After losing to Geneseo 7-1 in the SUNYAC championship game, the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team was left hoping to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
Despite a success-filled season that put PSUC in contention for the tournament, the Cardinals did not receive an at-large bid, officially ending their season.
There are just 11 tournament spots, with seven going to teams that win their conference and four going to teams that the NCAA selects through at-large bids.
PSUC head coach Bob Emery said this puts emphasis on a team to win its conference. He noted when teams do not secure a conference championship, it’s challenging to make the tournament with how the NCAA selection process is designed.
“The system that the NCAA uses is broken,” Emery said. “I think us being on the outside looking in was probably the correct call by the committee members, but again, the system is broken.”
The components that factor in to a team receiving an at-large bid include its win-lost percentage against opponents, results in head-to-head matchups, results versus common opponents, results versus ranked teams and strength of schedule.
Emery said with the way the system is constructed, losing to Oswego in the SUNYAC semifinals would have been more beneficial to PSUC than going into the SUNYAC championship and losing to Geneseo because Oswego was not a ranked team.
Even though the Cards finished the season 20-4-3, capturing the SUNYAC regular season title in the process, Emery noted it’s challenging to evaluate the season.
“I judge success by making the tournament or not,” Emery said. “That’s the very frustrating spot I am in right now. We had 20 wins and only four losses, and they are invisible because we didn’t make the tournament. It’s just hard. I know what kind of team we have and what talent we have. We had one tough night at the end of the year and the season was over.”
With the season coming to a conclusion, Emery noted how he felt sympathy for all the players, and he made sure to acknowledge this year’s senior class and all the great qualities the group brought to the team, pinpointing how their leadership will be missed.
Junior goaltender Brady Rouleau said the seniors contributed a lot to PSUC on and off the ice and cited how they set a good precedent to be maintained and built upon going into next season.
“This group of guys ahead of me has had the majority of the leadership,” junior goaltender Brady Rouleau said. “Those guys were really good for keeping it business like, and I am hoping we can keep it like that for next year as a leadership group. We want to show there’s time for fun off the ice, but once we get in the dressing room, it’s time to buckle down and be the best we can be.”
Senior forward Connor Gorman said he was proud to be a part of this year’s team and how all the seniors, which included Dillan Fox, Luke Baleshta, Zach Popp, Spencer Finney, Anthony Calabrese, Rich Botting, Kevin Emmerling, Michael Radisa and Gorman, were all looked upon as leaders.
As this season marks the end of all the seniors’ PSUC careers, Gorman said it’s important for returning players to continue working hard and appreciate their remaining time as Cards.
“The biggest thing is when you’re a freshman, sophomore and junior, you can say there is next year. I just hope all the guys realize when it’s done, it’s done, and it’s sometimes hard to take. It’s always important to take every game 100 percent, not overlook anybody and come to work everyday.”
Looking ahead, this season did not end the way the Cards wanted it to, but at the same time, the team believes there are learning opportunities to gain from it as next year approaches.
“The biggest thing to take from this season is how you have to stay focused night in and night out because one game can keep you out of the tournament,” Emery said. “As frustrated as I am, you got to move on, and we have already started working toward next season.”
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