Ice Knights return to SUNYAC Championship for second time in three years

For the second time in three years, the Ice Knights will return to the SUNYAC Championship, seeking a bid for the NCAA Tournament. This was brought about starting with the Feb. 24 4-1 quarterfinal victory over the SUNY Potsdam Bears and the 6-1 semifinal blowout of the Buffalo State College Bengals.

Barely missing out on capturing the second seed in the SUNYAC Tournament—which came with a quarterfinal round bye—the Knights fell into third with a respectable 9-2-5 in-conference record. Although this meant they had to play an extra game, the Knights were able to play at the Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena to host six seed Potsdam.

Four Ice Knights each scored a goal during the heated contest, starting with junior forward RJ Burns 11:38 into the first period. Two minutes later, senior defenseman Matt Solomon tallied one of his own to put the Knights up 2-0 heading into the second. Sophomore defenseman Pat Condon made it a 3-0 lead 32 seconds into the period while senior forward David Ripple brought it up to 4-0 lead with 10:57 left. Potsdam would find their first and only tally when junior forward Logan Brown got the Bears on the board with 7:10 remaining in regulation.

The Bears out-shot the Knights 45-38 in the contest, but first-year goaltender Devin McDonald was credited with a career-high 44 saves to put the Ice Knights into the semifinals. After two losses to Buffalo State earlier in the year, the Knights came ready to play against the only SUNYAC team to put notches in their loss column.

The game started a bit rough for Geneseo. Buffalo State managed to take the lead first with senior forward Cory Gurski putting the Bengals up 1-0 in the first period. Ripple tied things up halfway through the second period on a power play goal to leave the third period as the decider.

As the puck dropped in the third period, it was all Ice Knights for the rest of the contest, starting with point leader junior forward Stephen Collins scoring on the first shift just 40 seconds in.  Five minutes later, disaster would strike the Bengals as point leader junior forward Taylor Pryce was thrown out of the game for a contact to the head hit on Condon. The Ice Knights took full advantage of a five-minute major power play that saw two goals from the sticks of Ripple and junior forward Trevor Hills—Hills now has 11 power play goals on the season.

Facing a 4-1 deficit, the Bengals sensed their season slipping through their grasp and pulled junior goaltender Mike DeLaVergne with 8:55 remaining to try for a miracle. Senior forward AJ Sgaraglio and first-year forward Arthur Gordon had a different plan in mind. Each scored on the empty net to seal the deal for the Ice Knights, sending them to the finals with a remarkable 6-1 victory. McDonald had 24 saves on the night and continues to put up strong performances in net.

Geneseo now looks forward to Saturday March 5, when the SUNY Plattsburgh Cardinals will host the SUNYAC Championship. Plattsburgh made the finals by defeating their long-time rival SUNY Oswego in overtime for the third time this year.

With Plattsburgh taking an energizing thriller win over Oswego and Geneseo blowing out a team that has beaten them twice, both teams are heading into the weekend with huge momentum. The Knights have gone 1-0-1 against the Cardinals this season, but with a NCAA spot on the line, both teams will come onto the ice flying.

The puck drops at 7 p.m. on Saturday March 5 at Plattsburgh.