Plattsburgh Cardinals (23-4-0 overall, 14-2-0 in SUNYAC)
The most successful SUNY hockey team is back in the NCAA playoffs.
The Plattsburgh Cardinals, after winning their 18th SUNYAC championship, return to the national playoffs for the 18th time (making it to the final four nine of those times), and their first since 2004. In that year, they defeated Curry, 5-4, in overtime at home to make it to the championship weekend where they lost to St. Norbert, 4-1, in the semifinal.
This time, they again are home for the quarterfinal where they face Hobart. The last time these teams faced each other was in 2001 when Plattsburgh took a 5-2 home win. They have only played each other six times in their history, and Plattsburgh has never lost (5-0-1). Thus, familiarity with each other is non-existent.
“I know their reputation,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “I know Hobart is one of the best coached teams in the country if not the best coached team in the country. Therefore, they are going to play very close attention to details. They fore check very well. They back check very well. They have great goaltending.”
The coaching at Plattsburgh isn’t too shabby either, and one thing Emery’s teams are known for is peaking at just the right time and playing extremely well the deeper they get into the playoffs.
A perfect example of their discipline is the number of penalties they have committed this year — just 10.7 per game, third best in the country. Combine that with an 85.8% penalty kill, five shorthanded goals, and a 28.6% power play efficiency (fifth best in the country combined Division II and III), and it becomes quite evident special teams is a major asset for the Cardinals.
The key difference between this year’s team and the ones the past few years that have fallen short is goaltending. Freshman Bryan Hince solved this problem with exceptional play (2.03 GAA, .915 save pct.). More importantly, he makes the save when the team needs it the most.
This has allowed the skaters to no longer worry about paying extra attention in protecting the defensive end as well as relieve the pressure from the forwards from having to feel like they must score every opportunity they get.
This has allowed forwards such as Dylan Clarke (18 goals, 14 assists, 33 points), Riley Hill (14-17-31), Joey Watson (10-20-30), and Eric Satim (9-19-28) to do their thing as well as defenseman Nick Rolls (13-14-27) to be able to jump into the offensive end. Clarke and Satim are also freshmen on a relatively young squad which has just three seniors.
This overall synergy is what led to such a successful season.
What about the fact that Hince is a freshman in his first national playoff game? Will his calmness throughout the season hold up, or will he suddenly start feeling the pressure?
“He’s had a great year,” Emery said. “And even though he’s a freshman, he is a great competitor and has a great attitude for a goaltender. He has a lot of confidence. He doesn’t play like a freshman. Yet, freshman or not, there’s no room for a bad game from a goalie this time of year from either team.”
Plattsburgh has had plenty of time to prepare for this game as they have not played for two weeks.
“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.”
Plattsburgh didn’t know who they were going to prepare for until this past Sunday.
“We’re not going to make any major adjustments,” Emery said. “We’ll have to pay attention to their tendencies, but nothing major for adjustments.”
The two New York State teams in a classic SUNYAC vs. ECAC West match up will have a lot to shoot for. They are not only playing for a chance to make it to the final four, but to do so in the winter icon in their own state — Lake Placid.
Hobart Statesmen (18-7-2 overall, 7-6-2 in ECAC West)
Off all the teams in the NCAA tournament, Hobart had the longest and most agonizing wait to find out if it was going to get a bid. The Statesmen last played on Mar. 1, losing to Elmira, 6-3, in the ECAC West semifinals. After that, they had to wait for a very long week to see if their season was deemed good enough from the selection committee.
Fortunately for Hobart, the call came late on Sunday.
â€œI felt very good about our chances of being selected as long as enough of the first seeds won,â€ said Hobart coach Mark Taylor. â€œIâ€™ve really been happy with our whole body of work for the year. Weâ€™ve lost some games but they have all been good games. Our league has pretty much beat each other up.â€
â€œAfter the Elmira loss, I told the guys I wasnâ€™t going to shake their hands until it was all over. I didnâ€™t think we deserved to be out at this point. Now we got our rebirth here, but there are always going to be some very deserving teams that are out.â€
If there was one factor that put Hobart over the top, it was a perfect non-conference record with ten wins against some very competitive teams.
This is Hobartâ€™s third trip to the NCAAâ€™s in the last five years. The Statesmenâ€™s last trip was two seasons ago, when Hobart defeated Norwich 3-1 in the quarterfinal round and then lost to St. Norbert 5-4 in overtime in a thrilling semifinal game.
The experience of the veterans of that team, including starting goaltender Keith Longo, will be important this go around as well.
â€œThe best experience that we have is that we went into Norwich and won,â€ said Taylor. â€œOur guys know how it was done, and that experience definitely helps.â€
Having the extra week off has actually been an advantage for Hobart, as several players were hampered with colds during its last game two weeks ago.
â€œIt is definitely going to help us,â€ said Taylor. â€œWe had a few guys who didnâ€™t practice before Elmira because they were sick. We didnâ€™t decide not to play a player until the bus ride down there. Did that factor into the game at Elmira? Sure it did, but they also played better hockey than we did. Those guys wonâ€™t be sick now.â€
Hobart and Plattsburgh havenâ€™t met since January 5, 2001, when the Cardinals beat the Statesmen, 5-2, in the opening round of the Cardinal Classic tournament. Just like in 2001, Plattsburgh is a high scoring team, leading the SUNYAC this year in team offense.
â€œEvery team we play is a great team,â€ said Taylor. â€œ[Plattsburgh is] an up tempo, cominâ€™ at you kind of team, and it should be a fun game.â€