It’s playoff madness!
The regular season is now officially done for every conference with the completion of the MASCAC schedule last night that didn’t alter the seeding for their quarterfinal action this weekend. The NEHC and CCC all completed their quarterfinal rounds last weekend and have some blockbuster semifinal matchups where at least one nationally ranked team will be going home from the conference tournament. Finally, the UCHC and SUNYAC have their quarterfinal games tonight with a rapid turnaround to the semifinals on Saturday. There isn’t a lot of room for error anymore, and the hot goalie or a bit of “puck-luck” can go a long way this time of the season just as long as you don’t do things to beat yourself. With weekend picks on tap later this week, here is a preview of tonight’s quarterfinal matchups.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Elmira at Manhattanville
The Valiants took three of four points from Elmira in the regular season, including a road win and a tie at home that saw them relinquish a two-goal lead in the third period. According to coach Arlen Marshall, “It is good to learn those lessons in the regular season.” I don’t think there is going to be a two-goal lead for either team in this game at any point, but expect a hero (Matt Lippa) to emerge late or maybe even into overtime for the home team. Manhattanville 2-1
Neumann at Lebanon Valley
Lebanon Valley will be hosting its first playoff game, and the crowd is sure to be a factor in backing the Flying Dutchmen. During the regular season, Lebanon Valley took three points with a road tie and home win from Neumann. The 7-6 win at home featured five goals from Brian Hovenec, who clearly likes playing against the Knights. Don’t expect so many offensive fireworks in this one, but the crowd will be entertained by offense led by Hovenec and Brett Johnson. Lebanon Valley, 5-4
Potsdam at Buffalo State
The last regular season game the host Bengals played was a 3-2 loss at Potsdam on February 10. At home, the decision went to Buffalo State, 5-0, and they will be looking to repeat that result against a very hot goaltender in Brendan McMenimen, who shut out Oswego last weekend. Another player to watch out for is the Bears’ Dylan Vander Esch, who will be playing in his 100th career game and needing just two points to reach the century mark. A lot of extra motivation for the visitors, but the Bengals still have much to prove, and a quarterfinal loss is not part of their plan. Buffalo State 3-2
Fredonia at Plattsburgh
The fact is the regular season is over, and the second season has started, which is a clean slate the Cardinals hope to build off and make a playoff run. These two teams split the regular season games, each winning on home ice. According to coach Bob Emery, the talent has always been there for the Cardinals, but the consistency in goal they have hoped for has arrived late in the season from Jimmy Poreda. If Poreda is in solid playoff form coming off a 1-0 shutout road win at Oswego, the Cardinals could be dangerous to all the SUNYAC contenders. How about a Lakers vs. Cardinals rematch this weekend? Plattsburgh 3-1
The second season is here, and you keep playing as long as you keep winning. Everyone’s record is 0-0 again, so teams shouldn’t hang too much on the outcome of the regular season contests with familiar foes. The stakes are high, and for the losers, the season is over. As the late, great rink announcer Jim Prior said, “The teams are ready, let’s play hockey!”