Familiarity breeds contempt. Or so the saying goes.
However, for Potsdam and Utica, two teams that haven’t played each other since Oct. 2005, they had no problems developing plenty of enmity toward each other.
They played a two game series in central New York. A hard fought, hard hitting, highly emotional two contests. Perhaps it was fitting they split the series, with Potsdam taking the first game, 6-3, and Utica winning the second, 2-1.
“It was a war out there,” Utica coach Gary Heenan said. “There were a lot of hard hits out there. We got guys hurt. I believe he’s got guys hurt.”
In the first game, Potsdam jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Nick Leigh and Fraser Smith. Utica came back to tie it before the period was over, only to have Potsdam regain the two goal lead in the second on goals by Colin MacLennan and Spencer Noyes.
Utica once again attempted a comeback, scoring early in the third, but the Bears put it away on Smith’s second goal and less than a minute later on a tally by Kevin MacLellan. Trevor O’Neill made 28 saves in the win.
The next night, Andy Groulx made his second start of his collegiate career, finishing with 25 saves. He let in the winning goal when Utica scored with a two man advantage power play midway through the third. Earlier, after a scoreless first period, Potsdam fell behind before MacLellan tied the game in the second.
The Bears thought they had it tied with 20 seconds left — and the video did appear to show the puck in the net before the goal was knocked off its moorings — but the referees ruled it never went in.
“It’s a tough break for us,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said about the no-goal. “Those guys have a tough job to do. It was an unfortunate bounce against us.”
As the game was winding down, the intensity of the weekend kept increasing. Eventually, it led to two majors and two 10 minute misconducts. All told, the second game saw 27 penalties for 76 minutes.
“We haven’t played them in a number of years,” Heenan said. “It would be fun to get this going. I don’t think there’s a lot of love on the ice out there.”
After hearing some of the off-the-cuff comments and reactions emanating from both locker rooms from players and coaches, I had the feeling while walking out of the Utica Memorial Auditorium these two teams would willingly give up a conference game in order to have an opportunity at a rubber match against each other.
They are now very familiar with each other. Imagine the level of contempt they will have the next time they meet.
The Debate Heats Up
The intensity isn’t just heating up between two teams. It’s also heating up in the annual battle of bragging rights between the SUNYAC and the ECAC West.
Even though there are plenty of games to be played as the SUNYAC holds a slim 9-8-1 advantage, the biggest story of this inter-conference battle is how many of the SUNYAC underdogs, or at least perceived underdogs based on last year’s performances, have done their part in beating ECAC West teams.
Morrisville split with Elmira. Potsdam split with Utica. Geneseo beat Hobart. Buffalo State tied Hobart. And most recently, Cortland beat Hobart, 5-2.
“We played really well,” Cortland coach Joe Baldarotta said. “We did some good things. We moved some guys around in the lineup. I felt we finally outworked someone.”
Cortland fell behind 1-0 but Patrick Palmisano tied the contest on the power play before the period ended. In the second, Hobart again took the lead. Then, Cortland reeled off four straight goals. Ryan Markell got his first in the second period, scored another in the third, and after Jarrett Gold scored on the power play, Markell added an empty netter for the hat trick. Brittan Kuhlman made 32 saves for his first collegiate win.
These kind of victories may end up giving the SUNYAC a winning record against the ECAC West for the first time in quite a while. In fact, as of today, the SUNYAC does not have a losing record against any conference. Besides the aforementioned record against the ECAC West, the SUNYAC is 2-0-1 against the ECAC East, 1-0 versus the ECAC Northeast, and 1-1 against both the MIAC and NESCAC. They have not yet played any games against NCHA and MCHA opponents.
SUNYAC Short Shots
Plattsburgh’s Josh Leis made 18 saves, shutting out Buffalo State, 7-0 … Twice Fredonia held a two goal lead and once Potsdam held a two goal margin in a wild back and forth game that finally saw the Blue Devils come out on top, 6-5, on a late tally by Billy Sanborn … Geneseo’s Adrian Rubeniuk made 29 saves, losing the shutout on a late extra attacker goal, beating Brockport, 2-1 … Cortland led Morrisville, 4-1, only to have the Mustangs score twice in the first minute of the third period eventually tying the game before Martin Oeberg scored the winner in the Red Dragons 6-4 victory.
