Historic season ends with familiar result

Tony Callens, Associates Sports Editor

The clock struck zero, and the team celebrating was not highly-favored Buffalo State. The men’s hockey team found itself exiting the SUNYAC Playoffs early as the Geneseo Knights came away with a 6-1 win on Saturday.

It was an all-too familiar feeling for the Bengals, who have now lost in the semifinals six years in a row.

“I thought it was a good game through two periods. It’s tough, their top guys were their top guys and ours weren’t. That was the difference,” head coach Steve Murphy said.

After two periods, the score was tied 1-1 and there was no indication the end result would be what it was.

The momentum of the game swung in the harshest of ways when 40 seconds into the third period, Geneseo scored and took its first lead of the game.

Shortly after, a missed tripping call led to forward Taylor Pryce committing a frustrated hit to the head call which resulted in a five-minute major and a disqualification.

The Knights took advantage of the extended power play with a pair of goals, at which point the game was all but over.

“The problem with an ending like this is winning nine out of ten games and the season coming down to one game,” assistant coach Dan Yustin said. “Crucial calls by the referee, I’m not blaming the refs, but they missed a trip, our guy gets upset and drills a guy, we get a five-minute major and it’s game over.”

The team wasn’t itself from the get-go. All season they had been streaky, and were successful in games when they got off to a fast start. Despite scoring first midway through the first period, the Bengals had an off night.

“We were a little tentative the whole game. You can’t take anything away from Geneseo, but we lost our composure a bit and have to learn from this as a coaching staff and as players,” Yustin said.

Despite the ending, this season and this team were different. There was hope from the get-go for a run at a SUNYAC championship. In many years past, Buffalo State was a middle of the pack team which snuck into the playoffs.

15 wins represented the most in a season in program history. They clinched the second seed in the SUNYAC conference for the first time ever. This team was exciting, dangerous and full of hope.

“My first two years, we were a .500 hockey team, and now we played for the second seed. (Steve) Murphy and coach (Nick) Therrien did a great job, and the program is just going up from here,” goaltender Mike DeLaVergne said.

He posted the best save percentage (.936), GAA (1.97) and recorded the most wins (15) in program history.

Senior forward Ryan Salkeld, Pryce and DeLaVergne were all named to the All-SUNYAC team.

“Everything starts with the goalie, and he’s coming back,” Yustin said with a smile. “We’re in good shape; the people coming back all contributed this year. The seniors that are leaving have left us in really good shape moving forward. This will be a program to be reckoned with for years to come.”

The seven seniors, Salkeld, Todd Graham, Scott Roy, Sean Hrivnak, Cory Gurski, and Nick Schiro, have now seen the end of their time as Buffalo State hockey players. They saw the program grow from a good team under longtime head coach Nick Carriere to a great one in just one year under Murphy.

This year, they reached new heights. The returning players will pick up where this season left off and hope to reach the ultimate goal: a SUNYAC championship.

“It’s time to get back to the drawing board and it’s time to go to work,” Murphy said.

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