2007 Redux?

All Rookie Team and Defensive Awards
This is the sixth year we’ve been helping out with these awards. I’ll repeat what I always do — I only coordinate this effort. I do not select these awards, nor does USCHO. The coaches do, in the same way they select the other SUNYAC year-end awards. I just count the votes since the SUNYAC did not want to handle more than what they already do.

The purpose is to bring some publicity to players who are not recognized by the traditional end-of-season awards. They may not be sanctioned by the conference, but I believe they hold the same credibility as the other officially sanctioned SUNYAC awards.

Here are the 2010-11 SUNYAC All Rookie Team and defensive awards:

F: Nick Jensen (Plattsburgh)
F: Rich Manley (Geneseo)
F: Zachary Vit (Geneseo)
D: James Jarvis (Morrisville)
D: Barry Roytman (Plattsburgh)
G: Kevin Carr (Buffalo State)

Best Defensive Defenseman: Kevin Huinink (Oswego)

Best Defensive Forward: Jared Docking (Plattsburgh)

On the one hand, there is a lot of familiarity. Plattsburgh is in its 20th straight SUNYAC final. Fredonia is no stranger to success. It’s a repeat of the 2007 championship game.

“Here’s a team that’s played in 20 consecutive championships,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said of his opponent. “That’s a tall order for us.”

On the other hand, there are some unfamiliar occurrences. A sixth seed is in the conference title game for the first time. The highest-seeded team in the final is a fourth seed, which of course means neither team had a bye in the first round, a rarity for a finals match up. The only home victory in the playoffs was Plattsburgh beating Morrisville, and that took overtime to get it done. In fact, three of the four playoff games played so far went to extra time.

If you cannot make the game, you can listen to the webcast, watch the videocast, or keep track with the live stats.

Fredonia (7-8-1, 14-12-1) at Plattsburgh (9-7-0, 19-7-1)
Déjà vu all over again?

I mentioned this last week, but what were the odds it would pan out exactly this way? Just like in 2007, Fredonia started the playoffs beating Buffalo State on the road. Just like in 2007, Fredonia stunned top-seeded and nationally ranked Oswego in overtime on the road. Just like in 2007, Fredonia travels to Plattsburgh for the championship game when neither team had a bye in the first round.

Will we be writing after Saturday — just like in 2007, Fredonia wins the conference title by beating Plattsburgh on the road?

“We can’t forget a few years ago,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “Our players thought at home we were going to beat Fredonia and we didn’t do that. I’m going to remind my players of that game all week long.”

However, it was long enough ago that none of the current Fredonia players were on that team to draw inspiration from it.

“None of them were here,” Fredonia coach Jeff Meredith said. “The [current] seniors got here the fall after we did that.”

Fredonia likes to play a tough defensive style, clogging up the front of the goal to prevent any easy shots.

“Fredonia will play good defensive hockey,” Emery said. “I think hockey is all about defense now. I’m not in favor of that, but that’s the way it’s going. Defense wins big games in the playoffs. I know they are going to play really good solid defense again.”

Fredonia’s style works very well against the more finesse teams, as it keeps them away from the net content to shoot from afar, but against a team like Plattsburgh, which relies on the hard-fought, ugly goal, it may be a case of force meets force.

On the flip side, Plattsburgh will have to contain the SUNYAC Player of the Year, Jordan Oye.

“Oye is as good as any player in the country,” Emery said.

One area Plattsburgh had an advantage over Geneseo last week was depth.

“The difference in our game was conditioning,” Emery said after the semifinal win. “We were able to play four lines and six defensemen. I think our depth showed tonight.”

“They do have great depth,” Meredith said. “When you go into the weekends of play, you have to manage ice time so as not to wear guys out for the second game. When there’s just one game, you don’t have to worry about that. Our M.O. is pretty much run four lines and six defensemen, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Plattsburgh goaltender Josh Leis is coming off perhaps his best game of his career.

“Come this time of year, you’re only as good as your goalie,” Emery said after that game. “Josh is a really good goalie. His problem is being aggressive. Sometimes, he loses his focus, but if he sees the puck and is on his game, he’s pretty quick and pretty athletic.”

Meanwhile, Mark Friesen continues to impress in his rookie season, seemingly getting stronger with each big game.

Amazingly, Fredonia got off to a 3-8 start, and here they are in the conference title game and above .500 overall.

“To get to the point where we are now when we started the season at 3-8 takes a lot of mental toughness, to know we can get to where we want to be,” Meredith said.

“Hats off to Meredith,” Emery said. “He’s done a great job with his team the last couple of weeks. We had a tough win over there a couple of weeks ago.”

Plattsburgh beat Fredonia both times this year, 4-2 and 3-1.

“We’re just excited to still be playing in March,” Meredith said.

Somehow, I think Fredonia has more than just playing in March in mind.

Thank You
Since this is the last column of the 2010-11 season, here are my final thoughts.

We did something different this year at USCHO, providing our readers with more content at more timely moments throughout each week. I hope you all enjoyed it.

We also had a new Division III editor, Candace Hogan. She had to learn about the best kept secret in college sports on the fly throughout the season, but she did a great job cramming for the job, and, most importantly, putting up with us temperamental writers. She is dedicated to continuously improve Division III coverage on USCHO.

A big thanks to the coaches, who as always have been very gracious and patient with me. It makes the job enjoyable. And, thanks to the Sports Information Directors and SUNYAC Commissioner Pat Damore who make my job easier.

A special thanks to Janelle Feuz, the first full time conference SID … actually, Assistant Commissioner for Media Relations. The work and dedication she puts toward the SUNYAC is unmatched. She also happens to be one of the most pleasant people to work with, always with a smile. If you haven’t already done so, check out the revamped conference website she unveiled recently. Outstanding!

Thanks to Brockport for continously making the best pretzel in SUNYAC … heck, the best pretzel in sports.

It’s gotten to the point where my wife simply asks, “What time are you going to be home?” She knows I’m off to games every weekend. Her acceptance is a wonderful gift to me.

A special thanks to all you readers. I hope you liked the changes at USCHO. After all, I, and all the support behind me, do all this for you.