The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team got its season off to a winning start last weekend, sweeping a pair of games at SUNY Morrisville while conceding only one goal.
The Cardinals take to the ice at home tonight against No. 2/2 SUNY Geneseo before hosting the College at Brockport tomorrow evening.
PSUC (2-0-0, 2-0-0) will face off against the Ice Knights (1-0-1, 3-0-1) at 7 p.m. tonight in an early-season test. This week’s national rankings by USCHO and d3hockey.com both have the defending SUNYAC champions a single vote behind No. 1 UW-Stevens Point.
Senior forward Tom Bowe said the Cards were working hard to be ready for such an important matchup.
“Everybody’s juiced for that game,” Bowe said. “That’s going to be one of the biggest games of the year right off the bat.”
With Geneseo returning four forwards who each recorded 30 or more points last season, and seven total forwards who recorded at least 20 points, Bowe emphasized that PSUC will need to play well defensively to win.
“If it’s a high-scoring game, I don’t know if we’re going to be able to pull it off,” Bowe said. “That’s a high-powered offense.”
Sophomore goaltender Jimmy Poreda said the Cards are focused on preparing for the game because they understand it is an important one, despite coming so early in the season.
“We know they’re the defending champs,” Poreda said. “If we want to make a statement in the league, we’re going to have to take out the defending champs.”
For head coach Bob Emery, the keys to victory Friday are simple.
“We’re going to have to play smart, play hard and sacrifice to win,” Emery said. “In the league now, it’s not any different from any other night. There are no nights off.”
The mentality will be on display Saturday, when PSUC turns its attention to Brockport (3-1-0, 1-1-0). While the Cards boast and impressive 80-5-4 all-time record against the Golden Eagles, that head-to-head record is only 1-3-2 over the last three seasons.
“This will be a really good test for the character of our team, playing [Geneseo] and then playing a team like Brockport, whom we always have a little trouble with,” Bowe said.
Despite the recent struggles against Brockport, PSUC will stick to the coaching staff’s philosophy of focusing only on the first game in practice.
“As soon as the Friday game’s over, we’ll start to worry about Saturday,” Poreda said. “The coaches will have film ready for us to watch, and we’ll just go from there.”
The Cards enter the weekend on top of the SUNYAC standings after their two-game sweep of Morrisville last weekend, winning 5-1 and 3-0.
Bowe and Emery agreed that the team played better on Saturday than on Friday.
“We played the game Friday night like it was our first game,” Emery said. “There were a lot of mistakes. But I thought we played a really sound game and limited Morrisville to very few ‘Grade-A’ scoring chances Saturday.”
Despite giving the Morrisville powerplay 12 opportunities, PSUC was able to keep the Mustangs off the board each time. For Emery, who felt the team’s penalty minutes were too high, Poreda played a large part in that success.
“Jimmy was the equalizer on the penalty kill Friday night,” Emery said. “Saturday night, I just think we did a great job blocking shots.”
Praise for Poreda didn’t just come from the coach, however. Bowe was quick to point out the role the goaltender played on the weekend.
“Any time we made a bad turnover and gave up a good chance, Jim bailed us out,” Bowe said. “That’s what championship hockey is going to look like, hopefully, down the road.”
While Poreda felt good about his performance on the weekend, he also took responsibility for the one goal against.
“Honestly, I thought I needed to control my rebound better,” Poreda said. “I think the one mistake I made was that I let the rebound go out in front, and the guy was wide open just waiting there. I’ll take blame for that one.”
Bowe said that kind of dirty goal is exactly what the team needed to look for more on the weekend.
“You can credit Morrisville for doing a great job blocking shots,” Bowe said. “Conversely, we can do a better job getting our shots through, getting more shots to the net and cleaning up those rebounds.”
Despite the early wins, the Cards know they need to work for wins this weekend, as they are considered underdogs in the Friday game. That work began Monday, and continued throughout the week.
“Down a lot of guys, we were out there grinding on a Monday,” Bowe said. “Some teams might have an easy day on Monday after a big weekend, but we haven’t really proved anything. Every SUNYAC game is a playoff game.
Email Nathanael LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org