This Week in SUNYAC: Jan. 28, 2010

As Expected

“Somehow, I get the feeling after the weekend is over, the only thing that is going to change amongst this cluster is some shuffling around within.”

That’s what I wrote in last week’s column. That’s exactly what happened.

Sure, the spread amongst the gap widened by one point. But, that’s like saying Calista Flockhart’s waistline expanded. It’s still small.

Now, there is a three-way tie for fourth place between Brockport, Cortland, and Geneseo, who all split their weekend. Potsdam slipped from fourth to seventh, one point behind those three teams thanks to dropping both games. Three points behind the Bears are Morrisville (now with two games in hand) and Buffalo State.

“Every game is important,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said. “Every SUNYAC game you play is going to be a hard fought battle. It’s already proven there’s not a soft team in this league, and that’s the way it should be.”

Geneseo knows all about hard fought games as they had a quite a battle against Potsdam which nearly saw the game get out of hand in the final period.

“There’s got to be an incredible amount of focus to win hockey games in this conference. And we kept our composure,” Schultz said.

The game started out innocently enough. Stefan Decosse gave Geneseo a first period lead. Matt Viola and Sy Nutkevitch reversed the tide in the second for a Potsdam 2-1 lead. Before the period was over, Kaz Iwamoto scored on the power play to knot it up.

Geneseo took the lead on another two-man advantage power play with a Sebastian Panetta goal. Colin MacLennan returned the favor 45 seconds later with a shorthanded tally. Then came the fun and games.

Clint Olson was awarded the winning goal when the puck never went into the net during a power play. The ensuing meltdown by Potsdam eventually resulted in a Viola unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and a Fraser Smith major and game disqualification for leveling Decosse shortly after play resumed. The result was a clinching goal by Dan Brown.

Andy Rubeniuk was the star of the game, making 37 saves for the win. At times he outright robbed Potsdam.

“I think overall we let our emotions get the best of us,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said. “It was a heated game. We were playing with a lot of heart, a lot of guts, but not necessarily a lot of intelligence.”

“Potsdam is going to be a dangerous team come playoff team,” Schultz said. “They got four real difference makers on their team in terms of offensive capabilities.”

Those difference makers couldn’t make the difference the night before.

Potsdam jumped out to a 2-0 lead on goals by Mike Foy and Matt Rhymer, the latter on the power play. However, Brockport fought back as Todd Sheridan kept the Bears off the scoreboard the rest of the night, winding up with 36 saves.

Justin Noble got a man-advantage goal before the end of the first period, and Adam Korol scored the lone goal in the second to tie it. James Cody got the game winner early in the third on the power play and Adam Shoff put the game away with an empty netter.

Despite the two losses, Bernard was happy with how the team rebounded after the Brockport game for the Geneseo contest.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” he said. “I didn’t think we had our best effort [against Brockport]. I thought we were playing a little bit selfish hockey. We got away from our systems. Our guys did everything that they could to reinvest in our program, to stay positive, to stay upbeat, to do things we need to do to win games. It ended up being a great effort [against Geneseo].”

The other key contest amongst this cluster was Cortland defeating Buffalo State, 4-2. The Red Dragons scored twice 2:33 apart in the first period by Jake Saville and Alex Arthur. Trevor McKinney got one back for the Bengals early in the second on a delayed penalty. Chris Kaleta restored the two-goal lead a few minutes later.

Jarret Gold made it 4-1 early in the third while Nick Petriello got a too little, too late goal with five minutes left to close out the scoring.

Meanwhile, up front the key game saw Oswego survive against Fredonia, eventually winning, 3-1, giving the Lakers a five point margin over third place. After a scoreless first period, Jon Whitelaw got a power-play score at 7:58 of the second.

Oswego finally felt comfortable after two goals early in the third by Stephan MallaroA on the power play and Eric Selleck. Bryan Ross broke the shutout a couple of minutes later as Kyle Gunn-Taylor made 17 saves.

“On Saturday, there were a couple of penalties we took that I’ll like to not have taken,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. “Against anybody, you’re going to be behind the 8-ball. Against Oswego, you’re going to pay for it.”

SUNYAC Short Shots

After taking a 2-0 lead in the first only to have Geneseo tie it up in the second, Plattsburgh needed two early third period goals by Dylan Clarke and Kyle Kudroch en route to a 4-3 victory … Kody Van Rentergem got a 5-0 shutout for Fredonia over Cortland with 21 saves as Jordan Oye scored twice … After letting up the first goal just over a minute in, Oswego rolled over Buffalo State, 10-1, as Eric Selleck tallied twice and added three assists … Plattsburgh scored two shorthanded goals by Kyle Taylor and Jared Docking on the same power play to easily beat Brockport, 7-1.

Game of the Week

As if Oswego doesn’t have enough whiteouts sitting on the shores of Lake Ontario, they are going to produce one inside the Campus Center Ice Arena for the game of the week against archrival Plattsburgh. Fans are encouraged to wear white as the school will be handing out white towels to the first 2,000 fans.

