With SUNYAC rival Oswego coming to the Stafford Ice Arena last Friday, it was only fitting that the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team would have one of its most thrilling games of the season.
After senior defenseman Anthony Calabrese scored the equalizing goal with just over two minutes remaining in the game to bring the score to 3-3, the No. 2 Cardinals (18-3-1, 11-1-1 SUNYAC) forced overtime and looked to be headed for a draw, but senior forward Connor Gorman had other plans.
As the clock ticked toward zero, Oswego forward Shawn Hulshof gained possession of the puck deep in the Laker zone and looked to run out the clock, but Gorman snatched the puck from his stick, creating a breakaway opportunity, which he capitalized on by blasting a shot into the net, creating pandemonium both on the ice and in the stands.
Gorman scored the game-winning goal with just 2.4 seconds remaining in overtime and said after the game that the goal stressed the importance of playing to the final whistle and how the victory can help boost and maintain the Cards’ momentum.
He also noted how the 4-3 win was a reflection of PSUC’s all-around leadership, experience and team chemistry.
“We have nine seniors, and everyone is a leader from the goalies, to the defense, to the forwards,” Gorman said. “I think we just have a great group of guys who have been here for a long time and know how important every game is, and I think we showed that in the game.”
Head coach Bob Emery said the Cards beat a great team in Oswego last Friday night and needed to enjoy the win, but he also noted the importance of preparing to face Cortland the next day, avoiding a letdown and securing a four-point weekend, which is exactly what PSUC did.
Facing the Red Dragons after their dramatic win the previous night, the Cards secured a 6-1 victory, utilizing a great second period performance that saw four PSUC goals. Freshmen forwards Pat Egan and Nick Belger and senior forwards Luke Baleshta and Michael Radisa all found the back of the net during the stanza.
During the second period, the Cards created their scoring chances off Cortland turnovers, and Emery cited the team’s forecheck as a key reason PSUC was able to anticipate and steal pucks.
“Our forecheck was really good,” Emery said. “The first forward in there did a really good job causing the other team to rush.”
Emery acknowledged he was concerned about a potential letdown leading up to the game Saturday night, but the team’s latest win was a good example of how Emery and the Cards approach every game by not focusing on the past or present and instead concentrating on the task at hand.
“We always have to keep in mind the small picture,” Emery said. “We can’t look at the big picture. We need to keep in mind the small picture and win every day.”
The two other goals against Cortland came from freshmen defensemen Ryan Chiasson and Santino Ragone. Both tallies were their first as Cards.
Ragone said a million thoughts passed through his head when he scored his first goal playing for PSUC.
“When it went in the net, I didn’t even know what to do,” Ragone said. “It was a bunch of emotion.”
Ragone also discussed PSUC’s work ethic and how it has been a key factor to the team’s success and ability to maintain momentum this season and knows they have to retain the same hard-working mindset.
“We need to keep working hard, and keep doing what we are doing,” Ragone said. “Right now, we are on a roll, and we are all feeling good, so feel good, play good.”
The Cards will return to the ice this Saturday at 7 p.m. as they travel to face North Country foe Potsdam. PSUC beat the Bears earlier in the season 7-1 at home, but the Cards are not taking their opponent lightly and know they have to come out with a high intensity.
“We play one game at a time,” senior defenseman Anthony Calabrese said. “Every game is like a playoff game for us as the season continues.”
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