It wasn’t supposed to be this way. The Buffalo State men’s hockey team (1-0-1) was coming off a record-breaking 15-4-1 season, where the Bengals earned a No. 1 seed in the SUNYAC for the first time. They were ranked 13 in the nation by D3hockey.com coming into the year, the highest rating the team has ever had.
That’s why this weekend’s season-opening 4-2 home loss to “Battle by the Lake” rival Fredonia is so surprising.
A furious Steve Murphy, in his first year as the permanent head coaching, voiced his displeasure calling out the older members of the team.
“We didn’t work very hard. We weren’t moving our feet. We were really lazy all over the ice and it starts with our older guys,” he said. “The seniors were terrible. They had no business being out on the ice. We got no leadership from our captains.”
With 13 new players, the team will take time to adjust, but a bright spot was the play of young players.
Freshmen defenseman Colin O’Conner and forward Anthony Passero tallied goals for the Bengals in their first collegiate game.
“It was a good feeling (scoring his first goal). I was a little nervous before the game, but it was good to get the first goal. Could have had a couple more,” Passero said. “Just a tough loss in front of the fans. You gotta win that first one.”
O’Connor’s goal started things off for Buffalo State, but the Blue Devils struck back just 10 seconds later. Buffalo State was better on the stat sheet, out-shooting Fredonia 39 to 30 and winning 44 faceoffs to the Blue Devils’ 24.
Senior co-captain defenseman Brody Power was disappointed in the game, but took solace in the final 12 minutes of the game where the Bengals finally saw some success.
“I think moving forward, we need to look at that third period as a positive for us. We came up slow in the first and the second. If we come out with that tenacity and tenaciousness, I think we’ll be fine,” he said.
Buffalo State responded to Murphy’s challenge the next night, going to Fredonia’s home rink with a better defensive display in a 1-1 tie.
Senior goaltender Mike DeLaVergne, who was a first team All-SUNYAC selection last season with a .932 save percentage, responded with a 42-save effort after allowing three goals in the first game.
Another senior, forward Jake Rosen, scored the lone goal for the Bengals on a power play.
It was the jolt the special teams needed after going 0 for 6 the night before.
The shots were even in the game at 35 for each team. Buffalo State went to the box for 19 minutes due to the five-minute major and ejection of freshman Latrell Charleson early in the first period.
The Blue Devils scored their third special team’s goal of the weekend on the subsequent power play.
Rosen’s goal ended the scoring for the night.
The Bengals will take on the No. 5 Plattsburgh Cardinals on Friday, Nov. 11 and will have a date against Potsdam on Saturday. Both game will take place at the Buffalo State Ice Arena with a 7 p.m. faceoff.
Murphy didn’t mince words about the lesson he hopes his team learned this past weekend.
“Hopefully it’s a kick in the ass. Hopefully it’s a wake-up call for sure.”
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