Lakers, Ice Knights clinch playoff spots

Men

With just two weeks remaining in the men’s ice hockey regular season, the SUNYAC playoff picture has become more and more clear.

Oswego State captured its second consecutive SUNYAC regular season title after defeating SUNY Cortland, 4-3, in overtime after a furious rally in the game’s final minutes. Sophomore forward Paul Rodrigues’ second overtime goal of the season capped off the comeback. At 13-0-0 in conference play, the Lakers sit seven points in front of second-place SUNY Geneseo. Oswego State concludes its SUNYAC schedule with three home games over the next two weekends against Morrisville State College on Saturday, Feb. 12, SUNY Brockport on Friday, Feb. 18 and Geneseo on Saturday, Feb. 19.

Of the nine SUNYAC teams only Brockport has been eliminated from postseason contention. The Golden Eagles have struggled all season, both in conference play and non-conference play. Brockport currently holds a 3-16-3 overall record and a 1-11-1 conference record. The team’s only conference win came in a 4-2 victory over Cortland on Dec. 4. The Golden Eagles are having one of their worst seasons since 2000-01 season when they went 3-21-2.

The Lakers are one of two teams that have punched their ticket to the SUNYAC postseason. The other team that has advanced to the postseason is the only team that has defeated the Lakers in conference play in the past two seasons: Geneseo. The Ice Knights currently sit in second place in the SUNYAC with a 9-3-1 conference record and are ranked No. 6 in the latest USCHO.com Men’s Ice Hockey Poll. Geneseo’s recent success can be traced back to when the NCAA hit the program with a one-year postseason ban for recruitment violations. The Ice Knights have gone 14-3-2 in conference play since the announcement of the ban, including wins over Oswego State and Plattsburgh. With one victory in their last three games, the Ice Knights would clinch the No. 2 seed and a first-round bye in the SUNYAC playoffs. Geneseo hits the home stretch with a home game against Brockport, before finishing the season at Cortland and Oswego State.

Perhaps the most up-and-down team this year in the SUNYAC is Oswego State’s archrival Plattsburgh. The Cardinals showed signs of weakness early with losses to Morrisville and Buffalo State. Plattsburgh appeared to have hit its stride midseason with wins over defending D-III champion Norwich (twice), Neumann College and Curry College. But the unpredictability of the Cardinals’ season continued after a stunning 2-0 loss to visiting Cortland before losing a hard-fought battle against the Lakers. After going unbeaten against the Lakers in 10 straight games, the Cardinals have lost five straight games to their rivals over the last two seasons.

Unanimously picked to finished last in SUNYAC play this season, Buffalo State has surprised everyone and currently sits tied for fourth place with the Mustangs at 13 points. The Bengals’ key victory this season came on Nov. 19 when they won at Plattsburgh, 6-2. The Lakers are the only team the Bengals have not earned at least one point against, but played Oswego State much tougher than they had in recent years, losing both games by three goals. Buffalo State has never finished a season above .500 since the program began in 1993. Currently sitting at 9-10-3 overall, the Bengals have three tough conference games remaining against Plattsburgh, Potsdam and Morrisville. If the Bengals lose their remaining three games, they could fall all the way down to eighth and out of the SUNYAC playoff picture.

Morrisville has a slight advantage in the seeding procedure because it is the only conference team that has four games remaining on its schedule. The Mustangs will play two games this weekend at Cortland and Oswego State and host two games next weekend against Buffalo State and Fredonia. Morrisville is currently having its best season since joining the SUNYAC. The Mustangs have been improving each year since Brian Grady took over as head coach in 2007.

At the moment, Fredonia holds the sixth and final playoff spot, two points over Cortland and three points over Potsdam. The Blue Devils hold a potential tie-breaker with Cortland, beating the Red Dragons in both meetings this season. Fredonia is still plagued by tough overtime losses to Oswego State and Buffalo State, along with a disappointing tie to last-place Brockport in its last game. A win against Potsdam on Friday would eliminate the Bears from postseason contention.

Cortland and Potsdam are currently on the outside looking in, sitting at seventh and eighth place, respectively. Cortland has the advantage that all three of its remaining games are being held at home, although its remaining opponents have given the Red Dragons trouble this season. The Red Dragons host Morrisville on Friday, who defeated Cortland, 6-3, back on Nov. 19, Geneseo next Friday, who defeated Cortland, 6-2, on Dec. 3, and Brockport next Saturday, who defeated Cortland 4-2, on Dec. 4, for its only conference win this season. Potsdam finishes the season with three straight road games against opponents they suffered losses to at home earlier in the year. With playoff positioning on the line, games against Fredonia, Buffalo State and Plattsburgh will not be easy.

If the season ended today, Plattsburgh would host Fredonia and Buffalo State would host Morrisville in the SUNYAC Quarterfinals on Wednesday, Feb. 23. Oswego State would host the lowest seeded team remaining, while Geneseo would host the highest seeded team remaining in the SUNYAC Semifinal on Saturday, Feb. 26.