After a holiday weekend that began with an upset win over the defending national champions and was capped off with a trophy celebration, the Cardinals return their focus to conference play with the final two of seven consecutive road games.
The Cards (4-4-0, 2-3-0) will face off against the Bengals of Buffalo State College (5-3-1, 1-2-1) at 7 p.m. tonight. This is a matchup that PSUC dropped last season..
“Buffalo is a tough place to play,” PSUC head coach Bob Emery said. “They want to play a defensive style, as does Fredonia, so we have got our work cut out for us this weekend. We really have to take care of the puck this weekend, limit our turnovers and limit our mental mistakes.”
Although Buffalo State sits behind PSUC in the early SUNYAC standings, their conference losses came against the SUNYAC’s two ranked teams, No. 5/7 SUNY Oswego and No. 7/6 SUNY Geneseo.
After the Bengals, the Cards will shift their attention to the SUNY Fredonia Blue Devils (4-4-1, 2-2-0), whom they will face off against in Steele Hall Ice Arena tomorrow at 7 p.m.
“We have had a lot of really close games with Fredonia lately,” Emery said. “I’m sure it is going to be another close defensive battle. Not too many teams in our league are going to run and gun with us.”
While PSUC has won the last eight contests against the Blue Devils, last losing on Feb. 2, 2013, Fredonia has shown it can take on tough opponents this season. The Blue Devils handed Geneseo its only conference loss to date and held a 3-1 lead in Oswego with less than 10 minutes remaining in the eventual loss.
One factor that will contribute to the challenging weekend will be injuries. While Emery is concerned as several members of the team recover from injury, it was too early to know how significant those injuries will impact the road games this weekend.
The Cards are on a winning streak, but not in they way they hoped. Before Thanksgiving, PSUC fell to SUNY Potsdam on Nov. 18, losing by a score of 3-1.
“That was definitely a huge wake-up call,” PSUC junior forward Cam Owens said.
Despite the loss, Emery spoke positively about the team’s performance during the first period.
“I thought we came out with a lot of energy in the first period,” Emery said. “We didn’t have the killer instinct coming out of the locker room for the second period.”
Defensive lapses led to Potsdam taking a second-period lead with two goals scored 69 seconds apart. This allowed Potsdam to employ a defensive playstyle, which Emery credited with stifling the Cards’ offense.
After the loss, PSUC had six days to prepare for the Primelink Great Northern ShootOut, which began with a Friday afternoon game against the defending national champions from Norwich University. In upset fashion, the Cards ended the night as 4-1 victors.
“It can be intimidating,” PSUC goaltender Lawson Fenton, who was honored as Most Valuable Rookie, said. “But I knew that if we went out to to play as the team we know how to be, we would have no problems scoring goals. That’s exactly what we did.”
However, it was the Cadets who scored within three minutes of opening faceoff. The Cards recovered well after the early goal.
“After the first 10 minutes, I thought we played 50 great minutes of hockey,” Emery said. “I thought we really took it to them.”
Owens credited the team’s hard work in practice with their performance on the ice.
“We worked all week in practice on getting pucks in and working their defense,” Owens said. “Nobody likes to play in their defensive zone, and that can definitely wear a team down.
On Saturday, the Cards were 4-2 winners over the Lawrence University Vikings, winning the Primelink Great Northern ShootOut for the sixth time in the tournament’s 20-year history.
“I thought we did a good job of using the size of the ice sheet to our advantage all weekend,” Emery said. “It was really evident in the Lawrence game. We moved our feet well and had a lot of space out there to make plays.”
After the game, Emery was glad to see Owens get recognition as Most Valuable Player, but emphasized that several PSUC forwards played well. Emery also said Fenton’s goaltending was the biggest difference in the game.
“It’s not how many saves you make,” Emery said. “It’s about making the saves when it’s needed.”
For Fenton, the victories will help the Cards prepare for the tough conference weekend ahead.
“Coming off of two big wins last weekend, I think we have the right mindset,” Fenton said. “I think this weekend should be another battle, and I think we should come out on top. If we play the simple hockey that we know, these games should be nothing for us.”
Email Nathanael LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org