Sunday, April 21, 2024

BACK IN BLACK: SUNYAC champs to prove it in NCAA

Captain and defenseman Ryan Hogg (19) plays with the puck in front of St. Michael’s defenseman Case Kantgias at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena Oct. 21.

 

By Collin Bolebruch

Plattsburgh hockey knows it has a reputation. When opponents visit the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena, they need to leave with a win. There’s a bullseye on the back of every Cardinal. After winning its first SUNYAC Championship under Head Coach Steve Moffat, that bullseye’s gotten even bigger.

Plattsburgh Cardinals men’s hockey ended Geneseo’s five-year streak atop the conference in March 2023, reclaiming the SUNYAC crown it hasn’t worn since 2017. Winning the title game sent the Cardinals to the NCAA tournament, where it lost to the rival Norwich Cadets. 

The players still feel the sting of that loss, but they’re not dwelling on it. Moffat said that in the excitement of winning, the team lost its intensity when it hit the national level. Now that they’ve been there and experienced defeat, they’re a better team.

 

ROSTER

It’s up to the upperclassmen to carry that experience. The captains, voted on by the team, are especially responsible. Forward Adam Tretowicz and defenseman Ryan Hogg will serve as captains and forwards Bennett Stockdale and Paul Bryer will serve as alternate captains.

“People view me as a leader for a reason and I tried to stick to that. I’m usually one of the people that works pretty hard out on the ice and I just try to be a good role model,” Stockdale said.

Plattsburgh will carry 15 forwards, 13 of which are returners: sophomores Joshua Belgrave, Ryan Bonfield, Colin Callanan and Riley Sutherland; juniors Jagger Benson, Luk Jirousek and Jake Lanyi; seniors Bryer, Ryan Butler, Thomas Maia, Bennett Stockdale and Trey Thomas; and graduate student Tretowicz.

Two first-year students join the group: Tio D’Addario, from Montreal, comes from the Navan Grads of the Central Canada Hockey League and Aaron Catron, from Middletown, Delaware, comes from the Philadelphia Little Flyers of the Eastern Hockey League. Benson made the switch from defenseman to forward for this season.

D’Addario, Catron and Benson replace four Cardinal forwards not returning from last year’s team: Carson Gallagher, who transferred to Toronto Metropolitan University, Brendan Young, who transferred to Wentworth Institute of Technology, Mitchell Hale, who plays for the Macon Mayhem in the SPHL, and Marcus Mitchell, who graduated.

The departing Cards accounted for 40 points altogether and Hale was a “C”. The Cardinals don’t have much to worry about, as Stockdale, Bryer and Jirousek were all top-five scorers last season, but they’ll still need guys to step up. Moffat needs all hands on deck.

“There’s not a lot of drop-off between number one and number 15,” Moffat said. “I think we’re going to see more of a score-by-committee, which I love because it makes everyone dangerous.”

The defense saw the most turnover. The Cards roster nine defenseman this year, with only five being vets: sophomores Spencer Bellina and Brannon Butler, junior Jack Ring, senior Kevin-Weaver Vitale and graduate student Hogg.

Moffat targeted winning programs when looking at the transfer portal last offseason. He got that in sophomore Lonan Bulger, from Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, who played for Hobart College, and Ryan Poorman, from Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, who played for Norwich.

Bulger won the national championship last year with Hobart, and he plans on bringing the “little things” on and off the ice that make a winning program. Poorman played junior hockey with Stockdale for the Johnstown Tomahawks of the North American Hockey League, and he knows better than to mention Norwich’s win over Plattsburgh.

The defense is rounded out by two first-year students: Sam D’Amico, from St. Catharines, Ontario, comes from the Georgetown Raiders of the Ontario Junior Hockey League and Simon Singher, from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Québec, comes from the Navan Grads.

Singher and D’Addario were teammates last season in Navan, and they’re roommates now at Plattsburgh. Singher’s surprised there aren’t more French guys on the team.

The newcomers have big shoes to fill. The team will be without former “C” Matt Araujo, who is now an “A” on the SPHL’s Fayetteville Marksmen, and former ACHA Third Team East All-American Jacob Modry, who recently appeared on the National Hockey League’s Los Angeles Kings’ training camp roster.

The Cardinals have not one, but three goaltenders they’re comfortable with starting. 

The favorite to start the most games is last year’s team MVP and SUNYAC Tournament MVP Eli Shiller. Shiller played phenomenally in his first-year season, starting the majority of games down the stretch and saving 105 shots across three postseason games. 

Jacob Hearne will also see plenty of action, as he went undefeated in nine starts last season and finished with a .920 save percentage. 

Kyle Alaverdy, the number three goalie, spent his eligibility. In his spot is first-year Dominik Bovan, from Bratislava, Slovakia, who last played for the Boston Jr. Bruins of the United States Premier Hockey League. Bovan impressed in the preseason and could earn some starts himself.

“It’s a good problem to have, but it’s going to be hard to determine who’s playing there. The practices really become important,” Moffat said. “They’re such good friends and they do a good job of supporting each other. That really helps the situation because it’s really the next man up.”

SCHEDULE

The 2023-24 season will be the last for the SUNYAC as it is currently known. The Geneseo Knights and Brockport Golden Eagles announced their departure from the conference for the United Collegiate Hockey Conference effective in 2024. The previously-independent Canton Kangaroos will join the SUNYAC, matching the women’s hockey league. Going forward, the SUNYAC will have eight teams instead of nine.

The move will have major implications for competition. Geneseo was ranked as a top team throughout last season and have dominated the SUNYAC in recent seasons. The move clears the path for Plattsburgh or Oswego to claim the top spot.

Consistent with years past, Plattsburgh will play each SUNYAC opponent twice; once in the first half of the season and once in the second. It ends the season with five-straight conference games, setting the stage for a playoff race.

Nationally, Plattsburgh is ranked no. 4 by DIII Hockey News and no. 7 by USCHO.com. Oswego is ranked no. 11 by both DIII Hockey News and USCHO.com and Geneseo is ranked no. 15 by DIII Hockey News.

The Cards will host two tournaments this season. First, in the LayerEight Shootout, Plattsburgh will play St. Olaf College Nov. 24, with the winner playing the winner of Middlebury vs. Norwich Nov. 25. Then, in the Comfort Inn Complex Winter Classic, Plattsburgh will play Rivier University Jan. 5, 2024, with the winner playing the winner of Nazareth vs. Albertus Magnus Jan. 6, 2024.

Multiple home games will feature different themes: Vermont State University – Castleton Oct. 28 will be Halloween Costume and Poster Night, Potsdam Nov. 17 will be Military Appreciation Night, Cortland Dec. 1 will be the Casella Teddy Bear Toss and Oswego Dec. 2 will be Stress Ball Night.

The season officially begins tonight, Friday, Oct. 27, against the non-conference Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire. SUNYAC play opens at Morrisville Wednesday, Nov. 1.

“No matter what the previous season looks like, there’s always pressure at Plattsburgh to win,” Tretowicz said.

 

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