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All Rookie Team and Defensive Awards

For years, the SUNYAC has issued first and second All SUNYAC teams as well as Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, and Coach of the Year awards. After a suggestion from the coaches, it was felt that there was also a need to name an All Rookie team as well as awards for the best Defensive Defenseman and Defensive Forward.

Since the SUNYAC did not wish to expand the number of awards they hand out, I volunteered to mediate the process for selecting these awards. We followed the same rules as the other SUNYAC awards — the coaches nominated candidates from their own teams, they then voted for their choices from the nominated players without being allowed to vote for any player on their own team, and I tabulated the results based on the same scoring system.

Here is the first, and hopefully annual, All Rookie Team and defensive awards.

F: Ryan Ellis (Oswego)
F: Brendan McLaughlin (Oswego)
F: Deryk Whitehead (Plattsburgh)
D: Nick Rolls (Plattsburgh)
D: Francois Gagnon (Oswego)
G: Chris Molinaro (Plattsburgh)

Best Defensive Defenseman: Rick Janco (Plattsburgh)

Best Defensive Forward: Dave Friel (Plattsburgh)

As Predicted

The Fredonia-Geneseo series truly did have the mini-game written all over it.

Geneseo edged out a come from behind 4-3 victory the first game. Fredonia grabbed the initial lead scoring the first two goals of the game by Matt Zeman and Shawn Walker, the latter while each team skated a man short.

Before the first period was over, Geneseo tied it thanks to power play goals by Mike MacDonald (4×3) and Brett Bestwick. The Ice Knights then grabbed the lead early in the second on a goal by Dan Schofield.

That held up until twelve minutes into the third when Neal Sheehan tied it with a power play tally. Two and a half minutes later, Mitch Stephens scored the game winner.

Derek Jokic made 31 saves for the win while Rick Cazares stopped 24 shots.

The next night Fredonia once again jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but this time were able to pull away for a 5-2 win.

Joe Muli and Sheehan (power play) scored the first period goals. Geneseo was looking to repeat their game plan when Stephens scored a shorthanded goal. However, the final goal of the first period was scored by the Blue Devils’ Jim Gilbride just 45 seconds later.

Fredonia expanded their lead with two more in the second by Tom Briggs and Muli. Stephens scored late in the third, but it was too little, too late for Geneseo.

Cazares only needed 15 saves for the win as Fredonia outshot Geneseo, 44-17, which meant Jokic made 39 saves.

Thus, they went to the mini-game.

Geneseo’s Jack Bullard scored the only goal of the mini-game when he deflected a Kris Heeres shot past Cazares. The teams fired a lot of shots on net in that short time, 14-12 in favor of Fredonia. Jokic stopped all the ones he faced for the crucial win.

Fredonia was a dangerous team all year, and very easily could have been hosting the championship round this weekend. Instead, they finish their season at 17-9-3.

Who’s House Is It Anyway?

Enough with the bagel controversy. The real story in Romney is how much Plattsburgh has owned Oswego in the playoffs recently.

For the past two years, Plattsburgh has swept the Lakers in the semifinals. The year before that, Plattsburgh swept Oswego in the finals. Counting the past five years, Plattsburgh holds an 8-2-2 playoff record against Oswego, with just one series lost.

Three of those years were at Romney where Plattsburgh is 5-2. The roughest time for Oswego has been the last two playoff series where the Lakers swept both regular season games, finishing first, only to be cast aside by the fourth place Cardinals, in their own home.

Plattsburgh was extremely impressive in this year’s series, playing an aggressive, hustling team oriented style.

“They did a good job,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said of his opposition. “They had one guy on a forecheck. It was hard to get any odd man rushes. It was hard to generate offense. They got all four guys back quick and outnumbered you four on three down low. It was difficult. You had to look for broken plays. You had to look for misdirected
pucks, because getting in deep wasn’t working because they beat us there every time. They clogged the middle.”

