The season is still quite young. However, certain stories are already starting to develop.
For starters, and not surprisingly, Oswego and Plattsburgh are staking their claim as the elite teams in the SUNYAC as well as national contenders. Overall, they each have only one loss, are playing tight defense, and especially in the case of Oswego, scoring plenty.
As we quoted Oswego coach Ed Gosek last week, their main concern is who to play each game as everyone is capable of being in the lineup. That’s a problem any coach would love to have.
“Our season has been good so far,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “We played well against Oswego. I thought we played hard. We just didn’t play smart. That was the difference.”
Watch out when they do.
It will be an exciting year watching the Lakers and Cardinals duke it out, but perhaps even more thrilling will be how the rest of the league pans out. The parity between the other seven teams is astounding.
It’s like a dog chasing his own tail. Consider these circular results in just the first three weeks of league play:
- Geneseo beat Potsdam who beat Brockport who beat Morrisville who beat Geneseo.
- Potsdam beat Brockport who beat Morrisville who beat Potsdam.
- Cortland beat Fredonia who beat Buffalo State who beat Cortland.
- Brockport beat Buffalo State who beat Cortland who beat Fredonia who beat Brockport.
No wonder these seven teams are separated by just four points with four of them tied at four. More intriguing is the one team that has played less games (four compared to everyone else’s five), Morrisville, has the fourth best record by percentage.
Morrisville may end up being the real developing story of the year.
They are .500 in both conference and overall play, have already scored more SUNYAC points in their history, have not been swept in a weekend, have beaten Elmira, Geneseo, and Potsdam with only one of those wins coming at home, and in each one of those wins scored the winning goal in the third period or overtime. Perhaps it’s time to stop calling Morrisville the underdog and call them a bona fide playoff contender.
“I think we’ve done our part to prove that,” Morrisville coach Brian Grady said. “We can control our actions. We can’t control what other people think. We’ve proven that we can be successful. We’re just going to take care of what we can control.”
Why has the SUNYAC become an anybody can beat anybody league?
“Five to seven years ago, the SUNYAC really took off,” Emery said. “The new coaches are working really hard to get good players. It’s a league that anyone can beat anybody.”
If anybody is going to break away from the pack of seven, it might be Fredonia. After letting up seven goals each against Cortland and Oswego, they have only let up nine goals in their next four games including a shutout and have not lost a conference game since (their only loss coming to Elmira). The Blue Devils are playing the best, most consistent hockey outside of Oswego and Plattsburgh.
When evaluating the early going for certain teams, you have to be careful when comparing it to expectations.
“To be honest, coming off the year we had last year, we expected to be a little further ahead, but at the same time, we are still in a position to be fighting for a home playoff berth,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “We got the North Country trip out of the way. The losses to Potsdam and Fredonia could have gone our way that we let slip away. Hopefully, we can continue to learn and make rapid improvements to have a successful season.”
“Problem overall was where we were ranked,” Emery said. “Our ranking was based on last year and not on how many people we lost and all the new players coming in.”
With the upcoming weekend full of conference games before the brief holiday period, the developing stories will continue to emerge and adjust.
Potsdam is in a sandwich looking up at Fredonia and down at Buffalo State as the Bears travel to those two Western New York schools. Morrisville looks to maintain the playoff hunt as they travel to Cortland. Geneseo and Brockport, currently tied, resume their rivalry. And Plattsburgh won’t have it easy as they make their longest SUNYAC road trip of the year.
“This has always been our toughest road trip as far as getting points,” Emery said. “We have our work cut out for us.”
As does everyone in the year of parity.
With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, this column will take next week off. Everyone have a great Turkey Day. After you stuff yourselves silly, go out and catch some tournament or nonconference Division III hockey. Perhaps the best action will be at the Primelink Shootout where Plattsburgh will once again compete.
Ever since rotating a Western team into the format, this year’s tournament features probably the strongest field ever. UW-Stout, fresh off a national semifinal finish, joins the fray. The host team, Norwich, will have the pleasure of facing off against the Blue Devils while Plattsburgh will play Middlebury in the first game on opening night.
Buffalo State partakes in the Adrian Tournament which will use a fixed scheduling format which will match-up East and West. The Bengals will face Concordia (MN) and St. John’s.
Brockport travels to the Skidmore Invitational taking on the University of New England in the first game. Speaking of the Thoroughbreds, they will face Potsdam before the holiday in a special game at Lake Placid, home of this year’s national championship. And Potsdam travels to Utica for two games while Cortland gets to host Hobart.
Plenty of great games to be thankful for.
SUNYAC Short Shots
After Potsdam tied the game late in the third period, Morrisville retook the lead 1:07 later on a goal by Bobby Cass, his second of the night, to eventually win 5-3 … Ryan Silveira scored a hat trick to lead Brockport over Buffalo State, 5-2 … Pat Street made 22 saves to shutout Geneseo, 5-0, as Mat Hehr and Alex Morton each scored a pair … Stephen Mallaro got a pair of power-play goals as Oswego beat Cortland, 5-1.
Ryan Bulach scored the winning goal with 4:21 remaining in Geneseo’s 3-2 win over Buffalo State … Fredonia needed two late third period goals by Ian Cosgrove and Bryan Ross to beat Brockport, 5-3 … Five different Plattsburgh players scored in a 5-1 win over Morrisville … Oswego opened a 3-0 lead and then hung on to defeat Utica, 3-2.
Game of the Week
How to choose? There are all the aforementioned holiday tournament games. There are many key SUNYAC matchups this weekend, and the way this year is going, picking a conference game is the way to go.
The one we’re going to choose is Brockport at Geneseo. These teams are currently tied with identical 2-3-0 records. As is par for this season, every point is going to be so important with such a tight race. Last year, Brockport won both games against the Ice Knights, 7-2 and 5-2.
“We expect it to be a highly emotional game,” Brockport coach Brian Dickinson said. “I don’t think the teams like each other. We’re tied, so there are crucial points. We had the better of them last year, so I’m sure they will be talking about that in their locker room. It will be a hard fought, entertaining game.”
On The Periphery
I have a problem. A serious problem.
My brother-in-law after living the past 18 out of 21 years in Tokyo, Japan has moved back into the Rochester area. In the process, he had a large family — five boys and then a girl, currently ranging from a college freshman to a three-year-old. Many of the boys are avid sports fans and participants. Growing up mostly in Japan but attending the American School in Japan (ASIJ), enabled them to become exposed to baseball, basketball, and even American football, as well as cross country, swimming, and wrestling (much to the delight of their father, an All-Ivy League wrestler at Cornell).
However, there was virtually no exposure to hockey. Worse, none of them care about the sport.
One nephew even had the gall to tell me hockey is not a real sport. He told me this in Toronto when I took two of them to a Yankees-Blue Jays game (thankfully, they are at least all Yankees fans). I threatened to leave him behind to see how long he could survive in Canada with that sort of attitude.
I have to believe if I took them to a college hockey game, exposed them to the excitement of not just the game itself but the atmosphere found at the collegiate level and have the ability to sit so close to the action to experience the speed and hitting, they would become instant converts. Especially if I took them to say a Plattsburgh-Oswego, Fredonia-Buffalo State, Geneseo-Brockport, or Air Force-RIT contest.
But what happens if they still don’t like the sport? What do I do then? Disown them?