The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey season ended in disappointing fashion Wednesday night, with a 4-3 loss on home ice against SUNY Fredonia. The Cardinals failed to qualify for the SUNYAC semifinals for the first time since the 1990-1991 season.
“The way we lost tonight was the way our season went,” PSUC head coach Bob Emery said.
The Cards (13-12-1, 7-8-1) scored first in the first-round playoff contest with a goal by senior Matt Quilty, but saw that lead disappear only 38 seconds later as the Blue Devils (12-10-4, 7-8-1) took advantage of a turnover to equalize.
“They scored a goal on a shot we should have blocked,” Emery said. “They scored a goal on a couple of bad turnovers. “
PSUC then took a 3-1 lead off goals on either side of the first intermission.
“I think we were playing pretty good at that point,” junior forward Ross Sloan said “We were blocking shots and getting pucks in behind them.“
That was the last time the Cards scored in the game, and Fredonia fought back to tie the game at 3-3 before the second intermission.
“Give credit to Fredonia, they put pressure on us,” Sloan said. “They are a really well-coached team. They executed a little better than we did.”
PSUC led the Blue Devils in shots on goal in the third period, but a mistake in the defensive zone led to a game-winning shot for Fredonia.
In the end, a late power play was not sufficient and the Blue Devils left the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena with a 4-3 victory.
“The team is going to dwell on this game for a while, going out in the quarterfinals,” Sloan said. “We had really high expectations for ourselves, just like every year.”
PSUC was only in position to host Wednesday’s SUNYAC playoff game after a dramatic final weekend of the regular season.
The Cards earned a 2-2 tie against SUNY Cortland (10-13-2, 5-9-2) and an upset 1-0 win on the road against No. 5/6 SUNY Oswego (18-5-2, 13-2-1) last weekend.
“The team did a lot of what we have been preaching,” Emery said. “We got pucks deep, we blocked a lot of shots, we sacrificed our bodies and we won a lot of 50-50 battles. We put everything on the line to win the game.”
From the players’ perspective, the recipe for success that extended PSUC’s unbeaten streak in Oswego to 4-0-2 was simple.
“We executed our game plan and came out with a win,” Sloan said.
While the game in Oswego may have been played on the road in front of a sold-out crowd of 3,000, the Cards found support in the stands during the game. The Red Zone, PSUC’s student-run sports fan club, travelled to Oswego to cheer on the team.
“The Red Zone has been great,” Emery said. “I have been here for 30 years, and one of the best things to happen to our program was the Red Zone.”
As the season draws to a close, the Cards are left to reflect on a season that finished only one game above .500, which featured victories in both the Primelink Great Northern ShootOut and the W.B. Mason Winter Classic, but a conference performance that fell below the team’s own expectations.
PSUC will lose only two graduating players – forward Matt Quilty and defenseman Ayrton Valente – so next season’s roster will feature most of the same players as the current. This includes team goal-scoring leader, freshman Rich McCartney, as well as a junior forwards Cole Stallard and Cam Owens.
With this season ending in disappointment, the coaching staff will be focused on improving that group’s play to achieve the perennial goals of winning a SUNYAC conference championship and competing for a national title.
“We do have a lot of guys coming back, but there have to be a lot of changes in our mindset and our philosophies,” Emery said.
Those changes will begin with reinforcing some fundamental aspects of the game of hockey.
“We need to go back, watch some film and tighten up in blocked shots and turnovers,” Sloan said. “Those are the things that get teams the win.”
However the team prepares for next season, that preparation will not wait long to begin.
“Training starts tomorrow for next year,” Sloan said.
Email Nathanael LePage at email@example.com