*Disclaimer: This is a sports column that represents the sole opinion of the writer.***
Plattsburgh and Oswego fighting with a SUNYAC Championship on the line — a classic matchup.
The pair of storied programs will square off yet again this Saturday, and this will mark the eighth straight year either the Cardinals or Lakers take home the conference title.
As a senior and having covered the PSUC men’s hockey beat the past two seasons, I’ve seen the recent ups and downs of the program.
For hockey fans that have been there before, the Plattswego rivalry, at any point in the season, is full of emotion. And the red-and-white faithful, of course, will provide plenty at the Fieldhouse this weekend in PSUC’s first opportunity to host a SUNYAC Championship in four years, when the Cards cleanly defeated Fredonia 4-0.
In past seasons, home-ice advantage made a PSUC victory almost guaranteed, as the Cards were a stellar 35-5-1 at home from 2012-2014. A home record of 10-4-1 this season is still pretty solid — just not by PSUC standards.
If the Cards are going to be celebrating the program’s 22nd title, they will certainly have to rediscover their magic at the Fieldhouse. But if you are attending Saturday’s championship bout, there are plenty of other keys to look out for.
While the Cards found themselves ahead far more often than they were behind, letting up the first goal made winning significantly more difficult throughout this season.
PSUC was nearly unstoppable when scoring first, going 14-1-1 when taking the first lead of the game. However, the Cards went just 5-4 when the other team scored first.
The Lakers were on the right end of one of those early leads, scoring first when the teams met at the Fieldhouse back in December and riding that goal to a 3-1 victory.
While scoring first won’t necessarily lead to a PSUC victory, falling behind could prove to be too much to overcome.
‘Hold them to two’
In my time covering the team, Emery preached defense first — and still does — as the key to winning games. He had a specific objective in mind: hold the opponent to a maximum of two goals.
And he might be on to something. The Cards did not lose a game when they held the opposition to two goals or fewer. When they allowed three or more, the team was just 3-5-1 during the regular season.
While PSUC emerged victorious against Brockport last weekend despite surrendering five goals, the Cards shouldn’t expect to win Saturday if they allow as many to the No. 3-ranked team in the country.
It’s hard for the players to ignore the opportunity in front of them Saturday. Not only is there a championship on the line — not to mention an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament — but PSUC gets a shot at home against the team’s archrival.
Quite a storyline, huh?
But it’s easy to let nerves and emotions get the best of you. Even when the Cards were coming off a 2-0 regular season against Oswego in 2012-13, they proceeded to drop the title game 4-0, playing an uncharacteristically sloppy game full of penalties and missed opportunities.
PSUC has not beaten the Lakers since.
But history has no bearing on the future. Any team can win on any given day, and it’s up the Cards to make sure that’s them.
Email Zachary Ripple at firstname.lastname@example.org