The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team is skating into its last two games of the regular season with the boost of a nine-game unbeaten streak after its win against Potsdam last weekend.
The Cardinals won a close 3-2 overtime game off of an overtime goal from sophomore defenseman Jakob Engvall.
According to head coach Bob Emery, there’s nothing wrong with winning close games like that.
“It’s always good to win close, low-scoring games,” Emery said. “Those games begin and end with defense, and our defense has really tightened up in the last couple of weeks which I think shows in our win/loss column.”
The close contest saw PSUC outshoot the Bears 48 to 30, while Potsdam held a slim edge in the faceoff circle, winning 44 face-offs to the Cards’ 42.
One very promising aspect of PSUC’s shots that did go in was that they came from three different scorers, with all five assists on those goals also coming from different players, making for a night of very balanced scoring.
In Emery’s eyes, that was just par for the course.
“We’ve had pretty balanced scoring all year long,” Emery said. “If you look at our leading scorer and on down the list, there’s not a lot of difference.”
It’s certainly helped as of late, as the Cards have gotten back on track in the second half of the season.
By junior defenseman Ayrton Valente’s estimation, the team is confident and ready after the string of games they have brought together heading into playoffs, but the focus is still primarily on the last two games of the season.
“We still have to win these last two games before playoffs to try to get home ice,” Valente said. “I’m sure all the guys are confident heading into these two games, though, and hopefully we’ll win both to finish second.”
Valente has had no small part in PSUC’s recent success, though.
After being named to the D3hockey.com,
National Team of the Week, Valente scored the Cards’ opening goal versus Potsdam in the hard-fought match.
“I’ve been satisfied with my play, but more so I’ve been satisfied with how the team has been playing,” Valente said. “Pulling off nine in-a-row has us feeling good.”
The other hero of last weekend’s game was Engvall, who scored the OT winner 3:22 into the extra frame.
“I’m not really the guy who usually scores goals, but I was glad to be able to get one when the team needed it most,” Engvall said. “I was happy for the team, and that we could keep the winning streak going.”
As the season winds down, one member of the team is inching closer to a milestone of his own, the coach. Emery is now only five wins away from hitting 600 wins, a mark that has only been met by 11 other coaches across all NCAA men’s ice hockey divisions.
Coming from him, though, you would think that number is no big deal.
“Honestly to me that’s just a number,” Emery said. “If you’re picking out numbers, winning percentage means way more to me. If you coach long enough, you’ll get those wins eventually.”
That’s not to say Emery’s winning percentage is anything to laugh at, with him sitting at a .743 winning percentage coming into this season.
Now, PSUC heads into its last two games of the season this weekend, first playing Geneseo Friday, and then Brockport on Saturday.
For Valente, the focus is still on getting the four points, but beating Geneseo could be a little extra bonus in itself.
“Last year, with the way they beat us in the SUNYAC final (by score of 7-1), we’d like to get back at them,” Valente said.
Emery reaffirmed, however, that the primary focus is just on getting the four points.
“I don’t know if it’s retribution so much as it is just a big game in the schedule,” Emery said. “We only have two games left, and finishing first is out the window, so the ultimate goal would be to finish in second. We have our work cut out for us, though. Geneseo has a good, veteran team.”
Email Ben Watson at email@example.com