This Week in SUNYAC: Jan. 7, 2010

Three Tournament Champions

Potsdam, Oswego, and Plattsburgh all celebrated the new year by bringing home hardware to put in their trophy cases. All three played in holiday tournaments, and all three won them.

Potsdam was perhaps the most impressive of the lot because not only were they the only ones who did it on the road, they did it in a tournament with the highest collective winning percentage of (.706).

“Those are three really talented teams in that tournament,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said of the Times-Argus Invitational at Norwich. “It was an outstanding test for us to go and challenge ourselves against them.”

Potsdam faced off against New England College (3-3-1 entering the tournament) in the first game. It turned into a see-saw battle. After NEC scored first, Fraser Smith and Nick Leigh tallied for a 2-1 lead after one. The Pilgrims scored twice in the second, with the last coming a tenth of a second before the period ended, to take a 3-2 lead into intermission.

It took Potsdam midway through the third to mount their comeback when Mitch West and assistant captain Colin MacLennan scored twice within 1:45 for the 4-3 victory.

This put the Bears up against the host team for the championship game. Norwich came into the game undefeated at 8-0-1.

After Leigh gave his team the lead midway through the first, once again Potsdam let up a goal just before the buzzer. This time with .2 seconds left on the clock. An early goal by Norwich in the second gave them a 2-1 lead heading into the third.

It became a two-goal lead with another early score to start a period. MacLennan got it back while shorthanded, but Norwich retook the two-goal lead on the power play with 3:19 left in regulation.

Just like against Plattsburgh, Potsdam came roaring back against a top ranked team, scoring twice in a 41 second span (Todd Hosmer and Kevin MacLellan) to force overtime. The game ended in a 4-4 tie which is what will be officially recorded. However, someone had to get a first place trophy, so they went to a shootout.

The Bears won it on the sixth shooter, 3-2. Sy Nutkevich, who opened the shootout with a goal, clinched it for Potsdam.

“Proud of the fact our guys played” the entire game, Bernard said. “We didn’t let up. We didn’t get down.”

Trevor O’Neill, who keeps improving with every start, got the tournament MVP. He made 25 saves in the first game and 33 against the Cadets. Leigh and Hosmer got on the All-Tournament team.

“He made every big save at every opportunity to sustain or build momentum for our team,” Bernard said.

Potsdam will be tested again this weekend when they host Neumann for a pair of games.

“When you have a team that is the defending national champions, obviously they have talent on their team, but they also come with a confidence that they can perform,” Bernard said.

The Lakers took home the title in their own PathFinder Bank/Oswego Classic.

“I thought the tournament was good,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Four good games. Good hockey for the local people.”

Oswego faced Connecticut College first, taking a 4-1 win.

After a scoreless first period, the Camels got their lone goal early in the second. Then, the Lakers notched the next four tallies, two in each remaining period. Justin Fox on the power play and Andrew Mather in the second, and Chris Ayotte and Tyler Leimbrock on a delayed penalty in the third. Paul Beckwith made 19 saves.

With Elmira winning their game, the final was the rubber match everyone was hoping for. The two teams split a home-and-home early in the season.

The Lakers got on the board first with a shorthanded goal by — who else? — assistant captain Neil Musselwhite, his fifth shortie of the season. Oswego took a 2-0 lead late in the opening period on a power-play tally by Luke Moodie. Elmira quickly got it back 43 seconds later.

Erik Selleck closed out the scoring with a second period goal. After a scoreless third which saw Elmira only get four shots, the Lakers had themselves a 3-1 victory. Kyle Gunn-Taylor made 18 saves.

“Elmira and us was a good game,” Gosek said. “They made some nice plays. We made some nice plays. Goalies made some good saves. It was the way you want a hockey game to be.”

Justin Fox got the tournament MVP with one goal and four assists. Kevin Huinink was also named to the All-Tournament team.

Plattsburgh had the easiest time in their own Cardinal Classic. First, they blew out Castleton, 8-1, going 4-for-9 on the power play, scoring twice in each of the first two periods and four times in the last. When Castleton scored late in the second, it was already 4-0.

Ian DeLong and Eric Satim each had a pair of goals with Vick Schlueter, Dan Sliasis, and Kyle Kudroch also scoring. Ryan Corry got three assists. Ryan Williams made 17 saves.

“We had good leadership and intensity from the start,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery told the Press-Republican. “The players were hungry.”

It got even easier in the championship game as Plattsburgh shutout Trinity, 9-0, as the Cardinals wailed 70 shots on the Bantams’ net. Josh Leis registered the whitewash with 23 saves.

The power play was a key once again as Plattsburgh went 5-for-12. Phil Farrow also added a shorthanded goal for good measure. The scoring was spread out as nine different players did the honors.

“We did a good job early getting the puck in deep and getting our cycle going,” Emery said. “We focused on getting pucks on the net and played our style of hockey.”

Corry got the MVP award with four assists for the weekend. Kudroch, Farrow, and Leis joined him on the All-Tournament team.

