Brockport opens the season this weekend with its annual North Country road trip. There’s no better way to start the season than by facing divisional foes (among them the highly-touted Plattsburgh) and heading to the Adirondacks before the snow flies.
Friday’s game finds the Golden Eagles in Potsdam facing the Bears, who Brockport beat last 3-1 in the playoffs last season. One can expect more of the same this weekend, with a Brockport team highly-motivated by poor poll rankings looking to prove wrong the rest of the league.
Brockport and Potsdam had some interesting match-ups last season, a 2-2 tie in Brockport, a 8-6 goalfest in Potsdam, and the playoff game. Leading the way against the Bears was James Cody who matches-up quite well against their smaller defensemen. James, who physically dominated the Bears, tallied a goal in all three games last year and was clutch in the playoff game, netting two. He has their number and a multi-goal performance is not out of the question.
Potsdam is a solid team offensively and on special teams (especially the power play), and ranked 16th nationally in scoring last year, led by Connor Treacy (20 goals last year) and Fraser Smith (16 goals). Down the stretch (in a SUNYAC-heavy season’s-end schedule) they went 6-4-2, so they do quite well on the ice. To temper this, Todd Sheridan will have to be on his toes. He was stellar against them in ‘08-‘09, stopping 36 shots in the tie and 43 more in the playoff.
Defensively, Potsdam at times can be porous, thinking that they can focus on consistently outscoring their opponents (which is not always the case). This puts all the pressure on Trevor O’Neill, who as a freshman last season went 5-9-2 and sported an .859 saves percentage. This inattention to defense may be a thing of the past with a new style of play being introduced by new head coach Chris Bernard and assistant coach (and Brockport product) Tim Crowley.
Regardless, Brockport should come out on top by a few goals.
That’s not necessarily the case on Saturday when it gets really interesting.
The team travels to perennial powerhouse Plattsburgh, once again picked #1 in all of Division III. The Cardinals, are, well, the Cardinals. Year in, year out, they produce a fine team, one that capitalizes on perfectly-blended size and speed by utilizing by a system that emphasizes “keep away”. This creates high-scoring affairs on their end, and low-scoring output by their foes.
You can count on them being great, but there may be a little shine off their armor this season. Gone is one of my favorite DIII hockey players of recent years, defenseman Nick Rolls. So is leading goal-scorer Joey Wilson.
More importantly, the goaltending situation is a huge question mark after SUNYAC MVP Bryan Hince left the team this spring to pursue the pros (who didn’t want him) in what Cardinals coach Bob Emery said was “…one of the dumbest moves I've ever seen in my 22 years coaching."
With such a loss - one on the ice and in confidence - Plattsburgh will have to alter its game plan which will result in fewer goals scored and a chance for a hungry and physical team like Brockport to achieve an upset.
But, it won’t be easy. They still have three 30-point guys in Dylan Clarke, Phil Farrow, and Eric Satim. They also have Ryan Corry, a 26-point defenseman. This match-up won’t be a drubbing as in the past. It will be a closer game. But, even so, it’s still difficult to envision Plattsburgh losing the contest, especially in that zoo of a home ice. But, as they say, that’s why they play the games.
Both games have 7:00 start times and can be heard on WBSU on air at 89.1 FM and online at http://www.891thepoint.com/. Tune-in at 6:30 to listen to the season preview.
Both can be watched at http://www.fasthockey.com/, Brockport’s first attempt at video coverage.