By Collin Bolebruch
The Plattsburgh Cardinals men’s hockey team (3-1-2) began a four-game in-conference home stretch last weekend, beating the Brockport Golden Eagles (3-2-0) 9-2 Nov. 11 and tying the No. 3 Geneseo Knights (4-1-1) 2-2 Nov. 12.
The matchups were the Cardinals’ first home games in almost a month. Before hosting Brockport, Plattsburgh’s most recent game at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena was an exhibition match against the Castleton Spartans Oct. 15.
“These are really big games for us, really important games for us,” Head Coach Steve Moffat said. “As the season goes along, the games get more and more important.”
Last weekend also marked parents’ weekend, an event each season where players’ family members join the team for the games and other festivities. The influx of fans led to an average attendance of 1,321 over both games.
Six players scored goals against Brockport, including two each from defenders Ryan Hogg and Jack Ring and forward Bennett Stockdale. Forwards Luk Jirousek and Brendan Young and defender Jacob Modry added one goal each. The puck was evenly distributed, with 11 different Cardinals recording an assist.
Rookie goaltender Eli Shiller was given the start against Brockport, playing all 60 minutes and saving 21 of 23 shots. His efforts were rewarded with SUNYAC Men’s Ice Hockey Rookie of the Week.
Plattsburgh more than doubled Brockport’s shots, taking 51 to its 23. The Cardinals also led in faceoffs, winning 46 of 81. The Golden Eagles spent 14:46 of game time in power plays, 10 minutes more than the Cardinals’ 4:46. Plattsburgh scored two power-play goals.
Brockport applied pressure to Plattsburgh almost immediately. The Golden Eagles took three shots in the first 37 seconds. Two were saved by Shiller and another went wide of the goal. The Cardinals responded with a Jirousek goal just 44 seconds into game action.
The goal allowed Plattsburgh to flip the script, out-shooting Brockport 23-14 over the rest of the period. Jirousek was joined by Young and Ring, scoring goals of their own and increasing its lead to 3-0.
Plattsburgh kept the game out of Brockport’s hands, scoring five unanswered goals in the first 10 minutes of the second period. The Golden Eagles scored its first goal by the end of the period, but it rang despondent.
“Guys are starting to learn what it takes to win and how hard it is and the little details that you have the correct practice habits day in and day out to prepare for the weekend,” Moffat said. “You can’t just show up on a Friday, Saturday night and expect to win.”
The teams traded scores in the third period to no effect on the result of the game. Plattsburgh’s 9-2 win comes after Brockport eliminated the Cardinals from the playoffs last season, in a 6-7 overtime nailbiter. The teams meet again Jan. 27, 2023.
Against Geneseo, Jirousek scored his second goal of the weekend and defender Corey Doney scored his first of the season. Four Cardinals recorded assists, including Stockdale’s second of the weekend.
“[We need] a little more patience in front of the net,” Jirousek said. “We had a lot of them where we were just whacking them.”
Plattsburgh and Geneseo locked into a defensive battle for most of the first period. Forty-one combined shots resulted in no scores for either team. It was until the 15:45 mark when Doney broke the ice, scoring his first goal of the season.
“All four lines were competing, if not out-playing [Geneseo’s] first line,” Jirousek said. “We’ve got all four lines going, we’ll stay fresher.”
The Knights answered with an equalizer less than a minute into the second period. The score lingered in the air, as both teams blanked for the rest of the period. Geneseo outshot Plattsburgh 22-17 for the period.
“Maybe it’s a little of not being mentally prepared enough at the start of the period [that led to the score],” Hearne said. “It’s definitely something we’ll look at, but I don’t think it’s a trend.”
Geneseo opened the period with another score, taking the lead 2-1. Plattsburgh followed with a sequence that included six missed shots in a one-minute span. The trend continued and the Cardinals kept the puck at the Knights’ goal, shooting 23 more times before pulling Hearne for an additional skater.
The game went back to even-strength with less than a minute left after a five-minute Plattsburgh power play. With 34 seconds left, Jirousek took and missed a shot. The Cardinals rebounded the save, Jirousek brought the puck in front of the goal and scored the game-tying goal with 24 seconds remaining.
“Everybody was a little antsy,” Jirousek said. “Just to pop that one, it felt unreal.”
Overtime ended without a score, and the game ended with a draw. Geneseo was a team to be reckoned with— before Plattsburgh, the Knights hadn’t won a conference game by less than four points. The teams play again Jan. 28, and the Cardinals look to break a six-game streak without a win against the Knights.
“We’ve got 28 guys that are all skilled players and when we play together we can be one of the top teams in this league,” Hearne said. “I think it’s playing our top game every night and we proved tonight that we can skate with anyone in the country.”
Plattsburgh finished its in-conference home stretch next weekend, facing the Fredonia Blue Devils (1-4-0) Nov. 18 and the Buffalo State Bengals (3-2-0) Nov. 19 for Poster Night. After these games, the Cardinals will not play at home again until Dec. 10.
“We’re really trying to take it one day at a time, one game at a time,” Moffat said. “You want to try and take care of business in your own rink, and then hopefully you can go and play well on the road.”