This Week in SUNYAC: Jan. 14, 2010

A Win For Division III Hockey

The game was finally played. Oswego vs. Adrian. East vs. West. Established program vs. upstart. Fans vs. fans.

Perhaps, in the end, the result wasn’t quite what each side wanted.

Oswego had an opportunity to blow out Adrian in the first period, but they missed on numerous scoring chances, had the puck bounce the wrong way when it was in the goalmouth, and Adrian’s goaltender, Brad Fogal, performed better than the weekend before.

“I thought we played well in the first period,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “I thought we had a lot of grade ‘A’ chances early on.”

“We came out on our heels a little bit because of Oswego taking it to us,” Adrian coach Ron Fogarty said.

Two quick late goals in the opening period by the Lakers may have saved them the victory considering how the rest of the game went. Adrian woke up after that poor start, and played much better the remainder of the game.

“Kind of what I expected in the second,” Gosek said. “They got their act together and came out and played a much better second.”

Adrian cut the lead to one and then had to do it again late in the third with their goalie pulled. Two empty-net goals by Oswego prevented any completion of a comeback. Assistant captain Neil Musselwhite wound up with a hat trick and one assist.

“We played a lot better in the second period,” Fogarty said.

Unfortunately, Adrian had trouble handling the adversity of playing another tough opponent after being used to pounding on lesser competition, and started to take cheap shots, losing control of their emotions. Oswego was able to restrain themselves as much as possible, knowing that they were about to head into the rest of the SUNYAC schedule.

Nonetheless, in the end, the ultimate winner was Division III college hockey. All eyes were on this game. Fans from Plattsburgh left early for their contest against Elmira in order to stop in Oswego to watch this showdown. Utica fans drove up through the snow to see it for themselves. Many of these fans, some who fought bitterly on the USCHO message boards, gathered together at Greene’s Ale House before the game to have a beer together, talk hockey, and even take a group picture.

To quote the legendary Bob Johnson: “It was a great day for hockey!”

Tougher Than Ever

Plattsburgh always tries to play the toughest nonconference schedule they can put together. This year is no exception with two games each against Middlebury, Norwich, and Elmira. Even foes Skidmore and Williams are no pushover.

“We always strive to play the hardest schedule we can,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “It helps us come playoff time. It will help us when we return to SUNYAC play.”

However, this year it’s even tougher. Why? Due to the Primelink being at Norwich and the rotations for their usual opponents (Norwich, Elmira, and Middlebury) working against them, the majority of these contests are on the road.

“It’s even tougher this year,” Emery said. “We’re always on the road. This week is probably the toughest week ever. This month is probably the toughest month ever. It’s an extra tough schedule this year.”

In a one week span, the Cardinals played at Norwich (lost 4-1), at Elmira (tied, 1-1), and finally returned home against Skidmore (won, 9-3). A tough week indeed.

This started a few days after hosting their own tournament. Now, they go on the road for the rest of the month playing at Williams, Geneseo, Brockport, Cortland, and Oswego. Then, for good measure, they start February out with their sixth consecutive road game traveling to Middlebury. A tough month indeed.

This stretch will certainly test Plattsburgh’s mettle.

“The key for us right now is having the proper attitude coming out of the locker room,” Emery said.

Their defense is going to have to continue to be their strong point, but their offense might have to pick it up in some of those games if they want to maintain their winning ways. This year in 15 games, they only have one double digit goal scorer, Eric Satim with 10. They certainly miss a player like Joey Wilson who buried 24 goals in 28 games last year along with 17 assists.

“We really miss Joey Wilson,” Emery said. “I didn’t realize how much we were going to miss him until now. We’re having trouble scoring goals. We’re keeping the puck out which is always the most important thing and why we’re winning. The key we always stress is keeping the puck out.”

The rest of the month will certainly be a test in perhaps the toughest schedule Plattsburgh has ever faced.

SUNYAC Short Shots

Geneseo scored all their goals in the first two periods by six different players in a 6-1 win over Lebanon Valley … The next day, they beat LVC again, 8-4, with Kaz Iwamoto and Dan Brown each scoring twice; in both games, Geneseo had 49 shots on goal … Buffalo State beat Franklin Pierce in their first game, 7-3, thanks to two goals by Jim Durham … The second game saw Buffalo State spread their scoring out amongst six different players against Franklin Pierce in a 6-1 win … Steve Rizer got a pair including a shorthander as Fredonia beat Westfield State, 5-2, in their first matchup … The next day, Fredonia shutout Westfield, 8-0, as Bryan Ross and Alex Morton scored two goals apiece, the Blue Devils went 6-for-12 on the power play, scored twice within a 32 second span, and Pat Street made 23 saves.

Potsdam beat Neumann, 4-3, on the assistant captain’s second Colin MacLennan goal with one second left in overtime … After the first two periods were scoreless, Patrick Jobb scored the tying goal with 6:14 left in the third to give Plattsburgh a 1-1 tie against Elmira as Josh Leis made 41 saves … Cortland lost a heartbreaker to Manhattanville, 5-4 in overtime, after leading 3-1 and then needing a third period goal to force the extra period.

