SUNYAC semifinal preview

Oswego and Plattsburgh Await
Buffalo State won a thrilling game against Potsdam, 4-3, where the lead changed in the third period three times. Now the Bengals must get on a bus and trek up north to Plattsburgh.
“We just keep going,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said after the game. “We’ll be leaving for Plattsburgh Friday afternoon, get ready, and do what we got to do. Make sure we got guys rested. We get back to work tomorrow. Hopefully, take care of business on Saturday.”
Fredonia knows all about hitting the road. It went to Geneseo and took care of business, 4-1. Next, Fredonia travels up to Oswego, looking for another upset by the shores of Lake Ontario.
(All statistics in the previews are for conference play only.)
Buffalo State (8-7-1, 13-11-2) at Plattsburgh (12-3-1, 17-4-4)
Plattsburgh’s inability to finish this year hit the tipping point for coach Bob Emery after they were shutout by Oswego, 3-0. He talked how he was no longer worried about hurting his players’ feelings by focusing only on their strengths, and will now hone in on their weaknesses.
The next day, it didn’t get any better, as Plattsburgh put 52 shots on Cortland’s net, but needed overtime to win, 3-2.
So, what will they do now that the playoffs are here? They have no choice but to continue to focus on their strengths.
“We have no choice but to focus on defense first with the kind of team we have,” Emery said. “We’ve got to play defense first because we are not opportunistic. That has to be our focus. We can’t have any mental lapses out there, because the puck can be in the back of our net. It’s not like we can get right back out there and get it back. A lot of coaches will say, ‘Well, let’s get that one back.’ Well, in our case, it’s not that easy.”
They will face a team that has been able to “get that one back,” as Buffalo State tends to score more often as the game goes on. Sure, the Bengals have blown leads this year, but recently they are the ones scoring late to win.
They turned a 3-0 deficit into a 4-3 win over Geneseo. They scored a late third period goal to beat Cortland. Ditto against Fredonia. Then, of course, they scored twice in the last 7:30 on Wednesday to advance.
However, they know they cannot spot Plattsburgh too large a lead.
“Plattsburgh is a hard-working team,” Carriere said. “They are obviously a very disciplined team. They are not going to give you a lot of opportunities. Their defensemen are in lanes. We are going to have to play a tight, defensively-aware game. We definitely have an opportunity. We’re going to have to work for it.
Buffalo State won the first meeting at home, 4-3. Plattsburgh evened the score with a 1-0 victory back in Stafford.
Plattsburgh will be looking for a possible return date to Oswego to prove it can score against the Lakers.
This is the first time Buffalo State has ever advanced in the playoffs. They will be looking to repeat on Saturday.
“We’re excited to get a crack at them,” Carriere said.
Fredonia (6-7-3, 12-10-3) at Oswego (14-0-2, 21-2-2)
Fredonia wins the play-in game on the road and then travels up to Oswego for the semifinals. Where have we seen that storyline before?
Oh, a couple of times. In 2007, they won at Buffalo State and then upset Oswego in overtime. Last year, they won at Buffalo State and then upset Oswego in overtime.
See a pattern here?
The only difference is this year, they won at Geneseo. With all the angst pouring out from Oswego fans on the message boards, this might be one fact they cling onto for comfort, like Linus and his blanket.
However, this is a different Oswego team. Unlike some years in the past, they have played very well and very composed down the stretch. Since February 4, they won by scores of 8-1, 10-2, 4-1, 3-0, and 3-0, with one of those shutouts coming against Plattsburgh.
If there was ever a game where Oswego could have let its guard down, it was the last game against Potsdam. Oswego had nothing to play for except to avoid injuries. Potsdam had everything to play for trying to grab the last playoff spot. The first period was perhaps the Bears’ best period of hockey this year.
Yet, Oswego kept its composure after the scoreless period, and began to pour it on with shots, and eventually goals followed.
This is an Oswego team that relies heavily on the junior class, with a few seniors sprinkled in. Freshmen have gotten very little time to play. The upperclassmen lead the way, both on the ice and off, led by SUNYAC First Team player and conference co-scoring leader, Jon Whitelaw (13-14-27).
This is an extremely talented squad. One coach told me he would gladly take Oswego’s fifth line.
That’s not to say Fredonia won’t give it a shot. After all, they have the experience knowing they can pull off this upset. Tops with that memory is Mark Friesen, who made 43 saves, including eight in overtime, in last year’s 2-1 victory.
The Blue Devils also have a first team selection in Bryan Ross (8-15-23).
Fredonia’s third best offense (3.50 goals per game) did slow down. Since February 3, they have not scored more than three goals a game until the playoffs.
Even if their offense is clicking, you definitely do not want to get into a scoring contest. Oswego’s talent and opportunistic nature will burn you. Fredonia will have to rely on its patented defensive game and frustrate Oswego into taking penalties, something Oswego is still prone to do.
Fans like to point out how Oswego beat Fredonia, 10-2, at home, but back in 2007, Oswego beat Fredonia, 8-0, at home, and look what good that did.
The longer the game stays close, the shorter the home fans’ fingernails are going to get.


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