Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Cards look toward ‘24 playoffs

Julia Masotta faces-off against a Mustang Jan. 12 at home 


By Michael Purtell & Collin Bolebruch

The first-seeded Plattsburgh Cardinals (21-3-1, 16-2-0) play in the SUNYAC’s inaugural playoff game against the fourth-seeded Morrisville Mustangs (12-13-0, 7-11-0).

The match up is one the Cardinals are heavily favored in, as Plattsburgh has never lost to the Mustangs in 13 meetings. In those 13 games, the Cardinals have allowed only 11 goals.

In regular season games against Morrisville this season, the Cardinals won by a combined score of 17-2. The first game was won 6-0 Nov. 11, 2023; the second 7-1 Jan. 12 and the third 4-1 Jan. 13.

The Cardinals still has its fair share of obstacles to overcome. The team will be facing uncertainty in its lineups as it has been unable to develop steady rotations in the closing weeks of the regular season. 

Forward Zsofia Pazmandi, who leads the team in goals with 15, was absent in both matchups with the Potsdam Bears Feb. 9 and 10 because of scheduling conflicts with the  O18 Hungarian national team. Forward Ava Mattaliano didn’t suit up for any game between Feb. 3 through 16. Forward Lilli Bills and defenseman Su-An Cho have been in and out of the lineups for the closing matches of the season as well.

Forward Bridget Orr, who has skated in all 25 games this season, limped off of the ice after a big hit in the last game of the season against Cortland. Her availability is currently up in the air.

The winner on Saturday will move on to face either the Oswego Lakers or the Cortland Red Dragons. Both teams present a tough match up for the Cardinals if Plattsburgh advances.

Plattsburgh has been a write-in as conference champion since the inception of the NEWHL, now SUNYAC. Now, Cortland and Oswego have emerged as serious challengers.

Plattsburgh was undefeated through 72 regular season conference games, when Cortland broke that streak Dec. 2 2022. The Cards took its third-ever NEWHL/SUNYAC loss last weekend, Feb. 17, to the same Red Dragons team.

Houle made the importance of that game clear to his roster.

“The playoffs start this weekend,” Houle told the Press-Republican after the loss.

With the Cards and Dragons expected to match up in the Championship for the third straight season, the 2-3 loss is looming.

The Cardinals were served a loss by Oswego Jan. 5, Plattsburgh’s only loss of the NEWHL/SUNYAC era not coming from Cortland.

No matter which way the chips fall, a second round match up would be against a team that knows how to find victory over the one seed.

The road to the conference championship is long, but for the Cardinals the first step will be the face-off with Morrisville.


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