Women’s hockey must turn corner in second half


Dave DeLuca/The Record

Buffalo State got its first points against Plattsburgh on Saturday in 33 meetings.

Ryan Mullen, Reporter

Coming into the 2016-17 season, the Buffalo State women’s hockey team (5-4-1, 3-3 in ECAC West) had high hopes. Coming off a solid 18-8 campaign, the women’s hockey program is looking to build on last year’s success.

The Bengals are at the midpoint of the season and are going into a month-long break. Here’s what’s transpired so far:

The Bengals started off well to start the season with two big wins over ECAC conference opponent Utica — a team they could only muster one win against last year. Early on, it seemed this could be the year for the Bengals to make an ECAC conference run.

“I think we can finish higher than we have before,” senior forward Viivi Vaattovaara said after the Utica weekend.  “We’ve had a few years where we had some tough losses at the end of the season, and I think this is the year that we can turn this around in our favor.”

But after a split to Potsdam, Trinity and two big losses to Elmira the Bengals are sitting at an even 3-3 in the ECAC West and are 5-4-1 on the year. Even though it’s not impossible, it looks like the Bengals have a long way to go to prove that they are an ECAC Championship contender.

Goaltending has been a strength. Justine Silva has played the most minutes of all goaltenders in the ECAC and has managed an impressive 1.84 goals against average and a .932 save percentage. She’s been pretty impressive for the Bengals so far and is a big reason why Buffalo State has the 20th ranked defense in the ECAC.

But Buffalo State needs to start putting more pucks in the back of the net. Buffalo State seems to be struggling with converting on chances during even strength and on the power play. The Bengals are capitalizing on just nine percent of man advantages.

The best teams in the ECAC – Elmira, for example, has converted nearly 35 percent of their power-play chances. Good teams find ways to score, and Buffalo State hasn’t proven they can often enough and will need to find their offensive stride to end the season on a strong note.

“I wouldn’t say it’s concerning since it’s still early in the season. That being said, being able to score on power plays can be a deal breaker, so I do think it’s one of the things we need to work on,” Vaattovaara said earlier this season. “Even on power plays, we’ve had great chances, so I think in general we just need to work on being able to generate goals in games where they don’t come as easy.”

The Bengals have about a month until they start up with a couple non-conference games. Midway through the season, Buffalo State has been subpar considering the expectations they set out to meet at the beginning of the year. Hopefully a break will prove to be what the doctor ordered.

“We just have to keep working hard during this break and continue to train and get better every day,” Silva said. “Of course this break will give us some time to recover and rest our bodies in order to be ready to go come January, but we just will keep doing the little things to get better to put us in the best position possible to succeed this second half of the season.”

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