“Once we got the lead, we played really smart,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “We got the puck in deep. I thought [Craig] Neilson did a good job. I thought the penalty kill did a good job. Obviously, your goalie is the best penalty kill.”

Plattsburgh held the nation’s top power play to just one goal in twelve attempts.

“We practice our penalty kill all the time,” Emery said. “Always try to stay in the line of fire.”

The defining moment in the series was not the errant bagel toss in the third period of game two. Rather, it was Oswego’s inability to get the fourth goal in game one when they were up 3-0 and had three successive power plays including a partial two-man advantage. That allowed the door to remain open for the Cardinals to stage a comeback.

And what a comeback it was. Six straight goals in the final 22:29 for the 6-3 win. After that, one wondered if game two would merely be a formality. In a way, it was despite Oswego getting the first goal.

“I don’t know if it’s Plattsburgh or just ourselves,” Gosek said. “You cannot take penalties against any quality team. Especially five on three.”

This will most likely end Oswego’s season. Last year, they were in a much better position, but even then had to hope for no upsets in the other conference playoffs. This year, it’s much more precarious even with no upsets.

“Realistically there are a lot of quality teams out there,” Gosek said. “It will really come down to the east-west split. My own opinion is we needed to get through this weekend and we would have been in a really good position. 18-7-2 is a really good year, but if we couldn’t get it done, I’m not sure we deserve it.”

A Disturbing Trend

For the second week in a row covering the SUNYAC playoffs, I witnessed something that is really starting to bother me. It is the behavior of some players during the postgame handshake.

Hockey is a very unique sport. Despite all that goes on during the game or playoff series, when it is all over, the teams always congregate at center ice to shake hands. No other sport does it like this, and it’s especially gratifying for a sport like hockey to do it considering the often violent nature of the game.

However, there has been a breakdown of this tradition in the SUNYAC playoffs of late. After the play-in round, some Potsdam players looked to go after some Fredonia players. Quick and aggressive action by the refs prevented anything from blowing up. Even after this happened, the players still started to lineup for the handshake, such is the strong nature of the tradition. However, the officials wisely ordered the teams to go straight to their locker rooms.

This past weekend in Oswego, near the end of the handshakes, Oswego’s Ryan Koresky attempted to go after Plattsburgh personnel. He had to be physically restrained by the referee and a teammate. It took a lot of effort to finally get him off the ice.

Yes, the loss of a playoff series is emotional. Especially for the seniors. However, I recall one particular Colorado-Detroit playoff series in 1996. This harsh rivalry boiled over when Claude Lemieux nearly killed Kris Draper. That was one of the hardest hitting, dirtiest, most violent playoff series the NHL has ever seen. Yet, after it was all over, the players all went through the postgame handshake without any incident (though there were some comments made afterwards in the locker room).

I would hate to see the SUNYAC be at the forefront of the breakdown of this tradition due to the lack of sportsmanship or the urge to get players from the other team disqualified for their next playoff series. And the schools need to be particularly careful if they are unable to control their players.

All they need to do is look at the lesson Wisconsin learned after the 1992 national championship when some players were unable to control themselves after the game and in the postgame press conference. Wisconsin had to vacate their second place standing and forfeit the money they were to get from the NCAA for making it to the Frozen Four.

It’s time to nip this in the bud immediately.

The Great Pretzel Faceoff

I’m sure many of you have wondered whatever happened to the great pretzel showdown between Brockport and Buffalo State when I was on both campuses the same day. Well, Brockport fans will be happy to hear their school has regained the spot as the best pretzel in the SUNYAC.

Buffalo State, who took the honor away from Brockport for a year, wasn’t able to maintain their position at the top. Their pretzel just wasn’t salted well enough, and it wasn’t as fresh as Brockport’s.

I look forward to next year’s competition.

FINALS PREVIEWS

Once again, I repeat myself. After all the wildness of the regular season, the final two weeks are playing out exactly the same as last
year-identical semifinal match ups and sites, identical semifinal results, and now a repeat of last year’s finals, once again in Geneseo. But, that doesn’t mean any excitement is lost.

