this column, we’re going to have to wait till October to renew our dates.

And of course, a loving thanks to my wife (who’s favorite team — remember, she is the camel collector — Connecticut College was eliminated in the NESCAC quarterfinals in overtime) for putting up with my disappearance nearly every weekend night. Now, I have to explain why I am going to Lake Placid without her…