You know the mantra — defense wins championships.
In the case of Plattsburgh, it’s more like the double D’s — defense and discipline wins championships.
“Our philosophy always starts with discipline, hard work, and defense, not one over the other,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said.
A philosophy which is working better than ever this season.
Let’s start with defense. Overall, Plattsburgh has let up 1.89 goals per game, tied with Amherst and Castleton for second best in the country, behind Norwich. Within conference play, the Cardinals have let up exactly two goals a game, tied with Oswego for the best.
“In the past, against strong defensive teams, we stressed offense,” Emery said. “Now, defense is our first concern. We practice defense more than we practice offense.”
Which shows, as Plattsburgh is 16th in the nation in scoring, just one spot better than Brockport. Oswego and Buffalo State are ahead of them, just like in the conference stats. There isn’t even a Plattsburgh player amongst the nation’s top 100 in points per game. Talk about spreading the scoring out.
With defense like that, you know your goaltending is solid. In the past two years, Emery never seemed happy with that position. He certainly can’t complain this season.
Two years ago, Josh Leis and Ryan Williams split duties. Last season, Emery mostly went with Leis, causing Williams to transfer to Massachusetts-Dartmouth. It turns out Plattsburgh got a transfer themselves to come in — Mathieu Cadieux from Division I Quinnipiac. The sophomore soothed Emery’s concerns.
“We’re getting better goaltending and getting better play in front of the goaltender,” Emery said.
Cadieux leads the nation with a 1.80 goals against average and has the seventh best save percentage at .932. Within the conference, he tops both categories (1.86, .934).
He also allows another of Emery’s philosophies to ring true, “I always say your goalie is the best penalty killer.”
Speaking of which, despite letting up two power-play goals in four attempts against Potsdam, the Cardinals still lead the nation in penalty killing at 91.5 percent, and the conference at 88.1 percent.
It’s easier to be so good on the penalty kill when that unit hardly ever gets tired. Plattsburgh is far and away the most disciplined team in the nation. Nationally, it commits the second least penalty minutes, at an uncanny 7.6 minutes per game (just .1 more than Norwich) and in the SUNYAC, 9.7 mins/gm.
“It also helps that we don’t take a lot of penalties,” Emery said. “We have great depth this year. This allows us to play four lines and six defensemen, so we don’t get as tired as much, which helps to keep our penalties down.”
Even more impressive are the lack of power plays it provides to the opposition. In total, Plattsburgh has only had to kill off 59 power plays (which means it has given up only five power-play goals). Only Norwich at 53 can top that. Only a couple of other teams are even close.
Emery’s philosophy has taken a stronger hold on the team as the season has gone on. No wonder the Cardinals are riding a 12-game unbeaten streak (8-0-4).
Oh, that’s tops in the nation.
Charity game updates
The second Saves for a Cure game will indeed take place in Cortland on Saturday, February 18, against Plattsburgh. The special jerseys, which will be auctioned off after the game starting at $50, look very sharp. For information on this game, go here.
Fredonia’s Pink the Rink event raised about $9,000. The final tally is not yet in. This event may get more national publicity. Stan Beck is writing a book on college sports traditions. Upon hearing about the Pink the Rink tradition, he came all the way up from Georgia to see it for himself, spending two days on campus talking to faculty and students.
He wound up buying a jersey for a friend of his, a cancer survivor. He was so impressed with the experience, he plans on prominently mentioning this tradition in his upcoming book.
SUNYAC Players of the Week (selected by the conference)
Player of the Week: Chris Brown, Jr., Oswego. Accounted for four of the Lakers’ 10 goals scored over the weekend. His lone goal against Geneseo tied the game late in the second period. Brown’s first goal on Saturday cut Brockport’s lead in half before the end of the first period to make it a 2-1 game. His second goal made the score 4-2 midway through the second period, and completed the hat trick with a short-handed empty-net goal during a six-on-four situation.
Rookie of the Week: Nick Zappia, Cortland. Scored the game-winning goal 1:20 into overtime in Cortland’s 6-5 win at Brockport on Friday. He also pulled Cortland to within one goal at 5-4 with his goal late in the second period. On Saturday at Geneseo, Zappia scored Cortland’s first goal of the game. For the season, Zappia has 11 points on eight goals and three assists.
Goalie of the Week: Mathieu Cadieux, So., Plattsburgh. Recorded 32 saves to help Plattsburgh hang on for a 4-3 win against Potsdam. The Cardinals’ goaltender made 20 saves in the second period alone on Friday night. Cadieux is unbeaten in his last 10 starts, and his 1.80 goals-against average is currently the best in Division III.