Monday, February 26, 2024

Men come up short for crown

The Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team finished the season with a loss in the quarterfinal round to Trinity College. Even though the season ended earlier than the team wanted, the Cardinals believe they still had a great season.

“It didn’t end the way we wanted, but I think we were right where we wanted to be at NCAA selection time,” head coach Bob Emery said. “We finished as the No. 2 seed in the East out of 51 teams, and at the time, we thought it would solidify home ice in the second round of the NCAAs and give us a first-round bye.”

The team was selected to go into the NCAA tournament with a first-round bye and home-ice advantage, but there was a catch: If the women were able to win their quarterfinal matchup and move on to the Final Four, they would be the hosting school for the semifinal and final rounds of the NCAA women’s hockey tournament.

The women won their quarterfinal game and were given hosting duties for the tournament, causing the men to have to travel to Trinity for their matchup.

Junior forward Luke Baleshta said the change affected the team more because they were told they had home ice, and then it was unexpectedly taken from them.

“It was tough because we had home ice,” Baleshta said. “I think it would have been different because they knew from the beginning both were scheduled the same time, so it was difficult. If they had said in the first place, if the girl’s team happened to lose it would be home, and if not it would be away.”

While no one on the team is using it as an excuse, having home ice taken away from them affected the team. Junior forward Connor Gorman said home ice would have given them an advantage.

“Obviously having a home game would have helped, especially at Plattsburgh when you have the fan base that we have,” Gorman said. ”I definitely wouldn’t say it is the reason that we lost, but it definitely stunk that the game was away.”

Emery said the same: Having the home ice killed the team.

“It was devastating,” Emery said. “It was a chance for our seniors to play one more home game in the rink. They thought they had that and it was taken away.”

“It is one thing not to get it and then play as is, but it is five times as bad when it gets taken away.”

In the game against Trinity, the game started out as an even matchup with both teams playing their hardest to win.

Gorman said that with about 50 seconds left in the first, Trinity scored on a penalty shot, which hurt the team.

“It kind of took the momentum away from us. If we went in 0-0 between the first and second, it would have been a different game,” Gorman said. “We had a couple of breakdowns in the second, and when you are in the NCAA finals against a team like Trinity, they are going to capitalize on their chances.”

The 5-1 loss to Trinity may look like PSUC was dominated in the game, but the players saw it differently. Baleshta said it was a great matchup between the two teams.

“You look at the score of 5-1, and it looks pretty bad,” Baleshta said. “A game I compare it to is a game against Norwich, where we beat them 5-2. You look at the scoreboard, and it looks like we dominated, but it was actually one of the best games we had and most competitive games, same with Trinity. It just didn’t look that way on the scoreboard.”

For the Cards, this season was a success even though they didn’t make it all the way to the NCAA finals.

Senior forward Mark Constantine said it was a good way to end his career as a PSUC player.

“Obviously it was good to win the SUNYAC championship. I haven’t done it since my freshman year, so it was good to do it my senior year and, I guess, go out on a good way with a SUNYAC championship,” Constantine said. “I think it was the success we had all year, and making the NCAAs was a big deal.”

Baleshta is grateful to everyone involved this year with men’s hockey. He wants to thank the fans, parents and support staffs, who he said are the best in the business, and he can’t wait to come back with them next year.

Looking to next year, the players returning are excited to be able to come back and compete. Baleshta said the team is going to have an older look next year with nine returning juniors coming back to the team. The returning juniors will be Gorman, Baleshta, Zach Popp, Anthony Calabrese, Rich Botting, Dillan Fox, Kevin Emerling, Michael Radisa and Spencer Finney.

“It will definitely be a different look next year,” Baleshta said. “Being so old, it will be interesting, fun and exciting for sure.”

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