The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team faces a challenging weekend against two conference opponents, as the end of the regular season approaches. Coming off a narrow win over SUNY Potsdam, the Cardinals are desperate for points in a tight race for the SUNYAC playoffs.
At 7 p.m. tonight, PSUC (11-10-0, 5-7-0) takes on the Buffalo State Bengals (15-5-3, 8-3-3) at the Stafford Ice Arena. The Cards follow that up with a home game on Saturday at 7 p.m. against the Blue Devils of SUNY Fredonia (9-9-3, 5-7-0).
These opponents will be a challenge for PSUC, as they lost against both on the road earlier this season.
“There definitely is a revenge factor,” head coach Bob Emery said. “We had nine freshmen in the lineup that weekend and had a lot of guys hurt.”
Injuries did not fully account for the difference in the games, as the Cards allowed 14 goals in the two games while only scoring five.
“I’m looking forward to our guys looking at that as motivation for payback,” Emery said.
The key to victory for PSUC will be disciplined hockey in front of their own net.
“Both of those teams have players of good size,” Emery said. “They are very good defensive teams. The only way to beat a good defensive team is to play good defense.”
Emery has instilled into his players this belief that defensive play must improve.
“We struggle being tough to play against,” sophomore defenseman Charles Barber said. “We cannot let them walk all over our defensive zone. We need to be able to block shots, hit, and keep them away from our net.”
With only four regular-season games left, the Cards will need to win points this weekend to earn participation in the SUNYAC playoffs. While PSUC is in sixth place, the last playoff position, the team is only one point ahead of seventh and one point behind a fourth position and a home postseason game.
“We have to keep battling and control what we can,” Barber said. “We have to get these wins to play for that fourth place.”
That push for playoff position will be helped by the Cards’ performance on Saturday, when they recorded a 1-0 home shutout win over SUNY Potsdam (8-9-4, 4-7-1).
“One thing we have struggled with this year is giving up too many goals defensively,” Barber said. “It was huge for us to get a good 1-0 win.”
PSUC began with a dominant first period in which they led the Bears 21-9 in shots on goal.
“I thought the first period was one of the best periods we have played all year,” Emery said. “We did the little things right. We got pucks in deep, we played solid defense and we kept all their shots to the outside.”
That strong performance was aided by the play of freshman goaltender Jimmy Poreda, who recorded 40 saves in the shutout victory.
“I thought I settled in pretty quickly,” Poreda said. “Our defense did a good job early, which let me get into a rhythm. Then, when the team needed me, I was able to step up and make a couple good saves.”
Emery said that the team’s start was helped by the presence of their peers in the stands.
“The students are back,” Emery said. “There’s a lot of hockey over break when the students aren’t here and our guys get bored.”
Despite the strong first period, the Cards were trailing in shots on goal at the final buzzer.
“We knew they were going to come out hard in the second period, just because of how much we outplayed them in the first,” Poreda said. “I think they started to match our style of play and our speed.”
The flow of the game was partly changed by increased time on special teams. With no penalties called in the first period, the teams combined for 12 minutes in the penalty box in the second.
“We couldn’t get the five-on-five flow going,” Emery said. “But I thought our power play got a lot of good looks and got a good power-play goal.”
That goal, the 15th of the season for freshman forward Rich McCartney, was the difference in the game. Barber was credited with the primary assist on the play, but he did not feel that he did anything special to earn the point.
“I would say it was a bit of a lucky assist,” Barber said. “But if you drive to the net good things happen. A little back-door pass from Antoine [Desnoyer] hit off my shin pad and went to Rich [McCartney].”
McCartney was pleased to see PSUC’s hard work shown on the scoreboard.
“It was nice to get a power play goal,” McCartney said. “We have been working on our power play a lot in two tough practices per week, and it is nice to finally get some success out there.”
Looking ahead to this weekend, PSUC will need to be effective both on special teams and on five-on-five to achieve their goals this season.
“I feel like we are getting into a groove and guys are playing with more confidence,” Poreda said. “As much as we say how big games were in the fall, it obviously means a lot more when playoffs are two weeks away.”
Email Nathanael LePage at email@example.com