As the Geneseo Ice Knights’ season enters its final month, it is important to recall an old sports adage: Teams are never as bad as they appear when they’re losing and never as good as they appear when they’re winning. A 4-1 loss on home ice to Nazareth College on Saturday Jan. 25 dropped the Ice Knights to No. 14 in the national rankings – a wake-up call heading into the game with No. 4 SUNY Plattsburgh on Friday Feb. 1 for first place in the SUNYAC.
After a 5-1 victory over the Hamilton College Continentals on Jan. 24, the Ice Knights returned home for a non-conference contest against Nazareth. The Golden Flyers, with only four wins on the season, were coming off a shocking overtime win against No. 11 Utica College the night before.
The Ice Knights opened the scoring just under six minutes in with a goal from forward senior Zach Vit – his third goal in two games.
That was all the 1,700 fans at Ira Wilson Arena would have to celebrate, thanks to Nazareth’s goalkeeper Ed Zdolshek. He recorded 46 saves on the night, 20 of them in the third period. Zdolshek is 2-1 in his career against Geneseo with a save percentage of .953.
Geneseo’s penalty kill dropped down to 78.5 percent efficiency in the game. The Ice Knights were twice at a two-man disadvantage, which Nazareth was able to capitalize on. The Golden Flyers were also able to score on a power play off a goal from forward first-year David Seward. Conversely, the Ice Knights were unable to find the back of the net on eight power play opportunities.
It is often hard to find fault with a team when it is winning. That was the case with Geneseo during its 10-1 stretch dating back to Nov. 22. What a difference two weeks can make.
A 5-1 loss to unranked Elmira College coupled with the Nazareth upset exposes an inconvenient Ice Knight truth: Geneseo struggles to overcome hot goalkeeping.
A hot goalkeeper is difficult for any team to break through. For the Ice Knights, however, the concern isn’t so much who’s stopping the puck but who is shooting it. And based on the lineup juggling from the past weekend, the coaching staff knows it.
Forward sophomore David Ripple has two goals in his last 15 games. First-year Stephen Collins hasn’t scored in 11 of his last 12, and first-years Connor Anthoine and Jack Ceglarski have only combined for two goals. For the amount of ice time these players command, it is safe to say the Ice Knights need more scoring.
This isn’t to say these players haven’t played well, but the truth is that when Vit or forward junior Tyler Brickler can’t break through offensively, the Ice Knights haven’t had many other answers. They did not have answers for Nazareth.
They’ll need answers against Plattsburgh to get back on track and to possibly put the team in the driver’s seat for a tournament berth in March.u