Thursday, July 25, 2024

Cards grounded in overtime of Finals

Adam Tretowicz (21) is consoled by Ryan Bonfield (11) as his final season comes to an end Saturday, March 2.


By Collin Bolebruch

Plattsburgh just finished an overwhelmingly successful season. It won 21 games, swept two NCAA-bound teams in the regular season, and won two overtime playoff games.

Out of 28 games, the Cardinals’ season may be defined by one.

The third-seeded Plattsburgh Cardinals (21-5-2, 12-3-1) lost to the fourth-seeded Cortland Red Dragons (18-8-2, 10-5-1) 2-3 in overtime in the SUNYAC Championship Final at home at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena Saturday, March 2.

Plattsburgh’s season is now over, as it was not one of four teams chosen for one of the at-large bids in the NCAA Championship. It finished the season 12th in Pairwise rankings, a mathematical formula the NCAA uses to order teams.

Cortland received the SUNYAC’s auto bid to the NCAA Championship after winning the conference for the first time in program history. The Cortland women’s team won their championship in the same rink just hours earlier.

Cortland men’s Head Coach Joe Cardarelli told ESPN Ithaca, “We’re a hockey school now.”

Cortland beat the first-seeded Geneseo Knights on the road en route to the Final. Plattsburgh Head Coach Steve Moffat knew it wasn’t an upset.

“The competition is better than it’s ever been,” Moffat said. “The quality of players is better. It’s a tough league.”

Plattsburgh beat Cortland in both regular season matchups — 6-1 at home Dec. 1, 2023 and 5-4 on the road Feb. 9.

The loss was Plattsburgh’s fourth-straight overtime game. The Cardinals beat Fredonia 2-1 at home Feb. 17 to keep the Blue Devils out of the playoffs. Plattsburgh then hosted Potsdam in the first round of the playoffs and won 3-2 Feb. 21. The Cards advanced to play on the road, beating the Oswego Lakers 3-2 in the semifinals Feb. 24. 

Its run came to an end back at home. A season high of 2,188 fans packed the Ronnie B in the biggest showing since the 2016 Final, also the last time Plattsburgh hosted the game.

“It was a pretty good atmosphere to play in,” sophomore defenseman Lonan Bulger said.

Sophomore forward Ryan Bonfield scored both of Plattsburgh’s goals, doubling his conference total on the season.

Both teams had three power play opportunities — the Cardinals scored its first power play goal in three weeks, while the Dragons came up empty-handed.

Plattsburgh led in shots 43-34.

Jacob Hearne started in the crease for the Cardinals, saving 31 shots. Hearne started all three playoff games for Plattsburgh.

The first period was a complete deadlock. Both Cortland and Plattsburgh failed to convert on a power play each and shot on goal nine and 11 times respectively.


By Collin Bolebruch

Adam Tretowicz sends the puck across the crease surrounded by defenders.


The Cardinals had an opportunity early in the second period, when Cortland’s Sam Nichols committed a slashing penalty 2 ½  minutes in. While man-up, Plattsburgh won two faceoffs and shot seven times to no yield. To that point, it was its 17th straight empty power play.

Cortland struck first, 11:28 into the second. A Red Dragon carried the puck around the back of the net and simultaneously first-year Cardinal forward Tio D’Addario hit a Red Dragon in front of the crease. The Cortland player collided low with Hearne, leaving the goalie splayed out on his stomach to the right. The left side was wide open for Red Dragon Colby Seitz the score.

D’Addario’s hit was called for cross checking, and so Plattsburgh was immediately man-down after the score. The Cardinals successfully killed the penalty, facing a single shot. Plattsburgh had killed 16 of its last 20.

Late in the period, sophomore forward Brannon Butler went to the box for boarding, putting the Cardinals down for a third time in the period. Plattsburgh killed the penalty for a minute and a half, when Butler was joined by a Dragon, initiating four-on-four. The period ended with both off the ice.

Plattsburgh won the faceoff to start the third period, skating down to its own end to await Butler’s return seven seconds later. Senior defenseman Kevin Weaver-Vitale initiated the play like a quarterback.