In Plattsburgh’s 9-3 shellacking of Skidmore, only one player scored more than once as Kyle Kudroch got two … Cortland scored four power-play goals in defeating Lebanon Valley, 5-4 … Geneseo scored twice within 1:05 late in the first and Cory Gershon made 38 saves, including eight in overtime, as the Ice Knights tied Castleton, 2-2

Game of the Week

The Potsdam at Elmira game was Potsdam’s “Mark Your Calendar” game in my season preview. However, the reason it was picked back in October isn’t as important as the reason it is this week’s Game of the Week. Sure, it’s always interesting when a team goes up against their former coach, in this case Aaron Saul, especially in college when most of the players on the former team were recruited by the coach they are now trying to beat.

Things have changed recently for Potsdam. They continue to impress against some very good competition. After splitting a pair against Utica, a come from behind tie against Plattsburgh, a victory over New England College, another come from behind tie against Norwich, they split a pair of games against the defending national champions, Neumann.

Their win was literally in the nick of time.

“It’s thrilling to win a game on home ice with one second left in overtime,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said.

Potsdam did lose the first game, 5-1, but the loss was due to a poor first period where they were outscored, 4-1. Afterwards, Potsdam played Neumann tough for the next five periods and overtime.

“We competed hard for five of the six periods,” Bernard said. “Unfortunately, if you don’t play your best all the time against a team like Neumann, it’s going to cost you.”

Thus, the game against Elmira, ranked sixth in the country, becomes yet another chance for Potsdam to show everyone they really are a team that can now play with anyone in the country. The thought of playing their former coach has taken a backseat.

“I just think it’s another chance for us against a quality hockey team,” Bernard said. “That’s the feeling from top to bottom here — that it’s another test for us.”

Expect a typical style of play from Potsdam that fans have seen recently.

“When you play a quality team that has skill and skating that wants to come out and transition quickly, you have to come out and play at the highest level of intensity that we’re capable of,” Bernard said. “These types of games tend to bring out the physical nature of our team.”

There are a few other games worthy of paying attention to. Western New England College visits Fredonia for a pair. This means it’s the first time Western New England’s coach, Greg Heffernan, returns to the place where he was the assistant coach for the past three years.

Curry at Geneseo is an intriguing matchup. Finally, Plattsburgh at Williams on Monday night could prove to be an exciting affair.

On The Periphery

I’m in New Jersey this week for work. Though I haven’t had to make this business trip in a while, I used to come here relatively often. Like on any business trip, I try to take advantage of what’s around me. Once, I went to see a Yankees game. I hadn’t been to Yankee Stadium (before they tore it down) for a very long time. Another time, I went to the South Street Seaport. I hope one trip to get out to the Yogi Berra Museum in Montclair.

Though I always wanted to get to a Rangers game, the timing never worked out. This time it did. I bought a ticket using TicketExchange, the online agency that allows season ticket holders to unload single game tickets. It’s a great concept providing a safe and guaranteed environment to legally purchase tickets. I believe this system is also keeping gouging down by flooding the market with individual tickets that the sellers on the street can’t get their hands on while the average fan doesn’t have to unload them to the professional re-sellers at less than half cost. It’s a win-win situation. Even for a Rangers-Devils game, I paid slightly below original cost, and the buyer got most of that money (after Ticketmaster, who owns the site, I’m sure took their piece out).

I had not seen the Rangers play in Madison Square Garden in quite some time after having attended many a game there. I always sat in The Blues (if you need it explained, you’re not a Rangers’ fan), and that’s exactly where I intended to sit this time. There is no other place to fully enjoy a Rangers game. The action in The Blues is worth the price of the ticket alone. The game is a bonus.

The Blues are where the true fans sit. No corporate bigwigs. No celebrities. No rich people sitting on their hands. Those who did happen to show up still in work clothes, quickly put on a Rangers’ jersey. No dress shirts and ties allowed in The Blues. It’s hardcore New York hockey fans. The Garden tried to calm the fans that sit there when they renovated the place by putting pastel colored seats in. Yeah, like that was going to work.

They make any college “corner crew” look like a church choir. The women were more vile than the men. No word was off limits. No player, on either team, was immune from scorn. Fans wearing the opposing jerseys? No mercy was afforded them. Those announcements about making the arena a safe and pleasant environment by displaying proper language and good sportsmanship towards both teams? The Blues section spits at it.

Right from the National Anthem, they started in. The putting down of Boston (yes, I know they were playing New Jersey, but if you need an explanation, you don’t understand New York sports fans), the infamous Potvin chants, the mocking of “Joisey,” the vitriol poured down on the refs, the “Let’s Go Rangers!” chants which always starts in The Blues, and their love affair with their team.

Rangers’ fans in The Blues at the Garden — vile, obnoxious, x-rated, drunk, passionate, punishing to the opposition, even more punishing to their own players if they fail, the best and worst of New York. With no apologies.

The way it should be.

It’s been way too long for me. I can’t wait to go back.

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