It was a tale of two contests for the No. 6 Geneseo Knights on Friday Feb. 10 that saw a 5-1 upset at the hands of the SUNY Fredonia Blue Devils and a 3-0 shutout on Saturday Feb. 11 of the No. 13 Buffalo State Bengals.
Despite a tough loss to the Blue Devils, the Ice Knights dug deep the next night to win an important game against the Bengals in the race for the SUNYAC conference’s No. 2 seed.
Sophomore forward Arthur Gordon scored the only tally against the Blue Devils, as the Ice Knights fell to Fredonia 5-1. The Blue Devils outshot the Knights 34 to 32 and continue their hot streak, now sitting at 9-1 in their last 10 games.
Against the Buffalo State Bengals, the Ice Knights appeared to be a completely different team. If the loss to Fredonia had affected them, it didn’t show as the Ice Knights shut the Bengals out 3-0.
“We played the full 60 minutes,” assistant coach Kris Heeres said. “After last night’s loss [against Fredonia], we challenged the team to show up tonight and they did.”
Senior defenseman Derek Stahl, first-year forward Conlan Keenan and senior forward Trevor Hills each put a puck past senior goaltender Mike DeLaVergne of Buffalo State for the victory. Senior goaltender Matt Leon posted his first career shutout with the Knights, stopping all 26 that were sent his way.
“The game [against Buffalo] is a testament to the resolve and the mentality of this team. We challenged them and they surpassed our expectations,” Heeres said. “This is a big win for us tonight to show we can play with the best of them, as well as helping us in the standings with playoffs right around the corner.”
With the huge win against Buffalo, the Ice Knights now hold the tiebreaker if the two teams were to reach the same amount of points at the end of the regular season. Now tied in head-to-head record and score differential between each other at 4-4, the next tiebreaker falls to score differential for the two teams against others in the conference.
While Buffalo’s defense averaged just over two goals allowed per game in SUNYAC play and currently sits at a +8 differential, Geneseo’s highly productive offence nets them a +22 and the tiebreaker, making the 3-0 victory even more important for the Ice Knights.
Friday Feb. 17 for the Ice Knights brings the last team in contention for the second seed—the No. 15 Plattsburgh State Cardinals. The Cardinals started cold this year, but have found their stride, posting an 8-1-1 record in their last 10 games.
The contest stands as a tall challenge for the Ice Knights, but a win over the Cardinals will secure the No. 2 seed—and quarterfinal bye—for them due to tiebreakers.
As the Ice Knights approach the postseason, a big change in this year’s national tournament has occurred due to recent team expansions. As Division III hockey has expanded the league to 78 teams, as per NCAA rulings, for every 6.5 teams, a bid is granted for tournament entry.
In other words, 12 teams will be hitting the tournament ice this year instead of 11, opening a fourth C (at-large) bid.
“It’s a great thing to see the league expand, but we’re not concerned with a C-bid right now,” Heeres said. “It’s worth knowing there’s another, but our primary focus is winning the SUNYAC championship, which is our best way into the tournament. We want to show we’re the best team in one of the strongest conferences—what happens in the NCAA Tournament is an addition to a season we want to win here in New York.”