With the regular season complete and the SUNYAC regular season title captured, the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team is focusing all its attention toward the postseason and improving as a whole.
In their first playoff contest, the Cardinals (19-3-3, 12-1-3 SUNYAC) will welcome conference rival Oswego State to the Stafford Ice Arena tomorrow night at 7 p.m. for a SUNYAC semifinal matchup.
PSUC defeated Oswego twice earlier this season in two sensational overtime contests. The Cards won 5-4 at Oswego on a goal from freshman forward Pat Egan and 4-3 in Plattsburgh after senior forward Connor Gorman scored with 2.4 seconds remaining.
Last weekend, PSUC played Brockport and Geneseo, tying each opponent 3-3. Both games were close battles throughout that saw positives for the Cards, but going into the playoffs, the team believes there are improvements to be made.
Reflecting on their last game, PSUC head coach Bob Emery said his team did a lot of things well, especially on offense, but he noted defense will be the key focal point as the team prepares for playoffs.
“It starts and ends in defense, and we got to do a better job of taking care of the puck in our own end,” Emery said.
Emery stressed the goal each and every game for PSUC is to limit opponents to two goals or less, which the team was unable to do against Brockport or Geneseo, making defense such an important factor to improve upon.
“We are always a work in progress, and that’s the work in progress for us this week,” Emery said. “We got to be doing a better job keeping pucks out of our net and take care of the puck in the defensive zone.”
Both games last weekend saw the Cards surrender leads against their opponent, which is one reason why defense is being stressed, and moving forward, PSUC knows they have to do a better job maintaining leads as they enter the postseason.
“Hockey is such an up and down game, and it’s so fast,” senior forward Connor Gorman said. “There are lead changes all the time, and when we are up, we have to do a better job of holding the lead. When we get a lead, we have to hold it because it’s do or die now.”
Gorman said the Cards two previous matchups can serve as good building blocks for the postseason because both games were close throughout, which all playoff games seem to be like, and the Cards also had to fight back from one-goal deficits in each game.
PSUC has come from behind to win games seven times this season, which could help the Cards in terms of experience as they enter the playoffs, and a simple mindset the team utilized during the regular season has contributed to this.
“If you get down a goal, you have to battle back and keep your feet moving no matter how many goals you are down and have to keep battling back,” senior goaltender Spencer Finney said. “If bounces go your way and if you keep skating, hopefully, it can turn the tide of a game and lead to a win.”
The comeback victories PSUC captured this season has helped boost their confidence and let the Cards know they can succeed no matter the scenario they are dealt in playoff matchups.
“I think we have shown all year that we are resilient, coming back and winning games late,” freshman forward Pat Egan said. “We are definitely going to have to win those one goal games moving forward, and I think we have gained the experience throughout the year to be successful moving forward.”
Going into their matchup against Oswego, who defeated Brockport 8-0 Wednesday night during the SUNYAC quarterfinals, PSUC is excited and wants to extend their season, aiming to win a championship and looking to continue to work as a team.
“It’s been an awesome time this season playing with all these guys and battling with them,” Gorman said. “But we are not done yet, though.”
Email Joey LaFranca at firstname.lastname@example.org