The new rink has not been a blessing for top ranked Oswego when they face Plattsburgh as they have yet to beat the Cardinals in it. This year, a win would be huge for Oswego as it would virtually clinch them first place and home ice throughout the playoffs. Another Plattsburgh win in Oswego would result in these two powers fighting it out down the stretch.

The game is already sold out, so if you want to see it, you’ll have to watch it live on the Internet, or if you live locally in Oswego, on local access cable channel 96. If you are a student, the game is on campus channel 10.

While everyone is having a grand old time in Oswego, there are other games worthy of note, as teams continue to fight for every point possible.

For starters, Morrisville returns to action hosting Brockport and Geneseo. The Mustangs hope to use their two games in hand to their advantage.

“We know better,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said about the game against Morrisville. “They beat us [at home] the last two times they were here. The guys know. Morrisville is a hungry team. Brian [Grady] is doing a great job getting players in there that can compete at this level. They are a team like anyone else now. They’re pretty solid. We have our hands full. It’s a one game season at this point.”

Potsdam hits the road hoping to catch Oswego looking ahead to the Plattsburgh game and then faces Cortland in a must win contest.

“Every night is a do or die,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said. “We got to have every single point. That puts a lot of pressure on our guys. But at the same time, that’s the format when it comes down to if you want to win it. You got a one and done and what are you going to do to make it count? I expect us to come out with a lot of energy, a lot of emotion, to try and do our best to claw and scratch our way to .500 again.”

Then of course, there is the Buffalo State-Fredonia rivalry.

“I think it will be as typical as it gets,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said of hosting the latest game in a storied history between the two teams. “Throw out the records. Throw out the standings. We’re preparing for Fredonia-Buffalo State. Let’s play 60 minutes us-them and bring our best hockey.”

I just about mentioned all the games this weekend. At this time of year, how can you not list them all as ultra-important contests?

“In the SUNYAC, you have one bad weekend and you’re right back in with everyone else,” Meredith said. “You have to focus on playing good hockey.”

Oh, and let’s not forget about the Plattsburgh at Middlebury game on Tuesday.

What a great week for hockey!

On The Periphery

A lot has been said about Geneseo’s winning goal against Potsdam that never crossed the line as video clearly showed. There are two ways to look at this controversy.

It has been said that Vince Lombardi would only get on a referee’s case if he felt that ref was not hustling. If the official blew a call, but was working hard and was in the right position, Lombardi wouldn’t complain. However, if you were lazy out there, the great football coach would be all over you.

As a former soccer referee myself, you are going to miss calls. It happens. I remember one game where I called a goal in the waning minutes, and for weeks afterward, the team insisted to me the ball never crossed the line.

The process during the call in Geneseo broke down in many ways. First, the referee was on the wrong side of the net to properly see the puck through the goaltender. Of course, the ref can be positioned correctly, and through no fault of his own, not be able to see the puck properly. That’s fine.

It’s what happened after the call where apparently proper protocol was abandoned. It should have been reasonable to an experienced referee to question his call when the reaction of the team is an explosive outburst. Any good referee knows how to read players and tell the difference between when a team is merely hoping for the official to change the call versus really believes the call is wrong.

From what I could see, this referee never asked the other officials if they had a better view of the play. He also never asked the goal judge for his opinion (the fact that the goal judge was apparently talking on the cell phone during the play is another issue). The red light had never gone on. A ref does not have to ask the goal judge, but again, a good ref will know how to read a team, put his ego aside, and make sure he got the call correct.

Another way to look at this issue is how a team reacts to a bad call. This was not a call made with just seconds left, leaving the team without the ability to recover. Potsdam was still very much in the game. Geneseo was only leading by one goal, 8:54 still remained in the third period, Potsdam already fought back from 1-0 and 3-2 deficits, and the Bears have already proven they can make spectacular third period comebacks against some of the best teams in the country.

Yet, Potsdam chose to allow the bad call to get into their heads, and ended up wearing out a path to the penalty box. The Bears had already committed 11 penalties up to that time (the goal in question was on the power play), and proceeded to commit three more, wasting away most of their time to comeback. And those were all “emotion” penalties — unsportsmanlike conduct, major for roughing, and a game disqualification, which means their reaction will hurt them the next game as well.

Potsdam commits a lot of penalties, so perhaps this reaction should not be a surprise. They are the 16th most penalized team in the country at 19.8 penalty minutes per game, the highest amongst SUNYAC teams. And for all the talk about Buffalo State’s reputation, it’s Potsdam that leads in conference play with 18.0 PIM/G (the Bengals are way down in fifth).

The officials may have blown the call, but Potsdam had time to rectify the situation, if they desired. When someone puts you in a hole, you need to grab the rope, not the shovel. Even if it’s harder to climb than to dig.

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