The season is over for the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team, after they lost 3-2 at No. 5 SUNY Oswego Saturday in the SUNYAC semifinal.
Despite the loss, the Cardinals (13-12-2) end the season with some positives to take away.
On the road against a nationally ranked team, in a place where PSUC had lost 4-0 earlier this season, head coach Bob Emery felt the Cards outplayed the Lakers.
In a game that finished 25-25 in shots on goal, the one-goal margin of the game reflected how close things were.
PSUC found itself 2-0 after the first period, but Emery said the team focused on the fact both Oswego goals — one short-handed and the other on the power play — were the results of bad bounces, meaning the Cards were not completely out of it.
“The guys were feeling good in the locker room after the first period,” Emery said.
Three minutes into the second, PSUC got on the board as senior Cam Owens scored the team’s first power play goal in 16 attempts. It was the only goal of the second period, and the Cards had life.
“There was no panic the whole night,” senior forward Pat Egan said.
Egan scored about four minutes into the third period on a breakout play after an Oswego forward hit the crossbar, and the rebound fell to the stick of senior forward Cole Stallard. Egan collected Stallard’s pass and shot the puck in only a few strides beyond the blue line.
“Cam [Owens] did a good job going to the net, which gave me more room,” Egan said. “I found a corner of the net that was open, and luckily it went in.”
The goal wasn’t enough to tie the game, though, as 17 seconds earlier a line change on a play were PSUC failed to safely dump the puck in deep had given the Lakers a 2-on-0 breakaway for a relatively easy third goal, which proved to be the game winner.
The Cards managed to put Oswego under some pressure late in the game with goaltender Jimmy Poreda pulled, but it wasn’t enough and the Lakers advanced to the SUNYAC finals in Geneseo.
“I think we played well,” Egan said. “It just wasn’t our night.”
With the loss, PSUC finished one game above .500, marking the worst record in Emery’s 30-year career. With 70 goals in 27 games, it was the worst goalscoring tally in program history.
With a solid defensive core and quality goaltender to build a team around for next year, Emery said he was focused on bringing in somebody who could score.
“Scoring is almost something you’re born with,” Emery said.
Lacking those “natural goalscorers,” the Cards’ focus in the latter part of the season had been what Emery described as “greasy goals” — hard-earned goals in chaotic scrums in front of the opponent’s net.
Emery said the team’s tough non-conference schedule, which features several ranked opponents and some historical powerhouses of Division III, needed to be reconsidered, as it was structured in an era when the SUNYAC was not as strong and deep as it is now.
In conference, Emery was not disappointed with the third-place finish, having been picked third in the SUNYAC preseason poll. With PSUC finishing one game behind Oswego in the standings, Emery stressed that, had the team found a way to win one of its games against Potsdam, Saturday’s semifinal would have been played on home ice.
Egan echoed his coach’s comments on the strength of the SUNYAC conference and the importance of every game.
“You’ve got to realize right at the start of the year that there are only 25 games and every game means so much,” Egan said. “You can’t have any off nights, especially now that the SUNYAC is arguably the best Division III conference.”
With his final season over, Egan can only reflect on his four years at Plattsburgh with what he described as a “very close” group of seniors.
“It’s been a great time,” Egan said. “I met some of my best friend who I’ll have for the rest of my life.”
Egan offered a parting message to next season’s returning players on what they should learn from this year, in which the team struggled until a late five-game winning streak turned it around.
“Don’t take anything for granted,” Egan said. “Play every game as your last, because they go by quick.”