Two words — penalty killing.

Superb penalty killing by Potsdam both at the start and end of the game, when the Bears found themselves down six skaters to three, enabled Potsdam to defeat Geneseo, 2-1, in an emotionally charged contest.

With 2:53 left in the game, Dave Weagle was given a five minute major and game misconduct for cross checking. Due to other penalties, the Bears were initially shorthanded for 47 seconds, then down 4-on-3 for 1:13, even up for a while, then back down 5-on-4 with 53 seconds left.

Soon afterwards, Geneseo pulled Brett Walker to go up two men. Seconds later, Chris Lee was whistled for slashing. Now Geneseo had a 6-on-3 advantage for the final 32 seconds.

Through all that time, Potsdam continued to do what they did all game when shorthanded — play tight down low, be aggressive in the corners, and rely on Ryan Venturelli to make one big save after another. Venturelli’s final big save came with 10 seconds left. On the ensuing faceoff, Potsdam eventually controlled the puck, and was able to clear it the length of the ice.

Potsdam’s penalty killing was forced to shine early in the game when Mirko Palla was called for a holding double minor and during that time, Mike Snow received a slashing penalty.

For the entire two-minute two-man advantage, Geneseo controlled the puck without a break. Not one whistle, not one time did the puck leave the zone, and not one Potsdam player was able to change up. Yet, Potsdam killed the penalties thanks to Venturelli impersonating a stone wall, and the defense never allowing Geneseo to get a second shot off a rebound.

All told, Geneseo had eight power plays go for naught including being up two players for 2:32.

Potsdam coach Glenn Thomaris was happy with his special teams. “We showed a lot of composure,” he said. “Venturelli made the saves when we needed. The defense played well. That’s the reason we won.”

The Ice Knights also shined on the penalty kill, stopping all five opportunities for Potsdam, including a sizable two man advantage, also thanks to solid goaltending by Brett Walker.

The penalty killing overshadowed the goaltending battle that was taking place between Walker and Venturelli. The Potsdam netminder has struggled this semester until this weekend where he let up only one goal. In tonight’s game, he made 37 saves.

“Without him, we wouldn’t have won either one of these games,” Thomaris said. “Certainly not this one.”

Meanwhile, Walker was just as effective, keeping his team within striking range when Potsdam took advantage of Geneseo pressing in the third period. Walker wound up with 30 saves.

All the scoring occurred in the second period. Potsdam struck first when Mike Taylor kept the puck in at the right point and fired a slapshot that Walker had trouble with. It squeezed through him, and then like slow motion, proceeded to barely slide across the goal line.

A few minutes later, Geneseo tied it up, taking advantage of a terrible giveaway by the Bears’ defense. Michel Bond grabbed the puck and found himself alone with the goalie with a few teammates to help him out. Bond kept it himself, and though Venturelli stood his ground on the fakes, Bond slipped it through the five hole for the unassisted goal.

Potsdam retook the lead a few minutes later. The Bears won the faceoff to the right of Walker, and Jason Brothers let go of a shot from the point. Walker made the save, but couldn’t control the rebound, though it did go off to the side. However, Mike Snow was left unmarked, and put the loose puck into the unguarded net.

The third period saw Geneseo pressing, but Potsdam’s defense tightened up not allowing the Ice Knights much skating room and forcing them to dump in most of the time. Then came the wild last few minutes and the penalty killing effort by Potsdam.

When the final horn sounded, the Bears celebrated as if they just won a playoff series, enjoying their hard-earned victory. The win keeps the Bears right in the middle of a wild SUNYAC race with a league record of 4-4-1. They also evened up their overall mark at 9-9-2.

Potsdam returns home to play Oswego Friday night in yet another must-win game.

Geneseo slips to 5-3-1 (7-8-3 overall), and now is in a tie for third place with the team it defeated the night before — Plattsburgh. Geneseo plays the remainder of its games on the road, starting off with another key contest against Fredonia on Friday.