Dropping points in collegiate hockey is never ideal. Dropping points in conference play is even less ideal. The SUNY Plattsburgh men’s hockey team experienced that the hard way this past weekend, as they dropped two games on the road, and now fall behind six points in the standings.
It must’ve been a daunting road trip for the Cardinals, as Friday they took on the n ranked Division-III team, the Geneseo Knights and Saturday they turned around to play the undefeated Brockport Golden Eagles. The Cardinals would fall just short Friday, losing 3-2 before Saturday suffering their worst loss of the season, 7-3.
“We’re going every weekend wanting to win. You know, in our mind, we were more than capable of winning both of those games,” junior forward Joe Kile said. “It’s still early so you don’t know how good we can be or how good some of these other teams can be. So I think we just have to go into every game with kind of an open mind thinking we can definitely win this game.”
Getting as many wins as possible is always the goal for Plattsburgh Hockey, especially in conference play. But they had to start their weekend with the No. 1 ranked Knights.
In the first period, Geneseo came out strong, giving examples why they were ranked as high as they are. The Knights scored the first goal of the match, just before the eight minute mark. They would then score again on a power play opportunity, 11 minutes in, to extend their lead to 2-0 in the first.
In fact, the penalties were abundant in the first frame, and there were power play opportunities everywhere. The Cardinals were called for six penalties in the first period, and Geneseo was called for four of their own.
“I’m not saying they were bad calls, good calls or indifferent; We were just in the box too much…You know, it kind of put us back on our heels a little bit,” Head Coach Stephen Moffat said. “Even though we were down 2-0, I think five on five we were playing pretty well. We were generating some chances and then were slowly able to chip away a little bit.”
Chip away they did, as with just under a minute to go in the first period, sophomore forward Carson Gallagher was able to find the back of the net, off assists from Bennett Stockdale and Jacob Modry, to cut the score to 2-1. Down just one goal, but with two periods remaining the battle was still uphill.
“We wanted to move our feet and defend with our feet, not so much with our sticks, and to just keep doing what we’re doing; stay the course and keep plugging away, getting one shot at a time, one goal at a time,” Moffat said.
In the second period, the game tightened up, as both sides scrapped to either pull away, or pull to even. After the end of the second period, the score was still deadlocked at 2-1, with one period to play. “I think we kind of figured them out a little bit and realized that we could definitely skate with these guys and play with these guys and that it was going to be a close game,” Kile said, “it was kind of just back and forth that second period and I think we kind of picked up our physicality a little bit, and that’s when we realized like, ‘we’re right here, we’re right in this game.”
However, it wouldn’t take long into the third period before Geneseo tried to pull away again; at five minutes in, the Knights scored again to extend the lead to 3-1. However a two-goal lead in hockey is sometimes considered the most dangerous lead in sports and the Cardinals tried to put that to the test.
With just seven minutes to go, Kile scored on a power play, assisted by Luk Jirousek and Jack King, for Plattsburgh to bring the difference back down to one goal. However that late push wouldn’t be enough and Plattsburgh would lose by a final of 3-2.
“They’re another one of our rivals and we hate losing to them, like I know personally I can’t stand losing to them at all. It really bugs me, especially one goal games like that when they’re the number one team in the country,” Kile said, “it shows how close we really are and it’s frustrating.”
Saturday, the team would have their chance to rebound from the night before, yet facing another undefeated team in SUNY Brockport. In the first period, a similar trend followed from the night before, as Plattsburgh took four more first period penalties, one of which led to Brockport’s game opening goal.However, sophomore forward Joey Mancuso proved responsive as he scored late in the first to tie the game, off assists from Mitchell Hale and Jacob Modry.
The opening period would end in a 1-1 tie, and from the bench, the Plattsburgh coaching staff stressed decreasing penalties and pushing for more offensive output. Yet, just moments into the second frame, the Cardinals would pick up another penalty and be forced to play short handed again.
“I think we were pressing a little bit and trying too hard to score and they took advantage of some odd man rushes and they capitalized on their opportunities. We probably gave up more odd man rushes in the second period than we did all year. And they capitalized and a good team like Brockport is really tough to come back from,” Moffat said.
The Golden Eagle came out in the second period firing on all cylinders, as they scored four unanswered goals to start the period and take a 5-1 lead. The Cardinals would respond with a goal from Hunter Alden, assisted by Kile, to trail 5-2 at the break, with still a sizable deficit to overcome.
In the final period, Moffat stressed to his team just taking the game five minutes at a time. They would keep the frame scoreless until about the ten minute mark when Stockdale scored, off assists from Modry and Alden, to cut the lead to just two goals. However, once again Plattsburgh’s late push wouldn’t be enough to overcome their deficit, especially after Brockport was able to tack on two more goals to end the game 7-3.
“A big thing both our captains and coaches were saying is that we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and kind of realize that we’re a good team, but we can’t have losses like that and this season goes fast,” Kile said, “you can’t soak on that for too long, you kind of just have to look forward to this weekend.”
This weekend Plattsburgh will be tested again, with yet another two conference road games coming up. The team has already started to prepare for and focus on their Friday matchup with Buffalo State, and then their Saturday faceoff versus Fredonia.
“These are our two last SUNYAC games for a couple of weeks and, you know, they’re kind of playoff games, even though they’re only in November,” said Moffat, “they’re almost playoff games and we have to attack them that way.”