By Drew Wemple
Thanksgiving for many is a time of celebration and togetherness. The SUNY Plattsburgh Men’s Hockey team made sure to capitalize on that time by spending it under one roof, as a team and family, before heading to Middlebury, Vermont for their annual turkey week tournament.
They had two games on the docket in the Firstlight Shootout tournament, originally three before Middlebury College had to drop out due to positive COVID-19 tests. The first was Nov. 27, versus the Milwaukee School of Engineering, in which the team pulled out an overtime win 4-3.
Their second match-up came the following day, against the undefeated Norwich University. The game was back-and-forth in the first two periods, as they were tied heading to the third period in which the Cadets found the back of the net three times to pull away and win the game 5-2.
Rewinding back to the weekend before Thanksgiving, the Cardinals were coming off two huge, road, conference wins versus Buffalo State and Fredonia. The team gave a strong showing in both, winning 5-1 and 5-2 in the match-ups.
“That’s a tough western New York Road Trip, always has been, and in order to get the two wins there the guys really sacrificed and played really well,” Head Coach Stephen Moffat said. “To get those six points on the weekend is huge for us in the SUNYAC standings.”
Following those wins to move their record to 4-3-1, most of the school started heading home for the holiday, while the team stayed behind and found a way to celebrate their own way. It started on Wednesday, Thanksgiving eve, when the team hit the North Bowl Lanes bowling alley as is their annual tradition. Then the festivities carried over into Thursday where the team gathered together for a nice warm meal with their hockey family.
“It was definitely a great Thanksgiving. We had basically every food you can think of, everyone kind of pitched in and made whatever we had on the list and it went really well,” sophomore forward Joey Mancuso said. “It was a good time, it was just a good bonding experience and just a good night in general.”
The team relaxed, watched some football, and enjoyed each other’s company. Their sights turned to the weekend, where their next chance to hit the ice awaited. Their first game of the tournament was against the MSOE Raiders. The Cardinals traded goals in the first with the Raiders, as MSOE kicked off the scoring on an unassisted goal just before the seven minute mark. But Thmas Trey and the Cardinals responded just 30 seconds later with a score, assisted by Mike Falanga and Jacob Modry. MSOE would score again with just under five minutes to play in the period to take the 2-1, and hold it through the end of the first.
“I thought actually we started off really well but then we did not play well in the second 10 minutes of the first period, and you know, we had to fight to get back but I thought we did a nice job of getting back,” Moffat said.
Battle back they did, at the seven minute mark of the second period, Adam Tretowicz was able to score the game tying goal off a nice feed from Trey Thomas and Mancuso. But not half-a-minute late, junior forward Marcus Mitchell took a great pass from Mitchell Hale and Pavel Kharin, on a breakout play and scored the go-ahead goal in the period, 3-2.
“I was really just trying to get the puck on net and it found its way into the net which really boosted the momentum for our team,” Mitchell said. “That followed throughout the game and I think that’s a big part of where we took over and started to play our game.”
The Raiders tied the game several minutes later, and would wind up being the last goal of the period. In the third period, neither team would budge defensively, and the two sides would head dead even at three goals apiece heading into overtime.
“We just said ‘hey, we practice three on three all the time.’ Whether it’s full ice three on three or small ice games in small areas, we try to prepare the guys for situations like that,” Moffat said. “We’d been here before we’d been successful. We just make sure we’re, you know, just taking care of the puck, no costly turnovers and get pucks to the net and that’s really what happened.”
Just one minute into overtime, Jack Ring stripped a Raider Forward on a backcheck before dishing it out wide to Mitchell who fired a shot, clipping the goalkeeper’s shoulder but finding the back of the net to win the game for Plattsburgh.
“After that, it was great. We weren’t done though. It was a great win, we were really happy with that but once we had our little talk after the game everyone started buckling down because we knew Norwich was going to be a great team the next night,” Mitchell said.
The team certainly did have to quickly shift focus to Sunday night, as they were set to take on an unbeaten Norwich team. But a thrilling win like that can definitely provide some momentum and something to build upon heading into the next day.