The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team will kick off its regular-season schedule with a conference matchup at SUNY Morrisville tonight, and the Cardinals will play the Mustangs again tomorrow.
Both contests are scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
For PSUC, the matches will be a welcome change of pace after the preseason preparation. Head coach Bob Emery said the exhibition games against Skidmore College and St. Michael’s College were helpful, but he is happy to see the season begin.
“Our guys are chomping at the bit,” Emery said. “They’re sick of playing against each other.”
Senior forward Ryan Kuhn, a transfer who hopes to use his three years of experience at Division I’s Niagara University to help the team, felt that the Cards made good use of the preseason.
“It’s been a long eight weeks on the ice now, getting ready for this weekend,” Kuhn said “I feel like we’re pretty well-prepared, and I’m excited to go out to Morrisville and see what they’re about.”
Last season, Morrisville finished at the bottom of the SUNYAC standings and opened its schedule with a 12-4 loss at the Ronald B. Stafford ice arena. Despite those stats, the Cards know they can’t afford to take the Mustangs lightly.
With Emery anticipating a “hard-working, chippy team,” Kuhn said PSUC has a strategy in mind for the weekend.
“From what I’ve heard, they’re pretty good defensively,” Kuhn said
Junior defenseman Andrew Pizzo, another transfer from Niagara, who joined the Cards last season, concurred. Pizzo said the pace of play in practices has picked up over the last week, which has helped the team prepare for a fast game.
Most of this year’s upperclassmen were on PSUC’s 2015-16 team, which was left out of the NCAA tournament in a comparison that came down to a single game. They know that a game in November can go a long way to determining their fate in March.
“Every game, you’ve got to take advantage of every shift,” Pizzo said. “You can lose by a goal and miss the tournament.”
For sophomore forward Rich McCartney, there is an extra motivation tonight, as the team knows what it feels like to start off with a loss.
“It was definitely tough last year, losing the first game against Canton,” McCartney said. “We’re looking to get off to a better start this year.”
Emery said Morrisville has a strong powerplay, so the Cards’ focus will be on playing disciplined, hard-working hockey. Kuhn said the team has also been practicing a lot on the penalty kill.
Kuhn also said special teams are a unique challenge on a weekend like this, with two games against the same opponent, and PSUC will likely need to make adjustments to the powerplay between games.
“They pick up on your habits and your breakout,” Pizzo said. “You’ve got to be quick, making perfect passes. If you do the same powerplay all night in one game, they’re going to expect it the next.”
Regardless of how they get it, the Cards will enter this weekend looking for wins. In the end, though, they are just happy to be done with the preseason.
“We’ve been beating the crap out of each other for almost eight weeks,” Kuhn said. “It’ll be nice to finally go against someone you’re not friends with.”
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