Thursday, July 25, 2024

Cards Overcome Lakers in OT

Brannon Butler skates against a Cortland Red Dragon at Ronald B. Stafford Dec. 1.


By Collin Bolebruch

After winning last season’s SUNYAC Championship, the Plattsburgh Cardinals men’s hockey team set a goal to host this year’s Final.

They were disappointed to have to play the Semifinal on the road.

Two wins later, they’re back at the Ronnie B.

Third-seeded Plattsburgh (20-4-2, 12-3-1) defeated the second-seeded Oswego Lakers (16-9-4, 12-4) 3-2 in overtime in the SUNYAC Championship Semifinal at Deborah F. Stanley Arena in Oswego, New York, Saturday, Feb. 24. 

The game was a rematch of last year’s SUNYAC Championship Final at Oswego, when Plattsburgh won 2-1 March 4, 2023.

Plattsburgh will now host its first Final since 2016 7 p.m. Saturday, March 2. following the women’s SUNYAC Championship Final against Cortland at 3 p.m at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.

“The job’s not done yet,” goaltender Jacob Hearne said. “I think it’s going to be absolutely crazy. I think the Stafford arena is going to be absolutely nuts.”

The Cardinals broke strong precedent after losing both regular season matchups against the Lakers  — first, as No. 1, 3-5 at home Dec. 2, 2023 and second, 3-4 on the road to lose a tiebreaker for a first round bye Feb. 10.

Defenseman Ryan Hogg scored two goals, including the game winner. Hogg scored just a single goal during the regular season. Fellow blueliner Jack Ring accounted for the other score — his only on the year.

Goaltender Jacob Hearne started his first-ever game at the Stanley, saving 35 pucks.

“I love going into another team’s arena and having that environment of being the villain,” Hearne said. “It’s really exciting and makes the game even more enjoyable.”

Forward and captain Adam Tretowicz missed the game after being assessed a 10-minute misconduct penalty against Potsdam in the First Round Wednesday, Feb. 21.

Oswego out shot Plattsburgh 37 to 25 over the course of the game.

Plattsburgh struggled on power plays, failing to score on all six opportunities — falling to zero of 14 on power plays over its last three games. The Cards also floundered on penalty kills, allowing the Lakers to convert on two of three tries.

The Cardinals fell into trouble early when defenseman Brannon Butler earned a two minute penalty for interference at the 8:58 mark.

Oswego won two faceoffs and shot four times before scoring with just a second left before Butler returned to play.

Plattsburgh shot three times over the next four minutes before a power play opportunity of its own. Starting at the 15:04 mark, Plattsburgh shot just once before resuming five-on-five play two minutes later.

The Cardinals ended the period in a seven to nine shot deficit.

Plattsburgh righted the ship just over three minutes into the second period. Ring, against the wall and with an Oswego skater in his face, fired the puck from the blue line to the back of the net over Cal Schell’s left glove.

The Lakers turned up the heat, leading shots 18 to nine and killing a power play over the next half hour of game time.

Oswego forward Cam Symons took the lead with eight minutes left in the period. After rampant celebration, the goal was waved off due to a crease violation.

The game remained tied for most of the rest of the third period. Hogg ended the deliberation with a rocket from the left faceoff circle off a pass from defenseman Kevin Weaver-Vitale. The team raced to celebrate with the bench.

Hogg, with three and a half minutes remaining, took out an Oswego skater and was sent to the box for interference.

Hearne saved three shots while man-down, but eventually, forward Shane Bull nailed a one-timer from the left circle. The crowd of 2,122 exploded.

Regulation ended without incident.

Between the third period and overtime, the Cardinals learned fourth-seeded Cortland beat first-seeded Geneseo on the road, setting the stage for a home Final in the event of a win. The opportunity to play in Cardinal Country was an added incentive.

“That’s a lot of motivation, to be able to host the SUNYAC Final at home,” Hearne said. “We used that to fuel the fire.”

Moffat delivered a speech in the locker room that Hearne called “pretty awesome.”

“He was just motivating us, maybe said some words I can’t say on the radio,” Hearne said.

It worked. Three minutes into the period, Weaver-Vitale sent the puck across the ice to Hogg, waiting between the blue line and left faceoff circle. Hogg collected the puck and put it directly through the five-hole.

Hogg sprinted toward center ice, dropping to his knees. As his teammates hit the ice, he drew a heart with his gloves and punched a hole in the middle, emulating NHLer Patrick Kane. He was swallowed by Hearne and the Cards.

“Scoring the overtime winner was surreal,” Hogg wrote in a text. “I’ve been wanting to pull off the heartbreaker celebration ever since Kaner did it back in 2013.”

Oswego was the only SUNYAC team Plattsburgh did not defeat in the regular season. The second loss, though, was important for the team. Head Coach Steve Moffat said they have essentially been playing playoff games for weeks now, and experiencing the Stanley atmosphere earlier helped them win when it really mattered.

“It’s so loud, there’s so much energy, they play with so much emotion,” Moffat said. “It’s a different game from when they play here.”

The win is the team’s third-straight to be decided in overtime. Moffat has stressed recovery after these contests, and they’ll need it before facing the Cortland Red Dragons.

Geneseo may have been expected to advance, but Cortland winning wasn’t an upset, according to Moffat.

“They are so offensive. They don’t care if they get scored on. They have good goaltending and their forwards are some of the best in the league,” Moffat said. “It shows you how deep the conference is.”

The Cardinals beat the Dragons twice this season — 6-1 at home Dec. 1, 2023 and 5-4 on the road Feb. 9.

Moffat will now have hosted the Final with the Cardinals as a player in 1999, as an assistant coach in 2011 and now as a head coach in 2024.

Tickets for seating reportedly sold out within 10 minutes, according to those present. Additional standing room tickets will become available in-person at the Field House 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Student section seating is first come first serve, and Plattsburgh State Athletics is encouraging audience members to wear white for both games.


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