The Geneseo Ice Knights opened the playoffs at home Tuesday night with a thrilling 4-3 overtime victory over the Buffalo State Bengals.
Sophomore Daniel Sullivan blasted the game-winning shot past Bengals goaltender Alan Fritch 11:30 into a sudden-death overtime to secure the win for Geneseo.
"It was a great shot," said freshman forward Clint Olson. "He just flew down the right wing and surprised the goalie with a quick snapshot stick-side. It found the only hole it could."
Just as exciting as the overtime was the path the Ice Knights took to get there in regulation.
Geneseo opened scoring in the first period as senior Kevin Galan continued his high production of late, scoring a power-play goal, his seventh of the season.
The Bengals responded quickly, however, scoring a goal 40 seconds later, then converting on a breakaway two minutes after that to steal the 2-1 lead at the end of the first period.
Geneseo evened the game in the second, as senior captain Casey Balog stole the puck in the neutral zone, and beat Fritch with a high shot.
The Ice Knights likely could have found themselves down at the break had it not been for senior defenseman Sean Hayden's gutsy shot-blocking performance on a late five-on-three penalty kill. After having his leg hobbled by his first blocked shot, he went on to block four more in a row, saving a few sure goals and showing the veteran dedication necessary to win.
The leadership out of the Ice Knight veterans became even more apparent late in the third period, as Geneseo was forced to fight back again.
Things looked bleak for Geneseo when Buffalo scored on a redirection in front on the power play with just over five minutes left.
There was no panic visible from the home team, however, who were bolstered by the crowd who finally found their lungs. On the very next shift the Ice Knights tied the game again.
Senior defenseman Casey Smith, after helping Geneseo get set up in the offensive zone, calmly fired a shot from the point through a screen, sending the crowd into mayhem and the game into overtime.
The start of overtime brought a new level of intensity from both sides, as both teams laid it all on the line.
The added intensity was just as apparent in the stands. "Once they took the lead late in the third, you could tell everyone was thinking on the same page," said freshman Gregg Lester. "It was time to get serious."
Sullivan seemed to get the message. Set up with a perfect pass breaking through the neutral zone by junior defenseman Jeff MacPhee, he found himself in a two-on-one situation. The one Buffalo defenseman played the pass, and Sullivan was free to test his shot.
The goal, Sullivan's second game-winner of the year, sends Geneseo to the SUNYAC semi-finals at Oswego on Saturday. The winner of that game will play the winner of the Plattsburgh-Brockport matchup in the SUNYAC championship March 7.