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On Jan. 7, Plattsburgh lost to SUNY Canton, the low point of a miserable first half of a season. They were 6-8 at that point, had lost three in a row, and five out of six. In the SUNYAC, they were out of a playoff position.
Since then, the Cardinals arguably have been one of the hottest teams in the country, going 11-1-1. And now, they are the 2017 SUNYAC champions and heading to the NCAA playoffs thanks to a 3-2 victory over their arch-rivals and top seed, Oswego.
“We’re just finding ways to win,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “Obviously, Brady (Rouleau) had a strong second half. You can’t win in this game if you don’t have a good goaltender. I don’t care how good you are, how bad you are, you’ve got to have good goaltending. We had it.”
Rouleau, named tournament MVP, made 31 saves. He also relied on the goalies’s best friend — the posts. Oswego hit the goalpost three times.
“We had chances against a team that plays very good defensively and relies on their goalie,” Oswego coach Ed Gosek said. “Those chances off the post you have to bury.”
The teams played nearly half the game without a score before Schuyler Seyfert scored at 9:07 of the second when he one-timed a loose puck from the right slot into the near side.
The goal quieted a raucous home crowd that hadn’t stopped cheering up to that point.
Early in the third, the teams traded power-play goals. First, Plattsburgh extended its lead. As the puck bounced off the backboard, Joe Drabin at the post stuffed it in.
Just 1:10 later, Shawn Hulshof jumped on a loose puck in the slot, wound up, and fired it home.
The momentum was back, but less than five minutes later, Antoine Desnoyers once again quieted the crowd an a beautiful passing play down low.
A quick pass from Kyle Hall from left to right down low followed by Desnoyers’ just as quick one-timer.
“A picture-perfect goal,” Emery said. “You couldn’t draw it up any better than that. A big goal. It put us up 3-1 and gave us some breathing room, because we know the power they have offensively.”
Kenny Neil scored with his goalie pulled to cut the lead, but it was too little, too late.
Oswego (21-5-1) now has to wait on its fate.
“I was disappointed in the outcome,” Gosek said. “We left it up to the hands of a committee to determine whether our body of work is good enough to continue on. I hope it is. Hopefully, we’ll get a second chance.”
Plattsburgh (17-9-1) gets the automatic bid for winning the SUNYAC thanks to an amazing second half turnaround. Was it Emery’s best ever?
“It’s probably the biggest ever,” Emery said. “This has also been my youngest team I ever had.”
Whoever, wherever, whenever Plattsburgh plays, their opponent will have to face a team that has been red hot since Jan. 7.