By Liam Sample
It was a long awaited return to Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena for the Plattsburgh Cardinals men’s hockey team as it played the first exhibition game of the season Oct. 15. While the game does not count toward the team’s official statistics or record, it was a good opportunity for the players to compete in a game-environment, along with introducing the newcomers to the team’s style of play.
“I told [the team] beforehand, our systems are being implemented, week by week. We don’t know all of them yet,” graduate student and captain Matt Araujo said. “What we could expect is a 100% effort out of everybody.”
The Cardinals’ opponent was the Castleton Spartans, with these teams playing twice last season. Firstly in an exhibition game Oct. 16, 2021, where Plattsburgh won 2-1 on the road. In the second match, a regular season game Oct. 30, 2021, the Cardinals scored eight goals en route to winning 8-1. Plattsburgh looked to keep this success going.
The Cardinals played 26 out the 28 players on the team’s roster, including all nine of the newcomers to the team, as the coaching staff tinkered out the roster before the start of the season.
“It was good to get to see how [the new players] handle themselves out [on the ice], what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what we need to work on with them,” Araujo said. “It was exciting [to see] new faces in the locker room and on the ice, it was fun.”
The team’s last appearance at home was in the 7-6 playoff loss to the Brockport Golden Eagles in the first round of the SUNYAC Playoffs Feb. 26.
The attendance numbers have not been officially released, but the players were happy with the environment.
“It’s good to be back. It was six months from last playing, and then I thought we had a pretty good atmosphere for a preseason game, ” junior Paul Bryer said.
His linemate during the game, junior Carson Gallagher echoed the sentiment.
“It was definitely great to be back and I thought for an exhibition game, we had amazing fans,” Gallagher said. “[It was] an amazing group of fans that came out and supported and we had a lot of [fans] too. Which is great to see not just students, but locals too. That makes us play a lot harder.”
Gallagher, a Division I Transfer from Sacred Heart University, is in his second year as a Cardinal. He said that Plattsburgh has a tighter community feel compared to his former university.
Coach Steve Moffat tried many different pairings in the game, including substituting three defenders into the game during the second period. Araujo was one of those defensemen.
“It was weird because I came in 10 minutes into the second period,” Araujo said. “I was definitely thrown into a burning fire a little bit, just not being prepared or warmed up at all.”
Araujo said he felt better once he took a couple shifts and got his legs “underneath” him.
One of the lines Moffat deployed was Gallagher, Bryer, and junior Bennett Stockdale, who led the team in goals last season. Gallagher and Stockdale played together for large parts of last season, with Gallagher saying the addition of Bryer has been “nothing but great.”
“It’s always nice playing with guys like that, they’re very skilled players. They’ll always find you the puck,” Bryer said. “We practiced all week together. I think we work well together.”
Throughout the first period, Plattsburgh led in shots, and broke the standstill near the final minutes of the frame, as this line put the team on the scoresheet. During a power play, Bryer had the puck near the red line and sent a pass to the other side of the net, where sophomore Jack Ring attempted to put a one-timer on net. The goalie came across to make the save, but did not control the rebound, where Gallagher shot it into the net.
“We were in the power play and I was the bumper guy,” said Gallagher. “Our defenseman shot it and I just crashed the net and got the rebound there.”
Araujo said he was impressed with this line throughout the game, but was more worried about the defense.
“I’m not really paying attention out there, I’m staring at my [defense] partner, probably yelling at him,” Araujo said while laughing.
The Cardinals played all three of its goalies throughout the game, with sophomore Jacob Hearne starting. He did not give up a goal, with the team leading 1-0 after one period. In the second, graduate student Kyle Alaverdy came into the game. Alaverdy transferred from Castleton University, where he spent four years, playing three seasons with the Spartans.
Alaverdy entered the transfer portal at the end of last season, as he said that Castleton does not have any graduate school options for science majors and he still wanted to use his final year of eligibility. After speaking with the coaches at Plattsburgh, he committed to the team.
“Coach Moffat, [Assistant] Coach [Reid] Lesswing, have done a great job making me comfortable with the team and allowing me to focus on what I have to do to make the team better and help us win,” Alaverdy said.
Alaverdy played in the New England Hockey Conference, which had six teams represented in the top 20 of the final Pairwise Ranking last season. He averaged over 34 saves a game last season, while the Cardinals, as a team, gave up an average of 27 shots per game last season. He said that at Plattsburgh “you’re expected to win” and “expected to make the saves that the team gives you,” even if it is a “lighter workload.”
“I saw it firsthand [against Castleton], when I just kind of stood there for 12 minutes and then I had to react to make a couple saves,” Alaverdy said. “I’m confident it’s another challenge that hopefully I can rise to and be okay with.”
Alaverdy stopped all the shots he faced and said it was different being on the other side of the team he used to play for. He did not feel like he had any type of inside scoop on Castleton, despite his success during the game.
“I saw a lot of familiar faces before and after the game, guys I had lived with for three years,” Alavery said. “At the same time, once the puck drops, it’s just a game right? There are no faces to anyone and I just got to stop the puck. I just made sure I was squared to the puck. I was seeing it well and I didn’t really think about anything else other than that,” Alavery added.
The Cardinals tallied another goal with less than a minute left in the second period. First year forward Riley Sutherland took the puck over the offensive line and bounced it off the boards to himself. He attempted a shot, which redirected to senior Adam Tretowicz in front of the net, where he one-timed it for the goal.
The third period followed a similar pattern to the first two, but this time it was first year Eli Shiller in net. Shiller made his first collegiate appearance and played strong, as he held on to the team’s shutout.
Plattsburgh struck with 5:36 remaining in regulation. On a five-on-three opportunity, Sutherland led the offense and made a quick pass to the front of the net for first-year forward Ryan Bonfield. Bonfield sent it to the other side of the crease, where junior Trey Thomas scored on a one-timer. Plattsburgh held a 38-19 lead in shots and led 3-0 at the end of regulation.
Midway during the third period, it was announced that a five minute three versus three period would be played immediately after the third period. This was presumably for both teams to get practice in this format of hockey, which is used during overtime in the regular season.
With exactly 1:00 remaining in the three-on-three period, Plattsburgh scored once again on the man advantage. First year defender Spencer Bellina attempted a long shot, which trickled in with the aid of junior Ryan Butler screening the goalie.
Plattsburgh ended the game with a 65-minute shutout, scoring four goals in a strong pre-season appearance.
Alaverdy spent the time after the game interacting with his former teammates. He said they were all friendly interactions, and he still has a lot of good friends on the opposing team. He mentioned how it was really good to catch up with senior Spartan Goaltender Brandon Collett and wished him the best over the remainder of the season.
Plattsburgh plays one more exhibition game Oct. 21, as they take on the St. Micheal’s Purple Knights on the road. The team begins its official season Oct. 28 taking on Plymouth State and then Castleton once more Oct. 29, both games on the road. The team will begin its SUNYAC Season on the road against the Oswego Lakers and the Cortland Red Dragons Nov. 4 and Nov. 5. Araujo said the team needs to focus and learn on how to win on the road during this stretch of games.
It will return home Nov. 11 to take on the Brockport Golden Eagles in a highly anticipated matchup, where the Cardinals will look for revenge for last season’s playoff loss.
“It was preseason first game, so there’s a lot of things that are going to go wrong. Going forward, I just think the team needs to kind of clean up our act a little bit, passes, penalties, stuff like that,” Araujo said. “We were a little bit all over the place [during the game] with linemates, once we get started with the regular season, the expectations are definitely going to grow week by week.”