Eric Satim, Dan Sliasis, and Vick Schlueter each scored a pair of goals in Plattsburgh’s 10-2 shellacking of Fredonia … After Morrisville led 1-0 after one, Oswego rolled to an 8-1 win thanks to a Chris Laganiere hat trick … Potsdam led 2-0, Buffalo State tied it on a shorthanded and power play scores, and then Potsdam retook a two goal lead for a 4-2 victory.
In his collegiate debut, Andy Groulx made 33 saves to lead Potsdam over Skidmore, 4-1, with Todd Hosmer scoring twice … After falling behind 2-0 in the first to Hamilton, Cortland scored within 1:09 of the second to tie it, only to let up two goals in the third in a 4-2 loss.
Plattsburgh scored a goal in each period to beat Middlebury, 3-1, in the Primelink semifinal … Eric Satim scored 43 seconds into the third period to give Plattsburgh a 1-1 tie against Norwich in the Primelink final (a shootout gave Norwich the coveted trophy) … Buffalo State scored two goals in the second period to enable them to beat Concordia (MN), 3-2, in the Adrian Tournament … The Bengals lost a heartbreaker the next night after scoring three unanswered goals to take a 4-3 lead, St. John’s scored twice within 32 seconds late in the third for the 5-4 win.
Brockport won the Skidmore Invitational … First, they shutout University of New England, 5-0, on 27 saves by Todd Sheridan … Then, the Golden Eagles defeated Nichols, 6-3, after jumping out to a 5-0 lead with a pair of goals by Tom Galiani and Oliver Wren’s first win of the season on 21 saves.
Game of the Week
One more weekend of SUNYAC play for the semester, and then the conference schedule will be half over. No matter what happens this weekend, one guarantee can be made — the standings will not be any clearer than they are today.
Thus, the same old mantra I’ve been preaching all year: every point counts for every team’s destiny.
In the season preview, I said the Morrisville mark your calendar game is the last conference game of this semester against Fredonia. Thus, this will have to be one of the two games of the week. That pick still holds true heading into this weekend for the same reason I stated back in October.
We now know what to expect from Morrisville. The Mustangs, thanks to Relkoff living up to his preseason hype, are a team that is capable of beating anyone. At this stage of the season, it will not surprise me to see them make the playoffs this year. Beating Fredonia (and Buffalo State the night before) will go a long way towards making that a reality.
The other game of the week is Brockport at Cortland, mainly because it’s the hardest game this weekend for me to pick a winner.
Cortland is 4-5-0 overall and 2-4-0 in SUNYAC. However, they could have beaten Buffalo State and Potsdam for want of a different bounce. Heck, their loss to Hamilton was the result of a freak mistake. This weekend, when they host Geneseo and Brockport, they have two big games, especially since they are currently tied with the Golden Eagles and two points behind the Ice Knights.
“[Beating] Hobart gave us a big lift,” Baldarotta said. “Our guys now know they can beat a good hockey team. That gives us an outlook of more confidence, that we can play with anyone. We have a chance at beating both of them. They’re big games for us.”
On The Periphery
Before the Thanksgiving break, I bemoaned the fact that a bunch of my sports minded nephews don’t give a hoot about hockey. However, not all is lost with my kin. So far, all of the college bound nieces and nephews are picking hockey schools . . . whether they care about that aspect or not.
My oldest nephew, the one from the family which lived in Japan, is a freshman at Dartmouth. On my side of the family, the oldest niece is in her first year at Michigan State.
My other brother has twin girls who are high school seniors. One of them has selected UW-Stevens Point as her top choice, and in fact just recently heard that she has been accepted there. The other niece is eyeing Miami of Ohio. These nieces, who grew up in Minnesota, do enjoy hockey. In fact, the potential Miami student has already said she will acquire tickets for her Dad and myself. These two are my godchildren, so I did make sure they were raised properly.