The Ice Knights’ last two weeks have been quite an emotional roller coaster with crucial wins over SUNY Plattsburgh and Hamilton College sandwiched between head-scratching losses to Nazareth College and SUNY Potsdam. A common thread through Geneseo’s struggles was its inconsistent special teams’ play, a problem they overcame in back-to-back wins over SUNY Brockport.
The Ice Knights took down the Golden Eagles at Brockport on Feb. 7 with a 3-2 win, followed by a more comfortable 4-1 win on home ice the following night. Goaltender sophomore Nick Horrigan had back-to-back wins moving him to 7-1 on the season.
The Ice Knights power play struggles throughout the past month are apparent. Entering the weekend, the power play went for only 2-32. Even more frustrating was the penalty kill, which had surrendered at least one goal in nine of the past 10 games and was clicking at only 60 percent over the previous five games. Despite Brockport’s top-ranked power play rate, the penalty kill was Geneseo’s strongest element all weekend.
On Feb. 7, the Ice Knights jumped out to a 2-0 lead halfway through the first period. Forward first-year Ryan Stanimir cashed in his 10th goal of the season off an assist by forward first-year Stephen Collins, and with 4:26 left in the first, forward senior Jonathan Sucese’s centering pass banked off the foot of forward junior Justin Scharfe and through Brockport goaltender Jared Lockhurst.
Seven minutes into the second, Brockport’s first-year Nate Pelligra had a point shot that took a wild redirection off a leg and zipped past Horrigan to tie the game 2-2. Just as they did against Plattsburgh, the Ice Knights responded in power play.
Forward senior Zachary Vit, who’s setting a career-high goal-scoring season, played set-up man on the Geneseo power play when his backhand pass found defenseman junior Jack Caradonna, alone in front, to give Geneseo a 3-2 lead it did not surrender.
“Power plays get stale as teams pick up on what you’re doing and pucks aren’t going in on good chances,” head coach Chris Schultz said. “But the power play helped us to win the Plattsburgh game and it helped us to win this game tonight. Special teams are crucial.”
Collins proved to be hot again the following night against the Golden Eagles. Collins had gone scoreless in 11 of 12 games before breaking the snide against Plattsburgh with a hat trick.
Against Brockport, he opened the scoring with a wrist shot from the top of the circle just 6:30 into the game. After Ice Knights forward first-year Jack Ceglarski and Eagles sophomore Shane Cavalieri each banked pucks into the net off the feet of defensemen to make it 2-1, Collins found himself with the puck in the same spot once again. Collins responded with the same intent, this time rifling it over Lockhurst’s shoulder, off the crossbar and in the net to send Geneseo into intermission with a 3-1 lead.
Collins, again, put the game away just a minute into the third to secure another win for the Ice Knights.
The Ice Knights penalty kill was outstanding throughout the weekend, going 9-9 and fighting off a two-man advantage for Brockport late in the second.
“It was a solid weekend where we did a lot of little things well, including the [penalty kill],” assistant coach Kris Heeres said. “Guys like [senior] Carson Schell and [junior] Zach Martin blocking shots on the kill got the bench going.”
The Ice Knights leave this weekend for their final road trip, with 7 p.m. start times on Friday Feb. 14 at SUNY Oswego and Saturday Feb. 15 at SUNY Cortland.