The Geneseo men's hockey team's season ended on Saturday at home when they fell to Plattsburgh 8-2 in the SUNYAC semifinal. Prior to the defeat, the Ice Knights (16-10-0, 10-4-0 in the conference) had beaten Plattsburgh twice in a row in the SUNYAC championship game and four consecutive times overall.
On Saturday, Geneseo hosted the Cardinals in front of a sellout crowd with a chance to reach their third straight SUNYAC title game. The Cardinals scored the first goal of the game on the power play two minutes in off a rebound which just beat junior goaltender Derek Jokic. Plattsburgh extended their lead to two on a fluke shot which went high into the air and just over Jokic's shoulder.
Geneseo cut the deficit to one halfway through the period when sophomore Casey Balog passed the puck behind the net to freshman Sebastian Panetta, who scored his ninth goal of the season. However, four minutes later, Plattsburgh added another power-play goal on a slapshot from the point.
Although the Ice Knights outshot the Cardinals 15-13 in the first period, they trailed 3-1. "We dug a hole early on, and we couldn't get out of it," said head coach Chris Schultz. "I thought we played great in the first period and a half, but we kept taking penalties."
Even though the Ice Knights came out of the locker room much more physical, the second period began much like the first. Plattsburgh scored two more early goals, including one on the power play, to widen the lead to 5-1. Geneseo was finally able to convert on a power-play opportunity halfway through the period when senior Mitch Stephens, the 2007 SUNYAC player of the year, found sophomore Chris Kestell open for his eighth goal of the season. The assist was Stephens' 55th point of the season and 167th of his career.
In the third period, Plattsburgh took advantage of several more costly Geneseo penalties, scoring three more goals which put the game out of reach. The Ice Knights were outshot 25-35 in the game and struggled on the power play, going 1-8. Plattsburgh scored five power-play goals against Jokic who made 27 saves in the losing effort.
After the game was over, senior Ice Knights Mitch Stephens, Steve Sankey, Mike MacDonald, Brett Bestwick, Tyson Terry, Mark Schwamberger, and Steve Jordan returned to the ice to salute the crowd and huddle with Schultz. "I told them they played a major role in turning the program around and bringing it to the top," said Schultz. "They are the only ones in the history of the program to win back-to-back SUNYAC championships. They brought excitement to the rink every night and they should be proud."
With so many key players graduating this year, Schultz has motivated his team to come back even stronger next year. "Any veteran that held a spot this year will need to step up big time next year. With 70 percent of our offense graduating, they will need to carry the load for us to compete."