On a weekend with only one game, the Cardinals did what they needed to do to get back to .500 on the season and earn three important points in the SUNYAC standings, winning 3-1 Saturday in Potsdam.
The Cardinals (4-4-2, 2-1-0) will look to keep that momentum Friday against a struggling SUNY Oswego (3-5-1, 0-3-0) before facing the No. 18 Red Dragons of SUNY Cortland (8-1-2, 2-1-0) Saturday. Both of PSUC’s road contests will kick off at 4 p.m.
The focus for the Cards this week in practice is the game against the Lakers. PSUC head coach Chris Taylor sees Oswego’s poor record on the season as a deceptive stat.
“Oswego may be struggling record-wise, but if you look at them on video, they’re not a bad team at all,” Taylor said. “They play a pretty complex system — something that we haven’t seen this year — and we’re going to have to make adjustments for them. They move the ball around well and they’ve got some dangerous players.”
Junior defenseman and team captain Joe Gula knows exactly what he expects from the Lakers in the game.
“They’re a team that’s desperate to get a win,” Gula said. “It’s not over for them; they’ve got plenty of time this season to turn it around.”
A win Friday, which would guarantee at least a split, would be a major boost to the Cards’ confidence heading into the Saturday contest.
“On a double weekend, getting three points on the first day is important,” Taylor said. “Sometimes, with the pressure off, you can really go for the throat on the second day.”
Taylor sees that freedom as important moving into the game against the Red Dragons, who will look to avenge their elimination in the 2017 SUNYAC semifinals.
“Cortland is obviously a top team,” Taylor said. “They’ve got top-quality players; they’ve had a good run over the last few years. But they’re human.
Saturday will be PSUC’s second game against ranked opposition this season, following a Sept. 15 victory over Clarkson, who were ranked No. 24 at that time.
While Taylor stressed the truth of treating every game the same, he acknowledged that games against top teams are special.
“Ultimately, when your playing against a team that is ranked or is having a good season, that’s when the big players need to show up,” Taylor said. “That’s what we’re all here for: playing in big games against big opponents.”
The Cards enter the weekend on a roll after winning at Potsdam (4-5-1, 0-3-0) Saturday.
“I think, for the first time this year, from top to bottom we did what we’d worked on in training,” Taylor said.
PSUC’s first goal of the game came in the first half when senior forward Alex Price put away what Taylor described as “one of the best passes this year” from junior forward Jimmy Marchena. The goal was the Price’s first of the year.
“We know how valuable he is,” Taylor said. “Goals or no goals, he brings a lot to the team. But obviously, if you’re playing in the forward position, you’ve got to put numbers up, too.”
With two in the game, Marchena now leads the Cards in assists, at three.
“He could play any position on the field,” Taylor said. “He’s a pretty good target striker, because he’s a strong player.”
The next two goals of the game were scored by team-leading senior forward Chris Robertson.
“He’s transitioned a little bit, and he’s not happy about it, but he’s coming off the bench,” Taylor said. “We’ve tweaked the system in the wide areas. We’re looking for more of a possession-based player.”
Subbing in a player of Robertson’s caliber can catch an opposing defense relaxing momentarily. That is when PSUC takes advantage and scores.
Marchena was incredibly pleased with the team performance on the weekend.
“That game was our best attacking game,” Marchena said.
Defensively, the Cards were solid through most of the game and held a 3-0 lead with five minutes left.
“We pressured up the field great,” Gula said. “It made my job 10 times easier.”
The clean sheet was broken when Potsdam’s Quinn Graziano got on the end of Jhonny Mendoza’s free kick from a dangerous position.
“We fell asleep for a second,” Gula said. “That’s all it takes for some teams.”
PSUC will look to avoid lapses like that against the Lakers and Red Dragons. Currently sitting fifth in the SUNYAC standings, the Cards are focused on getting as many points as they can.
While that will involve the Saturday competition against Cortland, it will begin with Friday’s game at Oswego.
“It’s a must-win,” Marchena said. “It’s three points that we desperately need.”
Email Nathanael LePage at email@example.com