After scoring only twice in two games last weekend, the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team bounced back in a big way,beating Buffalo State 7-0 Friday to end its three-game losing streak.
The Cardinals (4-3-1, 4-1-1) got on the board early in the dominant win over the Bengals (3-4-1, 1-3-1), when freshman defenseman Matt Araujo scored off a pass from senior center Cam Owens only 3 minutes and 46 seconds into the contest.
The goal was the first of Araujo’s collegiate career.
“It was a solid defensive effort to back up the game-winning goal,” Araujo said. “It felt great. That’s one out of the way and hopefully more to come.”
PSUC continued to dictate play for much of the period, leading in shots on goal 13-8 at intermission.
After Buffalo State’s Mac Wood was called for hooking early in the second period — a play in which he hauled down freshman left wing Daniil Ovchinnikov on a breakaway, prompting several voices among the fans to unsuccessfully petition for a penalty shot — The Cards did something they hadn’t done since Nov. 9: score on the power play.
Junior defenseman Charles Barber took a pass from Owens at the point and hit it with a one-timer from the point for the goal. Head coach Bob Emery did not hesitate to point out how important it was for the team, who had gone 0-for-17 on in their previous four games.
“We needed a powerplay goal so bad,” Emery said. “Coach Moffatt has been watching tons of tape on that. We’ve been really trying to work hard on it, and it was good to get one tonight.”
For Emery, the speed of the play was the biggest factor leading to the goal.
“Barber got that puck off quick on that powerplay goal,” Emery said. “That’s the thing: he’s a strong kid, and he got the puck off quick. The release is the key.”
Continuing the theme of special-teams success, and adding to his two assists on the night, Owens notched himself a short-handed tally midway through the second period.
Senior left wing Ryan Kuhn forced a turnover near the defensive blue line,and got the puck to Owens in neutral zone. Owens carried it alone into the Bengals’ zone and elevated the puck from the top of the crease, hitting the net in the top corner on the blocker side.
“Me and Ryan Kuhn have been killing penalties pretty much all year together,” Owens said. “We talk before every shift and say ‘we’re going to get one this time.’ It seems like every time we have a chance. It feels good to finally put one on the back of the net on the PK.”
While Owens’ goal ensured momentum was with the Cards, a goal by junior defenseman Andrew Pizzo seemingly put the game to rest two-and-a-half minutes later. Senior left wing Pat Egan got off a centering pass to Pizzo, who rifled the puck under the crossbar on the glove side to make the score 4-0.
Pizzo’s tally was the third of the night scored by a PSUC defenseman.
“It was something we wore working on all year long to get some more activation from the D, again without losing the defense,” Emery said. “When your goalie plays like our goalie has played this year — his numbers are incredible — it makes guys be able to take a chance.”
Sophomore goaltender Jimmy Poreda, in his seventh start of the season, made 21 saves in his second shutout performance of the season.
“I that was the first time in a couple of games that we haven’t given up a breakaway,” Poreda said. “It felt good to get another [shutout] under my belt, and it came pretty easy because the guys worked hard in front of me.”
Despite the four-goal advantage after two periods of play, nobody entered the third with thoughts of relaxing, especially not Poreda.
“Earlier in the year, when we played Geneseo, we were up 3-0 when they scored two quick [goals],” Poreda said. “Next thing you know, it’s a close game. Especially as a goalie, if you take a couple seconds off, one is going to end up in the back of your net.”
In the third period, sophomore right wing Rich McCartney scored his seventh of the year, freshman right wing Christian DiFelice joined Araujo in opening his collegiate account and senior center Cole Stallard finished it off with a goal in the final minute of play.
After struggling to score in recent games, PSUC’s forwards knew something had to change, and an off-ice informal meeting this week may have been what did the trick.
“After that weekend, we all huddled down at the house and said we’re going to lock it down and have a ‘boys’ night’ type of thing and everyone’s going to get what they’re feeling out. I think it was huge for the team,”Owens said.
However the change was made, Emery was pleased with the result.
“We were opportunistic tonight, for a change,” Emery said. “All-in-all, I think we had a pretty good effort. Defense first, but we took advantage of our chances right from the get-go.”
After the win, the Cards switched their attention to Saturday night’s game against SUNY Fredonia at the Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena.
“[Fredonia] spanked us last year at their barn, so I think it’s going to be a good test,” Owens said.
Recent history with the Blue Devils includes a loss that was particularly painful for many of the players. It was Fredonia who came to Plattsburgh in February and eliminated PSUC from the SUNYAC playoffs.
“All the returners remember that game,” Owens said. “You put that in the back of our head and every shift you give yourself a reminder that they’re a good team and they could blow us out of the rink if they really put their mind to it.”
Saturday’s contest will likely be an entertaining one for fans of physical defensive hockey, as that is the brand of hockey the Blue Devils and the Cards both tend to prefer.
“It’s going to be a hard-hitting game,” Araujo said. “Both teams are very defensive.”
While that defensive strength for Fredonia means that PSUC might struggle to score many goals, Owens is confident the Cards had a plan to avoid that.
“We’ve got a fast team and small ice,” Owens said. “I think we use our speed, get to the outside and get some pucks to the net, I think we’ll good.”
Email Nathanael LePage at email@example.com