Potsdam’s backup leads the way

Goaltenders are a fickle bunch. This leads to coaches pulling their hair out making decisions concerning their goaltenders.

No one should know this better from both sides than Potsdam coach Chris Bernard, a goalie himself at Clarkson.

Last season, the Bears starting goaltender was Trevor O’Neill for the third year in a row. Kevin McFarland was the backup for two of those seasons, seeing limited time. After the season, the team’s plans did not include O’Neill, so he left. For the moment, McFarland was the guy.

However, Bernard recruited Dylan Ellis from Oakville, Ont., who immediately made an impact by grabbing the number one role. All indications were McFarland would play the bench doorman again for another season.

After all, there wasn’t much in McFarland’s stats to indicate otherwise. In those first two seasons, he played in 11 games and had a 5.93 goals against average and an .823 save percentage with a 2-6-0 record. He did get a shutout against lowly Southern New Hampshire, which only put 14 shots on net.

Then, a funny thing happened on the way to easily filling out the lineup card. An issue caused Ellis not to make the trip to Utica, so McFarland got the start. After playing two periods against Southern New Hampshire and letting in two goals and mop up duty against Fredonia giving up four goals, he played superbly against the Pioneers, stopping 42 of 43 shots. Unfortunately, his team didn’t score anything, but the statement was made.

He got both starts at the Middlebury Classic. Even though he let up four goals in each of those games, they both ended in a tie. He made 37 saves against Southern Maine and another 56 versus Skidmore. He again let up four goals against Skidmore, but stopped 36 in an overtime win.

Ellis returned, but got shellacked against Castleton. Both goalies, along with the whole team, got pounded twice by Manhattanville.

Thus, with the conference schedule resuming, Bernard decided to stick with his freshman recruit, who let up three third period goals in a 5-3 loss to Morrisville. Back in went McFarland against Hobart, who again let up four goals, but faced 53 shots, and still played very well.

Bernard was starting to see something in McFarland, so he made the decision to stick with him. Against Plattsburgh, where he let up, you guessed it, four goals, he kept his team in it after falling behind, 3-0. Without his play, the Bears never would have gotten the game into overtime, even though they did lose.

This past weekend, it all finally came together. He stopped 25 of 26 shots to beat Buffalo State. He withstood a Fredonia comeback to prevail in overtime, 4-3, making 49 saves. Some key saves in that game prevented the Bears from another collapse.

His numbers are certainly better this year, at 3.67 goals against average and a .916 save percentage. The senior is making the key saves when necessary, holding up under pressure, and his team is playing more confidently in front of him. All signs of a number one goaltender.

It appears McFarland may have wrested the starting job from Ellis. If nothing else, for the time being, Bernard will most likely look to McFarland to lead his team down the stretch, fighting for a home playoff spot.

500 wins for Emery
There are two ways to look at longevity stats in sports, such as the 500-win milestone Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery just reached.

One way is the record is accomplished simply by hanging around long enough.

“I really don’t think too much about 500 wins, 600 wins, 400 wins or anything like that, because you want to put focus on winning championships,” Emery told the Press-Republican.

That would be true if Emery had, say, 500 losses and never accomplished much in the way of championships.

The other way to look at these numbers is a mark of greatness when combined with other numbers. For Emery, the latter is definitely the case.

In 23 seasons of coaching, all at Plattsburgh, Emery has amassed an astounding 500-156-53 record. That’s a winning percentage of .743, fourth highest in NCAA history across all divisions. Championships?  Plenty of those. Two national titles, 13 SUNYAC championships, and 15 NCAA appearances.

With the victory over Buffalo State, he becomes only the fifth coach to attain 500 wins exclusively in Division III, and ranks fourth in wins amongst active Division III coaches.

“But if you want to talk about numbers, the numbers that mean a lot to me and mean a lot to the fans is being successful every year,” Emery said. “I think we’ve been able to do that during my time here at Plattsburgh.”

There’s the understatement of his 23-year coaching career.

SUNYAC Players of the Week (selected by the conference)

Player of the Week: Ryan Craig, Sr., Plattsburgh. Scored three crucial points over the weekend to help Plattsburgh to a 2-0 weekend against Fredonia and Buffalo State. On Friday, Craig opened the scoring with a power-play goal at the 14:44 mark of the first period before scoring the game-winner in overtime as the Cardinals defeated the Blue Devils, 3-2. In Saturday’s 1-0 win over the Bengals, Craig assisted on the lone goal in the final minute of the first period. Craig is now tied for the team lead in points with 17.

Rookie of the Week: Vinny Buttitta, Potsdam. Scored three points in the Bears’ weekend sweep of Buffalo State and Fredonia. The freshman scored his second career goal and recorded his first assist on a power play in Potsdam’s 5-1 win over the Bengals on Friday. On Saturday, he scored the second goal of the game off a Fredonia turnover to give Potsdam a 2-1 lead en route to a 4-3 overtime victory. The win was the Bears’ first over the Blue Devils in three years.

Goalie of the Week: Kevin McFarland, Sr., Potsdam. Backstopped the Bears to a conference weekend sweep over Buffalo State and Fredonia at Maxcy Ice Arena. McFarland made 25 saves in a 5-1 victory over Buffalo State on Friday. On Saturday, McFarland stopped 49 shots, including 19 in the third period, to help Potsdam to a 4-3 overtime win against Fredonia. The victory was the Bears’ first over Fredonia since November 1, 2008 and puts them in sole possession of fifth place, just a point out of third in the SUNYAC.


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