The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team suffered its second loss of the season Friday, losing 3-0 to Middlebury College in the opening game of the PrimeLink Great Northern ShootOut at Norwich University’s Kreitzberg Arena.
The Cardinals (3-2-1), who entered the game as defending champions of the annual Thanksgiving-weekend tournament, will take to the ice tomorrow at 4 p.m. to play for third place against No. 2 Adrian College (7-2), who fell 3-2 in a tightly fought battle with the hosting Cadets.
For PSUC, Friday’s game against the Panthers (2-1) was a second consecutive loss and third straight game without a win.
In an evenly matched first period, the Cards held a slight 12-11 edge in shots on goal over the Panthers, but neither team found the back of the net. PSUC head coach Bob Emery saw some positives to take away from the opening stanza, while also highlighting needed improvements.
“The whole night we got some great speed through the neutral zone, but I think we made bad decisions with the puck all night long,” Emery said. “We missed the net on a lot of great chances.”
The first major turning point of the game came just over six minutes into the second period, as Middlebury’s Spencer Cage and Charlie Parsons were both penalized, giving the Cards a full 2-minute five-on-three power play that they failed to score on.
PSUC has failed on all twelve powerplay opportunities in their three-game winless streak.
“We’ve got to get better on the power play,” Emery said. “We have to sit down tonight as a coaching staff and look at the tape to see what we need to work on.”
The Panthers’ Owen Powers recorded the eventual game-winner shortly after the penalties expired, as a shot through traffic from the point deflected in front of the crease, past Cardinal goaltender Jimmy Poreda.
A Middlebury penalty later in the period seemed to give PSUC some life, but a short-handed effort by Zach Shapiro gave the Panthers the insurance goal and deflated the Cards’ hopes.
For Emery, the combination of failing on the five-on-three and allowing a shorthanded goal was the deciding factor in the contest.
“There were a lot of other things we could have done better, but that was the difference in the game,” Emery said.
While PSUC did successfully apply some offensive pressure in desperation late in the third period, it was not enough.
In the dying moments, Middlebury’s Michael Fahie “scored” an empty net goal after junior defenseman Philip Middleton slashed him en route to the abandoned crease, resulting in an automatic goal being awarded by rule, as Middleton was the last defender between Fahie and an empty net.
Despite the team only being outshot 27-26 overall, senior forward Cole Stallard was quick to admit the Cards did not play well enough to earn a win.
“We got outplayed pretty much all 60 minutes tonight, other than maybe the last 5 minutes when we decided to try to pick it up,” Stallard said. “With this type of competition, we’ve got to come from the first puck drop.”
For his part, sophomore forward Rich McCartney had an idea of what PSUC needs to work on to get back in the win column.
“I thought we struggled getting grade-A scoring chances,” McCartney said. “We definitely need to work on attacking off the rush better, getting more shots to the net and making sure we start capitalizing on some opportunities.”
With the loss, the Cards were relegated to tomorrow’s third-place game against Adrian. With faceoff against the Bulldogs scheduled for 4 p.m., McCartney saw the quick turnaround as a positive.
“The only bright side of this is we have an opportunity to prove ourselves tomorrow, prove that this was a fluke,” McCartney said.’
While tomorrow’s contest is a consolation game for the weekend’s tournament, it is also a regular-season game that could affect any NCAA at-large bid decisions if PSUC is in that discussion in March. Stallard was quick to emphasize the importance of coming out on top.
“Tomorrow’s game could be a huge later on in the season for us,” Stallard said. “It’ll be a big test for us as a team.”
Despite the importance of Saturday’s game, the coaching staff did not stay at the rink after the loss to watch the evening game to scout the next opponent. Emery said the Cards had other concerns to work on in preparation for the next game.
“We have to fix our problems before we can worry about our opponent,” Emery said.
Email Nathanael LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org