“It’s back to league points,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said.
The break is over. The time to try new things against nonconference opponents is in the past. With the exception of four nonconference games (three on Saturday, one in February), it’s back to SUNYAC hockey the rest of the way.
“This is going to be a repetitious answer,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said. “Every game you play is going to be big. It’s going to be a one game at a time. There’s no night off.”
So, who’s best positioned for the second half?
Certainly Oswego, but by only a point. Its seems to have solved its goaltending problem, as Andrew Hare has done an admirable job filling in for Paul Beckwith, who is done for the season with his injury. Though the Lakers have not been playing up to the level they should the last few weeks, they showed a lot in the recent Utica game, a closely-called affair with numerous penalties.
“I think in the past our guys would not have handled the adversity of penalty after penalty after penalty well,” Gosek said. “I think after we had some undisciplined play and behavior against Neumann, we’ve been talking and preaching all week long about accountability and being mentally tougher. You could become frustrated.”
The Lakers did not get frustrated, playing a strong, disciplined game to defeat the Pioneers, 5-2.
Plattsburgh sits one point behind Oswego and is a team that has been playing strong, disciplined hockey this season. It is the second-least penalized team in the country, with the best penalty kill in the nation, a combination that will win you lots and lots of games.
The tie against Williams notwithstanding, I feel the Cardinals have been playing the best hockey amongst SUNYAC teams the last few weeks. This could all culminate in a last weekend showdown at Oswego.
Buffalo State sits in third place, one point ahead of Geneseo and Potsdam. The Bengals are also playing disciplined hockey this season, have the 11th best power play in the country, and have excellent goaltending in Kevin Carr. They are the type of team you don’t want to have to meet in the playoffs.
“I like where we’re at,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said. “I think we’re executing on the things we set out to do. We’re just trying to get our game where it needs to be. Our group is getting there.”
Geneseo has certainly been inconsistent this season, but the last few games may have righted the ship.
“We’ve made a turn for the better,” Geneseo coach Chris Schultz said. “The Salve [Regina], Elmira weekend was a good weekend for us. We got some players back, and were able to play complete 60-minute games. We were on a roll until we couldn’t score a goal against Western New England College. It was not for lack of execution. I feel good about my team.”
Potsdam has been the surprise of the first half, and certainly the most improved team in the league. I already talked about the individual scorers on the squad in the past two columns. The key will be to grab as many points in the first four games of the second half, because they are on the road for the final two weekends.
Fredonia has played well, but its record doesn’t show it. However, it is still in a very good position to be able to grab home ice for the first round. A lot will depend on Mark Friesen’s play in net, and the continual production out of the young scorers.
If anyone who is currently out of the playoff picture can get into it, I would put my money on Brockport. They seem to have gotten over the Todd Sheridan hangover, are playing good team hockey, and not afraid to apply pressure to their opponents. After this weekend, all but one game is at home, which could bode well for the Golden Eagles.
Cortland and Morrisville are going to have to make vast improvements in various areas of their game. Even if they do, it will be a tough road to leapfrog the competition which sits in front of them.
No matter what happens, enjoy the excitement. The five weeks will go by in a blink of an eye.
“We got conference hockey to look forward to,” Carriere said.
Bring it on.
Support for Paula Roll
There’s been an outpouring of support from the hockey community for Paula Roll, the wife of George Roll, former coach of Oswego and Clarkson and now starting up the new program at Nazareth. Paula was diagnosed with brain cancer and is currently receiving treatment at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.
You can send your support and good vibes at this website.
Win this battle Paula. We expect to see you at the ice rink soon.
SUNYAC Players of the Week (selected by the conference)
Player of the Week: Tyler Leimbrock, Jr., Oswego. Served as a catalyst to help the Lakers avenge an early-season loss to Utica, 5-2, on Saturday. Leimbrock scored the game’s first two goals, with the first goal coming in a four-on-four situation and the second goal coming while Oswego State was short-handed. He also assisted the fourth goal of the contest, which was scored 31 seconds after Utica made it a two-goal game in the third period.
Rookie of the Week: Elijah Cohen, Buffalo State. Netted a hat trick as Buffalo State exploded for six third-period goals to defeat host Johnson and Wales, 7-5, in a nonconference game Saturday afternoon. Five of the six goals were scored in a span of 4:27 to erase a 5-2 deficit, with Cohen picking up two of the goals. His other goal was the first of the game for the Bengals in the second period.
Goalie of the Week: Mark Friesen, So., Fredonia. Made 56 saves in two games against two nationally-ranked opponents, as the Blue Devils finished 1-1. Friesen stopped 19 shots in the 2-1 loss to Elmira Tuesday night. Saturday afternoon, Friesen made 37 saves, including two key stops during a five-on-three advantage in the second period, as Fredonia completed a dramatic 3-2 overtime win against Neumann. On the season, Friesen’s save percentage is 92.1 with a 2.62 goals against average.