By Liam Sample
The Plattsburgh State men’s ice hockey team’s season concluded on a sour note in the first round of the State University of New York Athletic Conference Playoffs Feb. 26 at Ronald B. Stafford Ice Arena. The wild back and forth battle resulted in a 7-6 loss coming at the hands of The SUNY Brockport Golden Eagles, who completed a four goal comeback to move on to the semi-finals.
Plattsburgh entered the playoffs as the three seed in the conference and were matched against the sixth seeded Brockport. The SUNYAC Playoffs’ games are win or go home, meaning The Golden Eagles will travel to take on The No. 3 team in the country, The Geneseo Knights on March 2nd at The Ira S.Wilson Ice Arena.
“Where do I even start?” Brockport Head Coach Brian Dickinson said, describing the game, “What an amazing game to be a part of. The roller coaster of emotions was unreal.”
The Golden Eagles struck first, with first-year Jacob King sending a pass to sophomore Connor Galloway, who skated into the red circle and shot the puck into the top of the net through traffic. This goal came only 4:49 into the game.
Plattsburgh was able to respond in a chaotic sequence. After sophomore forward Trey Thomas was wide open in the slot, he took a shot that forced the opposing goaltender to drop low to make the save. Brockport graduate student defender Casey Winn dove in to clear the loose puck, only for Cardinal’s junior defender Ryan Hogg to intercept it and take advantage of the open upper half of the net to tie the game. This is his third goal of the season, scoring in each of the team’s final three games of the season.
Less than two minutes later, Galloway tallied another on a similar play. Sophomore defender Jake Mendeszoon dumped the puck into the offensive zone. King got to it first in the corner and sent a horizontal pass across the ice to Galloway, who sneaked through the defense and one – timed it home to take a 2-1 lead. This was King’s second assist of the game, he finished with four points.
“We talked about getting off to a quick start, winning the special teams battle and getting pucks to the net and winning the net front battles,” Dickinson said. “We accomplished all of those goals. We felt if we had the lead after the first we’d be in great shape.”
After a charging penalty from Thomas as time expired in the first, Brockport capitalized on their power play to start the next period. Following back to back shots from The Golden Eagles, sophomore Andrew Harley took advantage of a rebound in the crease to take a two goal advantage.
Plattsburgh, now needing a momentum shift, found a way to turn the game around quickly. After intercepting a Brockport clear, junior forward Adam Tretowicz split two Golden Eagles, taking the puck from near the blue line to the front of the net. He sent a backhand dish over to graduate student forward Christian Difelice, who found the goal to lower the deficit to one.
45 seconds later, sophomore defenseman Cory Doney dumped the puck into The Golden Eagles’ Zone, targeting the near corner. Brockport senior goaltender Nolan Egbert, expecting the puck to wrap around the boards, went behind the net to field it. To his dismay, the puck bounced off the corner to the front of the net, where sophomore forward Carson Gallagher came gliding in to play the lucky bounce into the open goal. This was his tenth score of the season, which finishes him tied for the third most on the team.
Egbert, who made 31 saves in his last appearance versus Plattsburgh in a 4-3 loss on Jan 29, finished the game with a season high 46 saves. For the cardinals, first year goalie Jacob Hearne made the start after winning the last five consecutive games of the season. He finished with a career high fourty stops, while allowing seven.
Following the game tying goal, Plattsburgh kept their foot on the gas. After controlling the puck on his stick, Egbert attempted to send a long pass out of the zone, which sophomore forward Trey Thomas picked off. After his first wrist shot was saved, he found his own rebound and ripped past the diving goaltender.
This brought Thomas’ goal total up to ten on the season. He scored a comparable goal on Feb. 4 against Buffalo State, where he intercepted the goalie’s pass and fired it into the goal for the game winner.
At the 13:43 mark, The Cardinals took advantage of a vast opportunity. From neutral ice, Gallagher sent a beautiful pass up to sophomore forward Thomas Maia, who was wide open entering a breakaway. From behind him, Galloway hooked his stick onto Maia’s waist, slowing him down and interfering with the play. This caused the refs to call a penalty shot.
