Men’s hockey powers past Potsdam

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Men’s hockey powers past Potsdam

The Bengals celebrated five goals against Potsdam for the their eighth win of the season and fourth in SUNYAC play.

The Bengals celebrated five goals against Potsdam for the their eighth win of the season and fourth in SUNYAC play.

Dave DeLuca/The Record

The Bengals celebrated five goals against Potsdam for the their eighth win of the season and fourth in SUNYAC play.

Dave DeLuca/The Record

Dave DeLuca/The Record

The Bengals celebrated five goals against Potsdam for the their eighth win of the season and fourth in SUNYAC play.

Dan Almasi, Sports Editor

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The Buffalo State men’s hockey team is in a three-way tie for fifth place in the SUNYAC after being dominated by No. 10 Plattsburgh, 6-0, on Friday, then regrouping on Saturday evening to defeat Potsdam, 5-3.

The Bengals (8-11-2, 4-6-2 SUNYAC) and will likely be pushing and shoving with Brockport (10-9-2) and Potsdam (8-10-3) for playoff positioning during the remaining four games of the regular season. Cortland (9-9-3) isn’t far behind, but is at a disadvantage with one less conference win than the latter three teams.

The Bengals were coming off a weekend bye, having last played on Jan. 24 against Cortland, and got back on their skates Saturday after a big loss to Plattsburgh on Friday.

Buffalo State turned the tables on the Bears after losing to them in Potsdam, 5-2, back on Nov. 15. Buffalo State came out of the gates with intensity and drive, scoring the first three goals of the contest and going into the first intermission with a 4-1 lead. Potsdam fought back with two unanswered second period goals, cutting the Bengals’ lead to one.

Junior forward Ryan Salkeld stalled Potsdam’s momentum and completed the scoring after poke-checking the puck away from a Bear and burying a short-handed goal with just over six minutes left to play.

“Right off the bat, we came out firing,” junior forward Cory Gurski said. “[We were] taking bodies; the defense was moving the puck up, forwards were getting to the goal and working them, that’s all it came down to.”

Sophomore goaltender Mike DeLaVergne felt the team played an entirely different brand of hockey than what they showed against the Bears back in November.

“Just everything,” DeLaVergne said of what changed. “Our work ethic was great. Everyone bought in tonight and got the job done.”

Sophomore forward Jake Rosen felt the team was aware of the implications of a loss, and was motivated to put themselves in a position to win early.

“This was our biggest game of the season so far, and everybody knew it,” said Rosen, having to raise his voice over the post-win buzz of the locker room. “Everybody knew our playoff chances could be dead if we lost it, so, everybody came out flying.”

Rosen led the Bengals’ offensive effort with two goals on six shots, giving him five goals on the season.

“I’ve had a lot of chances all year that I just haven’t buried,” Rosen said. “It’s a law of averages thing, you get enough shots and they’ll go in. I put a lot of time in recently, working on scoring goals, and I’m happy it paid off tonight.”

Gurski and sophomore forward Nick Berst both scored and added an assist. Berst tallied goal number four on the season, while it was Gurski’s first of the year.

“Oh man, it was a monkey off the back,” Gurski said. “First of many to come.”

Buffalo State found no success on the power play, finishing 0 for 7. The Bears failed to take advantage of three odd-man opportunities as well. Potsdam’s Dylan Vander Esch carried the Bears’ offense, netting all three of their goals and completing the hat trick. DeLaVergne finished with 29 stops.

The Bengals had a similar amount of success against the SUNYAC-leading Cardinals on Friday as they did in the previous matchup earlier this season – almost none. Plattsburgh dominated all facets of the game and shut out Buffalo State while scoring two goals in each period.

A fight broke out in front of the Buffalo State net 10 seconds into the game, which led to a Plattsburgh power play and goal just 47 seconds into the matchup. Plattsburgh pushed their lead to 2-0 on a penalty shot later in the period after Michael Radisa was hauled down from behind during a short-handed breakaway. Buffalo State continued to struggle on the power play, failing to convert on six odd-man opportunities.

Plattsburgh outshot Buffalo State, 31-15, and finished 2 for 5 on the power play. Freshman Ian Sylves finished with 25 saves in net for the Bengals.

Rosen hopes to mirror the success they had against Potsdam on Saturday if given the chance to take on Plattsburgh in the post-season. After all, “good teams fall,” as noted by DeLaVergne.

“They play their systems unbelievably,” Rosen said. “They work hard and they’re so fast, it makes them hard to play against. That’s a team that we’ve struggled with since I’ve been here, so we’ve got to figure it out and hopefully bring the game we played tonight and be able to play against Plattsburgh like that.”

Assistant coach Dan Yustin knows Plattsburgh is beatable if you limit their scoring opportunities.

“They’ve got very highly skilled players,” Yustin said. “We have to play a certain way, if we don’t play that certain way, they will score. They’re a very good hockey team. We’ve beaten Plattsburgh before when we play the game that we’re supposed to play.”

Buffalo State has a double-header against Fredonia (4-12-5) this weekend, playing at the Ice Arena on Friday, and then traveling to play a game in Fredonia that was rescheduled from Nov. 21 due to a snowstorm.

“They’re pretty similar to us,” Salkeld said. “They’re hard-working. We’ve just got to out-compete them and bring it all.”

It will be an unusually late first-of-the-season matchup between two heated rivals.

“We’ll be ready to play,” Rosen said. “It’s a playoff game (in effect), so we’ll be ready to play. We just need two points.”

The win against Potsdam was DeLaVergne’s second game back after getting injured early on in the season. His first was on Friday, Jan. 23 against Oswego – a 6-0 loss. Sylves, who stepped in for DeLaVergne during his injury, was given the start in goal for the following two matchups, but DeLaVergne reclaimed his spot in between the pipes on Saturday and led his team to the win. DeLaVergne claims he feels great and that the injury is behind him.

Yustin confirmed that DeLaVergne’s absence immediately after his return was not injury-related, but that he is not the clear-cut starting goalie going forward.

“We’ve just been trying to get both goalies playing time,” Yustin said. “After last week’s game (the 6-0 loss to Oswego), we decided we were going to change up a lot of things. We’re happy with both our goalies; they’re both playing well.”

Rosen hopes to retain the momentum the team currently has going into the fate-deciding stretch of the season.

“We’re hitting our groove right in time for playoffs, so hopefully that will carry on for the rest of the year. Our goal is a home playoff game right now, and we’ll re-adjust those goals when we get to the playoffs.”

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