The Cardinals ran a play to Bonfield, who sent a puck off Cortland goaltender Jack Riedell’s leg pads from the right faceoff circle. Cortland sent it back down the ice, but Weaver-Vitale worked it back up.

Weaver-Vitale sent it to senior forward Paul Bryer up the right-side boards, who gave it back to him. Weaver-Vitale passed it to Bonfield, who was skating left to right along the boards behind the goal. Bonfield collected along the goal line, to the right of the goal.

Bonfield played hot potato with Bryer, before Bryer skated behind the goal right to left. Bonfield passed it back to Bryer, who set his feet on the left side goal line. Bryer sent it back across the ice to Bonfield, who juggled the puck inside the right faceoff circle.

Bonfield brought the puck to the high slot and shot the puck under a defender and through the five hole. The line raced to the bench in celebration, after scoring just a minute into the period.

“Bonny’s a sniper,” Moffat said. “He shoots pucks, and they tend to go in.”

Both teams traded momentum for most of the rest of the period, with shots coming in big waves of offense. Plattsburgh kept the puck in the attacking zone, taking shots and winning faceoffs, then traded with Cortland who did much of the same.

The deliberation ended with 3:38 left in the period. The Red Dragons won a faceoff on the Cardinals right circle, getting the puck immediately to Nate Berke in the high slot. Berke hit a one timer straight past Hearne.

Unable to generate shots, Plattsburgh pulled Hearne in favor of another skater with 1:15 left in the period.

The Cardinals shot three times with an extra skater, with only one hitting Riedell. Moffat called a timeout to draw something up for the offense.

Plattsburgh returned to the ice with 40 seconds remaining. Jirousek took the faceoff on the right side. Jirousek won, getting the puck to D’Addario inside the circle. D’Addario passed off to senior forward Bennett Stockdale, who sent it back to junior blueliner Jack Ring.

Ring lofted the puck to the right corner, where D’Addario sat waiting. D’Addario faked a collection, rocketing the puck to Stockdale entering the left circle from the high slot. Stockdale found a hole and fired, hitting Riedell.

Riedell sat left of the goal, almost entirely out of the crease. The puck found Bonfield waiting on top of the crease. He never had a more open look.

Bonfield jumped on the student section glass, piled on by teammates after tying the game with 31 seconds remaining.

Hearne, back in, saved a shot before the period ended.

Plattsburgh was well familiarized with playoff overtime.

“We felt good,” Moffat said. “Scoring late, you get some momentum. They were down a little bit.”

The Cardinals hit the ice ready, opening the fourth period in a dead heat. Both teams shot six times in the extra stanza, and neither strung together more than three in a row.

Nine minutes into overtime, Cortland broke the stalemate. The Red Dragons won a faceoff in the right circle. Cortland drew action to the left boards where it regained possession of the puck.

With Cardinals out of position, a Red Dragon hit Anthony Bernardo in the high slot. Bernardo had Hearne on a desert island. Plattsburgh defenseman Spencer Bellina dove at the puck in a desperate attempt. Bernardo maintained control and put the biscuit in a puck-sized hole between Hearne’s pads.

Hearne and Bellina stayed down. Graduate student forward and captain Adam Tretowicz threw his stick in frustration.

Red Dragons threw theirs in celebration. Cortland players collected along the left boards, already having ditched their helmets and gloves. They threw arms around each other, cheered and celebrated.

Cardinals stayed on the ice with hands on their knees. Tretowicz remained on the opposite end, kneeling on the ground. His five years at Plattsburgh was over. Plattsburgh players then congregated to Hearne in comfort.

Bonfield, Hogg and Stockdale earned All-Tournament honors and goalie Eli Shiller won the SUNYAC Elite 20 award, this year’s men’s hockey honoree.

Plattsburgh ended its season with its second-straight season with at least 20, something not accomplished by the program since the 2014-15 and 2015-16 season. The Cards also finished with its most wins in a single campaign since 2009.

“We’ve been a really tight knit group this year,” Bulger said. “It’s been great.”

Maintaining significant regular season success and receiving national recognition from polling bodes well for the future of the team — the season, in the big picture, was a win for the program.

But it certainly didn’t feel like that to thousands in the Ronnie B Saturday.


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