Maia stayed patient with the puck, waiting for the goalie to move. After this happened, the sophomore shifted to the backhand and put the puck five-hole for the goal. He finished his first collegiate season with 19 points, the fourth most on the team.
Plattsburgh capped off their second period onslaught, scoring their fifth unanswered with a little over three minutes left in the period. First year forward Luk Jirousek sent a shot over the net, which bounced off the glass to the front of the net. Graduate student Mike Falanga, who was originally attempting to screen the goalie, passed the puck to Difelice on the edge of the near red circle. Difelice one-timed it top shelf for his second of the game to put the home team up 6-3.
These two teams have created recent history, with this game being their third straight first round playoff meeting. On February 20th, 2019, Plattsburgh knocked out Brockport, with a 3-1 home victory. They followed that the next year on February 26th, 2020, with a 3-2 double overtime win on the road. In that game, Difelice scored the first two goals of the game, which brings the graduate student playoff goal total against The Golden Eagles to four.“Game plan definitely wasn’t to give up five straight in the second but kudos to Plattsburgh for capitalizing on a great break and then on the momentum” Dickinson said. “They’ve always been a quick strike team who scores goals in bunches and we didn’t handle the adversity very well in the second period.”
Brockport did just that on the powerplay under four minutes into the final period. Junior defender Anthony Hora sent a pass to Galloway on the far side, which he one-timed to the net. After Hearne made the save, King buried the rebound to cut the deficit to two. This was his 11th goal of the season, tying him for second most amongst forwards on the team.
With only 1:32 remaining and with an empty net, Hora skated into the offensive zone and one-timed a Galloway pass through Hearne’s legs to bring Brockport within a single goal.
“When we scored the fifth goal and still had over a minute left we were able to call timeout and keep our group on the ice” Dickinson said. “We talked about Hearne’s inexperience and that he had to be very nervous at that point so the plan was to shoot from everywhere.”
Following the timeout, Brockport dumped the puck into Plattsburgh’s zone off the faceoff. An extended battle on the boards pursued, which allowed King to send the puck to Galloway in the left red circle. He shot the puck on the far side to complete the hat trick and tie the game. He finished the game with five points. The goal only came 15 seconds after the previous.
This became the second straight playoff game between the opponents to go to overtime, with the 2020 game being ended by current senior defenseman and captain Matt Araujo’s goal.
Plattsburgh nearly ended the game with 14:18 remaining in the overtime period. Araujo took a long attempt, after Egbert failed to control it, he attempted to dive on the puck and missed. In the following chaos in front of the goal, Thomas found the puck and missed on the mostly open net.
Less than three minutes later, Harley skated the puck into the offensive zone and tried a wrist shot. Hearne made a shoulder save and the sophomore wrapped his own rebound around the net and put it on the goalie’s right pad. Junior forward Scott Ramaekers was standing in front of the net and tucked the puck into the wide open half of the net to end Plattsburgh’s season.
“Scoring shortly after Plattsburgh’s miss was definitely big to not allow them to gain any momentum,” Dickinson said.“I felt it was a game between two evenly matched teams and it ended up being just that. A fun game to be a part of and getting a little redemption from the double OT loss in 2020 made it all the better.”
Plattsburgh has one graduate student, Mike Falanga, who is not able to return. They also have four seniors: Araujo, Difelice, forward Rhett Kingston, and Goalie Brandon Wells. Seniors have an extra year of eligibility due to the cancellation of the 2020-2021 season.
With a combined sixteen first year and sophomore players, the future does look bright for The Cardinal’s men’s hockey program.
“I’m still digesting the outcome,” Cory Doney said. “It’s definitely very upsetting. The passion and determination that was in that locker from day in and day out was unmatched.” “I do not believe we deserved that outcome but I think it’s going to shape a future of Plattsburgh Hockey that is near unbeatable for years to come, especially with the young talent we have on our team, along with the chemistry that was built between the returning players.”