‘Unsung heroes’ rise to the occasion, Buffalo State tops Fredonia in SUNYAC quarterfinals

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‘Unsung heroes’ rise to the occasion, Buffalo State tops Fredonia in SUNYAC quarterfinals

The Bengals move on to face Oswego on Saturday.

The Bengals move on to face Oswego on Saturday.

Dave DeLuca/The Record

The Bengals move on to face Oswego on Saturday.

Dave DeLuca/The Record

Dave DeLuca/The Record

The Bengals move on to face Oswego on Saturday.

Francis Boeck, Associate Sports Editor

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“It’s playoff hockey. This is when your big-time players need to step up, and then you get contribution from unsung heroes,” head coach Steve Murphy said prior to Wednesday’s win. “It’s a completely new season. I’m looking forward to seeing who steps up.”

It was the “unsung heroes” that made the difference. The Bengals are 1-0 on the backs of two freshmen — forward Roberts Smits and defenseman Colin O’Connor.

They now have the No. 2 nationally ranked team in their scopes as they look to upset the Oswego Lakers in the semis on Saturday.

On Wednesday night against No. 5 Fredonia, a pair of goals by Smits and O’Connor led Buffalo State to a 2-1 victory.

“It was a great team effort,” Smits said. “That’s what playoff hockey is all about.”

The game got out to an aggressive start. The opening period ended with no goals and a lot of hits, three of which resulted in penalties.

As tensions rose, Buffalo State kept its composure, taking just three penalties to Fredonia’s seven.

“We stayed disciplined,” O’Connor said. “Our coaches are really on top of us. A positive attitude on the bench really helps.”

The Bengals began to gain momentum after killing off a Jon Colley penalty five minutes into the second period. Fredonia’s Luke Rivera went to the box for elbowing minutes later.

Roberts Smits opened up the scoring as Anthony Passero directed the faceoff right to Smits who scored a top-shelf goal at 11:48 in the second.

“Passero made a great faceoff win and it went right to my stick,” Smits said. “I saw a lane, took it and thankfully it went in.”

The goal snapped the power play drought after 23 unfruitful man-advantages. The last time the Bengals scored on the power play was Feb. 3.

“It feels amazing,” Smits said. “Coach Murphy has been on us about the power play, so it felt good to finally get one.”

The Blue Devils got on the board when Mac McAvoy took a wrister from the left boards that went off the post and in. The goal tied the game at 1-all with 6:10 left in the second.

The ‘Battle by the Lake’ came down to the final 20 minutes.

Freshman Colin O’Connor received a pass from behind net from Brody Power. O’Connor wound up for a slap shot and drove it home to give the Bengals the lead with 15:30 remaining and, ultimately, the game-winning goal. Smits assisted the score.

The freshman scored four of the five points in the win.

“Smits has been gripping the stick lately because he hasn’t been getting chances. When O’Connor plays simple and slows the game down he’s really good,” Murphy said of his young guns.

Saturday’s SUNYAC semifinals faceoff will be Saturday at 7 p.m. in Oswego.

Buffalo State lost to the Lakers on Feb. 18 by a score of 6-1 in Oswego. Murphy attributed the loss to a lack of preparedness.

“We have to move our feet and play hard. We sat back and played a little timid on Saturday,” Murphy said. “We have to come out with a swagger and play similar to the way we played tonight.”

email: boeck.record@outlook.com

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