A wild third period punctuated a thrilling, wide-open SUNYAC playoff game in Buffalo. Potsdam scored two goals within 17 seconds to take a 3-2 lead. Buffalo State came back with two back-to-back goals to win the game, 4-3, in the SUNYAC Play-In round.
“I did expect it to be a back and forth game,” Buffalo State coach Nick Carriere said. “Our matchup against Potsdam has been very inconsistent hockey on our part.”
“We wanted to play man-on-man,” Potsdam coach Chris Bernard said. “When we do that, we can play on a tempo that suits us. They wanted to do the same thing, which is why I think it was such a tremendous matchup.”
The winning goal was scored with 3:27 left in the game on a power play, the only man-advantage goal for the Bengals. Taylor McGraw scored it from in close.
“I got a pass down low,” McGraw said. “Trevor [McKinney] actually called me to step out to the side. Got the puck, walked to the front of the net, looked for the backdoor, didn’t see anything. I threw it. Someone hit me. As I was falling I saw the puck go in. How it went in, I couldn’t tell you.”
That goal came after Drew Klin tied the game at 12:30 on a picture-perfect deflection in front of the net.
The comeback was needed because Potsdam shocked the home crowd with a pair of goals 17 seconds apart, starting at 7:42.
The first occurred on a quick turnaround rush which Potsdam brought deep into the zone. Max Fogel passed it back out to the blue line for Mike Arnold, who shot it in through a screen.
The very next rush, Sy Nutkevitch scored from in close, getting it underneath Kevin Carr.
“It’s never a good thing,” Carriere said. “You see the shoulders drop and the heads go down. The biggest message you push is let’s just stay the course, keep the engines going, keep getting pucks to the goal line. We were awarded with a little bit of our discipline. We’ve come from behind a lot this year. The message is nothing is impossible.”
Potsdam did an excellent job of killing penalties, including a five-minute major, but in the end, three consecutive infractions finally caught them out.
The Bears pulled their goalie at the end and applied good pressure. Kevin Carr stood his ground, including a spectacular save with seconds left. Both goaltenders played a fundamentally solid game.
Carr wound up with 26 saves, while McFarland stopped 42.
“In the end, both guys battled pretty hard,” Carriere said. “Hats off to their goaltender. He didn’t give us much.”
“Two really good goalies,” Bernard said.
Right from the start, the game was anything but a hard-checking, tight, defensive playoff battle. Instead, the teams skipped over the feeling-out period and went straight to a free-flowing, skating contest. The teams stayed with each other, up and down the ice, leading to a scoreless first period.
After 20 minutes of scoreless hockey, it didn’t take long for scoring to start in the second period — 38 seconds. McFarland saved an initial long shot, but seemed to lose track of the puck sitting next to the post to his right. Buffalo State pounced on it, and with Shane Avery’s second attempt to jam it in, found space between McFarland’s pad and the post.
Four minutes later, Potsdam tied it on a power play. Nutkevitch made a cross-ice pass to Adam Place on the left side, who shot it back the other way up high to beat Carr.
The Bengals scored late in the period to take a 2-1 lead into intermission. Matt Bessing took advantage of a Potsdam turnover at the blue line and went in on a two-on-one. The defender played the pass, leaving McFarland to take the shooter. Bessing patiently waited, looking off McFarland, freezing the goaltender, then placed it over McFarland’s glove.
A scrum after the final whistle resulted in three game disqualifications (two for face masking and one for fighting). Two were on Potsdam while Clay Lewis for Buffalo State will have to sit out their next playoff game.
Potsdam (8-16-2) ends its season with a return to the playoffs.
“We made a lot of progress,” Bernard said. “It comes down to a simple word, and that’s commitment. We had kids who were with an uncertain situation decided to come back and represent us and made a commitment. We had guys sign onto an uncertain situation and made a commitment. If you look back at every single game we played this year, we played everybody hard. That’s something we will be able to build on.”
Buffalo State (13-11-2) advances for the first time in school history. Its reward is to travel up north to face Plattsburgh on Saturday.