Men’s hockey breaks single-season win record, clinches bye


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Senior Mike DeLaVergne will move on to play for ECHL’s Atlanta Gladiators.

Tony Callens, Associate Sports Editor

The Buffalo State men’s hockey team continues to reach new heights in its historic 2015-16 campaign.

The Bengals have now broken the program record for the most wins in a season with a 15-6-4 record.

Not only did Buffalo State reach its goal of clinching the second seed in the SUNYAC playoffs, but the team did so with an exclamation point: a 7-0 victory over Cortland on Saturday.

They needed a win and for Geneseo to tie in their matchup against the SUNYAC-leading Plattsburgh Cardinals. After the game was over, Buffalo State watched the Geneseo-Plattsburgh game on a television in the locker room while the coaches were huddled together watching the stream on Director of Hockey Operations Anthony Pavone’s phone.

The game went into overtime, tied at 3-3, and as the clock wound down to zero, an explosion of cheering came from the locker room after learning they had earned the first-round bye.

Halfway through the season, head coach Steve Murphy believed the team could do it and the players did too.

“It feels great. Really it’s the 22 guys in that locker room that are the ones who made this accomplishment. It’s a credit to how hard they worked all year,” Murphy said.

On senior night, with stakes high, Buffalo State came out flat in the first period and headed into the locker room tied at zero with the eighth-place Dragons.

“It was two-fold. It was senior night, there was a lot on the guys’ minds and I thought we started slow. We got it out of our system and refocused for the remaining 40 minutes,” Murphy said.

The seniors were the ones who got the team going. Forward Ryan Salkeld scored a goal and recorded two assists in front of a large group of his friends and family, who wore orange number nine shirts in honor of his senior night.

“I’m speechless. All the support means a lot to me. I got a few lucky bounces and I just appreciate them all being here,” Salkeld said with a bright smile on his face.

Defenseman Todd Graham had a career game on his senior night. He scored two goals in the rout, his first two of the season.

“It’s pretty nice. I actually called it. I told Brody (Power) I was gonna get the seventh goal tonight and followed through. It’s all about consistency,” the Melbourne, Australia native joked. “Seriously though, it’s pretty special to have all the families here. Unfortunately mine can’t be here, but all the rest are really great about bringing everyone together off the ice.”

The momentum started on Friday with a 3-1 victory over rival Oswego State. It was only the second time in program history the Bengals had ever beaten the Lakers.

Like Murphy said, there have been contributions from every player. In this case, it was goalie Mike DeLaVergne who stood on his head and recorded 30 saves. The junior now has the record for the most wins by a goalie in program history with 15 and owns a .936 save percentage, also a program single-season record.

The team is extremely confident going into the playoffs, and has been playing at a torrid pace recently with six straight victories.

“It feels great; we’re really on a roll. I wouldn’t want to play us. I feel really good going into the playoffs,” Salkheld said.

Salkeld was named the SUNYAC Men’s Ice Hockey Player of the week for his efforts.

“We’re really hitting our stride. We’re doing things that have never been done in this program,” Graham said. “Everyone is pulling together and playing as a unit. I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do in the playoffs.”

Buffalo State will wait to see who it will face in the semifinals. They will take on the highest remaining seed between Oswego, Brockport, Postdam and Geneseo. That game will take place at the Buffalo State Ice Arena on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“There’s no quit in this team. It’s never been about one guy, that’s the biggest part. We’ve gotten production from a bunch of different guys,” Murphy said. “Nobody gave us a chance. In the preseason, we were projected to finish sixth or seventh in the conference. We still have doubters, but the next game is our focus.”

email: [email protected]