By Liam Sample
Team’s aren’t defined by the hardship it faces, rather the way it is able to respond. The No. 12 Plattsburgh men’s hockey team is no exception to this rule, as it had its seven game unbeaten streak snapped Dec. 3 on the road against the Potsdam Bears (3-8-0). The team followed that by traveling to Norwich to face the No.8 Cadets (8-2-1) Dec. 6, falling 1-2 in a rematch of the FirstLight Shootout Championship Game that took place Nov. 26.
With challenges can come doubts, but graduate student captain Matt Araujo has a simple message to the team going into its next game.
“I feel the last two or three games, we could have scored a couple more than we have, maybe could have taken better chances of our opportunities,” Araujo said. “That’ll be definitely my main message to the guys, we got to throw a lot of pucks at the net.”
Plattsburgh went into Potsdam having not played a road conference game since Nov. 5, where it beat Cortland 7-2. This did not slow down the Cardinals, according to senior forward Brendan Young. The team was “confident” going into the game. Junior forward Bennett Stockdale scored just 1:15 into the game for his fifth goal of the season.
Potsdam tied up the game less than a minute later and scored one more with 1:14 left in the first to take the lead.
Sophomore Jacob Hearne made the start in net, stopping seven and allowing two. First-year Eli Shiller came in for the second period and finished out the rest of the game.
Down a goal, the Plattsburgh offense put up a highly potent period, outshooting Potsdam 17-5.
“In the second period, I thought we dominated them. We got a lot of shots,” junior forward Paul Bryer said. “We just couldn’t score. I thought we played well, just bounces weren’t going our way.”
Despite this effort, Potsdam scored with only 1:20 left in the period to make the score 3-1. In the third, sophomore Jack Ring scored one to bring the Cardinals within one. Later in the period and with the net empty, Plattsburgh couldn’t convert and Potsdam scored two in the final minute of the game to win the game 5-2.
“That was just a weird one for us, it’s one you learn from. I talked to the guys after the game and I basically said, ‘Every hockey team loses, every hockey team is going to face downs,” Araujo said. “We’re just going to have to learn how to get through all of them.”
The SUNYAC Season has been full of upsets early on in the season. The No.6 Geneseo Knights (8-3-2) lost to Cortland (5-3-1) 1-2 Nov. 19 and the No. 10 Oswego (7-4-0) lost to Morrsiville (5-5-0) 1-3 Dec. 2. Geneseo and Oswego were the two teams picked to finish ahead of Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC Preseason Poll.
“It taught us that anyone could beat anybody and when we take our second lap around the SUNYAC and we play everybody again, I think it’s actually going to help us,” Young said. “I can’t see us doing that again, like taking anyone lightly in the SUNYAC. We now know every team’s really good and we need to work just as hard as the team we are playing.”
Plattsburgh then traveled to Norwich three days later for a Tuesday night. Young described it as a “big game.”
“We’re not used to playing on Tuesday nights,” Young said. “Norwich really wanted to beat us because obviously looking at the rankings, we beat them [Nov. 26] and they really wanted that win.”
The defenses were big in the first as the team’s went into the intermission scoreless. In the second, Norwich opened the scoring with a powerplay goal 6:35 in. Less than five minutes later, the Cadets tallied another.
“I thought we played well, it was just that five minute stretch in the second where we kind of struggled,” Bryer said. “You can’t do that against a good team.”
Araujo said that “our second period was pretty slow” and that the team needed to “stop trying not to lose the game rather than trying to win it.” He pointed out that the high point of the game was when the team needed to score and pressure Norwich’s defense, it was able to.
In the third, Plattsburgh scored just under four minutes in when Bryer was able to take advantage of chaos in front of the net. With the opposing goalie out of position, Bryer put a loose puck into the net.
“That goal was kind of a cluster in front of the net with me, Benny [Stockdale] and [Carson] Gallagher,” Bryer said. “We were all kind of whacking away with it, I got lucky it ended up on my stick.”
Despite tremendous pressure from Plattsburgh in the final minutes of the game, the Cardinals could not get a bounce into the net and came up with a 1-2 loss.
“It sucks because we peppered them at the end, shots [hit] post after post and they had some good chances too. That’s what made it a good hockey game. We had our prime chances. I’m pretty sure I had one in the slot in the first period, which I missed,” Araujo said. “We were out there giving it our all, it just came up short and that’s part of the sport.”
Shiller finished the game with 28 shots and two goals allowed. He has not let up over two goals in a game in six appearances.
Plattsburgh returns home for its final game of the semester against Morrisville in a conference game at 7 p.m. Araujo said he has been trying to keep “the guys together” to finish the first half the season by telling them to “keep pushing” and that the team will have a few weeks off for break.
The team looks for a big win to head into the break with momentum, on top of having an opportunity to respond to the two losses.
Saturday’s game is the third annual Casella Teddy Bear Toss, where fans are encouraged to throw teddy bears on the ice when Plattsburgh scores its first goal. Last season, current junior forward Thomas Maia scored the goal that sent the teddy bears to the ice.
All the teddy bears will be donated to the Clinton County Christmas Bureau. According to the team’s Instagram, 500 teddy bears will be available in the Field House Lobby the day of the game. Fans have the option to bring teddy bears of their own.
Along with the fun tradition of the Teddy Bear Toss, Young said to expect to see a “really strong effort” from the team.
“Everybody is really looking forward to the Teddy Bear Toss game,” Young said. “I think you’re going to see our best game, strictly because it’s in our home arena, and we’re coming off of two losses, good teams definitely don’t lose three in a row.”