It gets tougher for Plattsburgh. After dropping a 4-1 decision at Norwich during the week, the Cardinals travel to one of their biggest rivals, Elmira, for a Saturday afternoon contest.

Pink The Rink Preparations

Even though the founder of Fredonia’s Pink the Rink, Greg Heffernan, has moved on to become the head coach at Western New England College, the foundation he laid in 2007 is a strong one. The event not only will continue, but is being emulated by many other colleges across the country and even some NHL teams.

This time, Fredonia has added a different twist.

Instead of auctioning off the pink jerseys the players will be wearing, they are on sale now for $250. Here’s the twist — the purchaser can then have the name of their choice sewn on the back of the jersey. The players will wear the jersey with the names of those loved ones instead of the player’s name during the game against Morrisville on February 20. Afterward, an on-ice ceremony will be held like last year where the player will literally give the jerseys off their backs to the buyers.

All proceeds from the sale of these jerseys will once again be given to the American Cancer Society.

“We feel it will be an inspirational evening and are excited about joining in the fight against breast cancer,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said.

To make arrangements to purchase a jersey, contact Meredith at (716) 673-3334.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Brockport’s Todd Sheridan made 33 saves in shutting out Western New England College, 4-0 … Jordan Oye scored twice as Fredonia fired 59 shots in their 4-2 win over Johnson & Wales … The next day, seven different Fredonia players scored as the Blue Devils went 5-for-8 on the power play in a 7-1 victory over Johnson & Wales … Justin Fox and Eric Selleck each got a pair of goals in Oswego’s 8-2 thrashing of Hamilton … The next day against Hobart, Jon Whitelaw got a pair of goals as Oswego won, 5-1.

Nine different Geneseo players scored as they went 4-for-7 on the power play along with two shorthanded goals in a 9-2 victory over Western New England … Caylin Relkoff made 27 saves as Morrisville beat Saint Michael’s, 5-1 … Oswego has a 14 game winning streak, the longest in Division III.

Game of the Week

Well, duh.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock all season, seemingly the only game that matters in this 2009-10 season finally takes place: Adrian at Oswego.

What many people don’t know is this game came about by accident. Oswego had a team back out of their schedule late in the process, so coach Ed Gosek had to scramble to find a replacement. The only team that returned the call was Adrian, who lived up to their word they will play anybody at anytime.

“We were short a game,” Gosek said. “They were willing to come out for just one game, so we appreciate that, especially in today’s economy.”

This game has taken on a life of its own. Division III followers from all around the area will be making their way to the snow covered city. It doesn’t matter whether they are fans of either team. They even planned a virtual tailgating party at one of the local watering holes: Greene’s Ale House.

Fans have been buzzing since it was announced, but hardly anyone is talking about how the game itself is going to be. It’s almost like it doesn’t matter whether it actually turns out to be a good game or not. All everyone seems to care about is the result. A result that will either validate or invalidate many people’s belief in the Adrian program and the strength of east versus west.

However, even though the Oswego coaching staff and players are fully aware of the significance, it’s still a single game in their season. A nonconference game at that.

“For us, it’s our last non-league game of the year,” Gosek said. “It’s a chance to try to make some decisions on lines, make some changes.

“We respect their program. [Coach Ron] Fogarty has done a great job. They are a good team. It’s a chance to judge ourselves against a very good team. These teams expose your weaknesses. Gives you something to improve on. Ultimately, at the end of the year, you want to be playing your best, and the Elmiras and Adrians help us along the way.”

Fans across the nation will be judging the result of this game, and talking about it for months and months to come. The deluge on the USCHO Message Board will be as great as a lake effect storm on Oswego.

On The Periphery

I admit it. I was a wimp this past weekend.

I planned on covering the Pathfinder Bank/Oswego Classic. However, earlier in the week while driving back from my parents’ home in Asheville, North Carolina, I had to deal with two hours of treacherous, snow covered roads in the West Virginia mountains, and then spats of lake effect snow both south and north of Pittsburgh.

Driving north towards Erie on I-79, the southbound lanes were shutdown due to a massive pile up on the icy roadway. Multiple tractor trailers were jackknifed across the highway. One was embedded in the back of an SUV.

Thus, when the lake effect engine and high winds kicked into full force along the Route 104 corridor between Rochester and Oswego on New Year’s weekend, I decided I had enough. I have skipped a game here and there over the years, but never gave up on an entire weekend, especially one with a tournament consisting of four games.

(I felt somewhat justified when I heard Wolcott, one of the towns I go through, had by Sunday afternoon 34 inches of snow and six foot drifts.)

However, rest assured, I will not miss Friday’s Adrian-Oswego contest. Not for any storm. Not for any amount of snow. Not for any wind swept roads. I’ll hire a dogsled team if I have to.

In fact, when I mentioned this to my colleague Scott Biggar, he quipped, “Your car is small enough. Just strap some dogs to that and grab the whip.”

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