Down the Stretch

Although this season has certainly seen it’s share of exciting games, surprising results, and competitive hockey, the races for positions have not been as riveting as the past few years.

Oswego took off from the start and has never looked back. Their magic number to clinch first place is two points. The only way they can blow their lead is if they lose the remainder of their games and either Geneseo or Morrisville win out.

Here’s a little betting tipster on that scenario — not going to happen.

Meanwhile, at the bottom of the league, Brockport never recovered from losing Todd Sheridan, and are now two points away from being eliminated from the playoffs. This after hosting a playoff game two years in a row.

With three weekends of conference play to go and the top and bottom virtually settled, one would think there isn’t much excitement left. On the contrary, the fights for many of the other key positions — a bye in the first round, home ice for the play-in games, and just getting into the playoffs — are far from decided.

“Obviously, this time of year, the writing is on the wall; every point counts,” Morrisville coach Brain Grady said.

The Mustangs are in the driver’s seat for home ice with a decent chance at that last bye position. They sit one point ahead of Plattsburgh, but have two games in hand. They are two points ahead of Buffalo State and three points ahead of Fredonia with a game in hand on each of them. They are two points behind Geneseo with a game in hand, but they currently lose the tiebreaker to the Ice Knights, so would need some help.

Geneseo will have to work to maintain second place. They can’t hiccup with Morrisville on their tails. They may feel a bit safe having a game in hand and three points on Plattsburgh, but then no one should ever feel safe with Plattsburgh in the rearview mirror.

Speaking of the Cardinals, there they sit in fourth place, having played an extra game on their two pursuers. Buffalo State is one point behind and Fredonia is two points behind. That’s a trip Plattsburgh will have to deal with next weekend.

Fredonia is one point ahead of Cortland for the last playoff spot, but has to be feeling relatively comfortable. Well, at least as comfortable as one can feel. They have a game in hand on Cortland, win the tiebreaker against them, and one of Cortland’s remaining games is against Oswego. But then, just ask Plattsburgh about Cortland.

Potsdam might be four points behind Fredonia and five points behind Buffalo State, but they get to play those two teams in a week. However, the Bears appear to be imploding, and the question is whether they will finish out the season with any pride, or simply play out the season in humiliation.

Three weekends left. Four, five, or six games remaining on team’s schedules. Some spots may be set, but you shouldn’t take your eyes off the SUNYAC standings just yet.

Pretzel Report
We haven’t had a pretzel report in a while.

Two weeks ago, I was in Potsdam for the first time since 2004. When I was there last, I thought I remembered they sold pretzels at the Maxcy Hall concession stand. Not so this time. In fact, their hot food selections were very limited, similar to Cortland. You could have a hot dog, a hot dog, or a hot dog. And if you wanted something else, there was always a hot dog available.

They did have excellent prices for combination meals, and the hot dogs were very good. After all, they were Hebrew National hot dogs. But, no pretzels.

Horrifying. Just horrifying.

I did, however, discover they sold pretzels in the College Union. They were pretty good. Not up to the standards of Brockport (but then, who is?), but better than a Fredonia or Geneseo pretzel.

The problem is, they weren’t sold at the rink. So, they really can’t be entered. It’s like trying to play hockey when coolant is leaking all over the ice.

Oh, wait. Never mind…

Last week, I found myself in Ithaca. Thus, I looked for a hockey game and found the Cornell women were playing. Lynah Rink was full of pretzels — at the main concession stand, at the portable concession stand, and if it was a men’s game, there were multiple portable concession stands ready to sell them.

Yet, despite being an Ivy League school with an endowment larger than most Third World country’s GNP, the pretzel was disappointing. Not bad, but not fully cooked. I did hear a fan say to her friend it was the best pretzel she had. So, maybe there is a consistency problem there. Or, maybe Cornell fans have no taste buds.

Game of the Week
Of all the games this weekend, the one that matches the closest two in the standings is Plattsburgh at Morrisville. There is a caveat to that, as Morrisville first plays Potsdam, so the current one-point difference could change before the Cardinals come to town.

“Potsdam is scratching and crawling for every point they can get to get back into it,” Grady said.

I expect Morrisville to get by Potsdam, and thus with a three-point lead and a game in hand, the Saturday contest becomes huge for Plattsburgh. A must-win situation.

“Plattsburgh is trying to get back to their way,” Grady said. “I’m sure they would love to run the table for the rest of the season. We have our work cut out for us.”

One area Morrisville needs to work on is to string two wins in a row. For the past 10 games, they followed a win with a loss, which was always followed by a win. They haven’t strung two victories together since November, and only did it twice. On the flip side, they never lost two games in a row against Division III competition.

“It’s been frustrating,” Grady said. “We have struggled to score goals. We’ve been in a lot of games. We’re still trying to find a way to be successful. As a young program, we are still looking for consistency.”

The game against Plattsburgh will not only be an important game in the standings, but also off the ice. It’s the third installment of Todd Sheridan’s Saves for a Cure tour. Like Oswego and Brockport, Morrisville will be wearing special uniforms to be auctioned off.

“Todd Sheridan has done a great job with his Saves for a Cure,” Grady said. “He and [our goaltender] Caylin Relkoff are very good friends. He brought the idea to Caylin over the summer, and I said sure. He was looking to expand his efforts. We’re happy to be involved with it, and glad we can help out.”

If you go by the pattern in the last 10 games, Morrisville will beat Potsdam and lose to Plattsburgh. However, with the special game and an expected packed house, I’m going to jump on the Mustangs’ bandwagon and pick them to sweep the weekend and gain a firm foothold on a home ice playoff spot.

Other Picks

Thanks to Cortland’s historic sweep in the North Country, I only went 5-3-1 last week. Overall, that makes me 78-23-8 (.753).

Buffalo State and Fredonia visit the Rochester area. I see the same scenario playing out for both. The Western New York teams will both beat Brockport but will both lose to Geneseo.

Oswego will have no problem against Cortland. Elmira will also beat Cortland, but I see the Red Dragons putting up a bit of a fight in the only nonconference game of the weekend.