A focused and determined Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team will be taking the ice this year with a championship-driven mindset, knowing hard work and tenacity will be essential.

Last season, the Cardinals captured the program’s 22nd SUNYAC championship, defeating Oswego State 2-1 before losing to eventual national champion Trinity College in the NCAA quarterfinals.

During the offseason, the Cards analyzed what allowed them to play well a season ago and plan to focus on what they discovered as the new season begins.

PSUC head coach Bob Emery said the Cards were successful last season when they played fast, took care of the puck and locked down defensively. He said these elements will be focal points this year and also noted how generating speed through the neutral zone and utilizing a balanced attack of skill and toughness will be crucial to the team’s success.

“Hockey is about time and space,” Emery said. “We want to create as much time and space with the puck as we can, and we want to get the puck to the net. There’s only one way to get that, and that’s the size of your heart and how much grit and moxie you have.”

This season, the Card’s roster features 17 returning players, including nine seniors, and also welcomes 10 freshmen. Emery said PSUC has some great leadership from last season to replace and acknowledged he will be looking to see who steps up in that category. He stressed quality leadership and good team chemistry can help the Cards thrive.

Senior forward Connor Gorman said PSUC lost some key contributors and leaders on and off the ice from last season but believes the experience returning players will bring to the team and the incoming freshman class can help combat any losses.

“I think we have brought in a lot of talented freshmen who are ready to step right in,” Gorman said. “My class is one of the biggest we have kept around in Plattsburgh history, so I think if we can use our leadership and what we have done and combine it with some of the freshmen, we can be pretty talented.”

As the season begins, the Cards plan to utilize all the skillsets they possess as a team and believe their versatility can lead to success.

“We have a good balance on our team of guys who can get in on the forecheck and be gritty, and we also have skilled guys who put some points up,” Gorman said. “If we can get both of those things to balance out and mesh together, we can be a dynamic team.”

In addition to their skillsets, PSUC wants to maintain a strong work ethic throughout the season, and the players know how important this aspect will be to the squad.

“Coach Emery always stresses hard work,” senior forward Dillan Fox said. “I think we really pride ourselves on being the hardest-working team each night, and hopefully, we can outwork opposing teams every night we play.”

PSUC will begin their season with an exhibition match against Cégep André-Laurendeau Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Stafford Ice Arena, and the Cards want to use the game as a stepping-stone to the regular season.

“The exhibition is really for three reasons,” Emery said. “You want the players to get their feet wet, and you want them to regain their timing. It also gives us a look to see who is going to be in the lineup opening night.”

The Card’s main goal is to compete for a national championship. To achieve their mission, PSUC plans to take everything one game and practice at a time with a winning attitude.

“We have to be focused each and every day, and I always like to win every day,” Emery said. “When it’s just a practice, we need to win. When it’s just a weight lifting circuit, we need to win. With the little small wins, you get the big wins, and our ultimate goal would be to get to Lake Placid.”

Email Joey LaFranca at joseph.lafranca@cardinalpointsonline.com

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<a href="https://cardinalpointsonline.com/byline/joey-lafranca/" rel="tag">Joey LaFranca</a>