For the finals, we have a true three-game series. It is still a first to three points wins the series. The first two games will be played in full regulation style, including a five-minute overtime, if necessary. However, this time if the teams split or tie both games, they will play a complete third game on Sunday afternoon. If that game ends in a tie, then 20-minute sudden death overtime periods are played until a winner is declared.

Tickets cost $5 for adults, $3 for students, and $2 for SUNY students. Games one and two start at 7:00 p.m. and game three, if necessary, starts at 2:00 p.m.

[All stats mentioned below are for conference play only.]

Plattsburgh (8-6-0, 18-10-1) at Geneseo (10-4-0, 17-7-2)

Talk about a tough one to call. This year, I feel Plattsburgh and Geneseo are much closer matched than last year’s championship final, and that was a great series with the first game going to overtime.

Obviously, the biggest difference is no Brett Walker in net for Geneseo. Instead, it’s up to Derek Jokic (3.13 GAA, .890 save pct.) to outduel Craig Neilson (3.22 GAA, .860 save pct.). Neilson is playing very well lately and shows no signs of the midseason injury. Jokic faced a lot of shots from Fredonia, and came through when it counted the most, in the mini-game.

There’s been much talk about how Plattsburgh has had difficulty finishing. However, in their four playoff games, they have averaged six goals a game, and never scored less than five in any one of them. Plus, despite their difficulties, they still had the second best offense in conference play (4.79 G/GM) and the third best power play (27.7%). And Geneseo is the third most penalized team (22.4 PIM/G), but they do have the second best penalty kill (80.4%).

There are games when Geneseo lets up a lot of shots. They have confidence in Jokic, relying on their ability to counterattack, trying to catch their opponents making a mistake. However, this eventually catches up with them and against a Plattsburgh team that played excellent team defense against Oswego, don’t see Geneseo sweeping if they win this series.

These teams split in the regular season, with both winning on the road. Plattsburgh’s win was 7-1 while Geneseo returned the favor, 5-2. Interestingly, Geneseo got less shots when they won then in their loss.

If there’s ever a team that is more prepared for a playoff game than Plattsburgh, I can’t think of one. Emery always has his squad ready to play, especially strategically.

“We’ll watch a lot of tape of our opponent,” he said after the Oswego series.

That’s what has me leaning towards Plattsburgh-experience. Though they didn’t get it done last year, the Cardinals and their coaching staff always seem to find a way to win in the second season. They come into this game playing extremely well, and more importantly, better than last year at this time.

It won’t be easy, as I expect this one to need all three games. In that Sunday afternoon game, the Cardinals will eventually wear out the Ice Knights.

Life Is Good

What an historic year it has been.

The competition on the ice may never have been so fierce. The shuffling of positions down the stretch was thrilling stuff. We said goodbye to the Romney. We said hello to a resurrected Buffalo State.

I’d like to thank all the coaches for their help throughout the year, especially the three newbies who got right into the groove, putting up with my constant phone calls and questions. The sports information directors as usual were great.

As expected, you fans and readers make this all worthwhile. Your enthusiasm (not including the bagel thrower) and email (even from an overzealous Buffalo State fan) is what makes this effort anything but work.

There is one last issue I need to address. A few weeks ago, my wife asked me, “Why aren’t I ever in the Life is Good section?”

After a long period of silence, I hummed and hawed, stuttered, and then realized this is one of those questions that no matter how a guy answers, he’s going to end up in the doghouse.

However, being the brave soul that I am, I will give it a shot.


Dear Sweetie-Pie,

The reason you were never mentioned in the Life is Good section is because that part was about what is good in life, such as hot soft pretzels, great hockey, visiting family, vacations, and so forth.

It was not about what is best in life. For, if the section was titled The Best in Life, then you would have been mentioned all the time.

Especially for putting up with me during the hockey season and accepting my constant running off to games, leaving you alone on weekend nights.

You are not what’s good in life. You are the best in life.

Love,

Your Hockey Crazed Husband