Ice Knights fight to rise up to No. 1 seed in conference

Senior forward Stephen Collins looks for a pass during the Ice Knights game against the Morrisville Mustangs on Saturday Jan. 28. The Knights snatched an 8-1 victory on Saturday after falling to the Mustangs the night before with a score of 5-2. (Annalee Bainnson/Assoc. Photo Editor)

The No. 6 Ice Knights split a double header with the SUNY Morrisville Mustangs in the race for conference points that is rapidly approaching the postseason on Friday Jan. 27 and Saturday Jan. 28.  

As it stands, Geneseo sits at second place in the conference, six points behind No. 2 SUNY Oswego and two points ahead of No. 3 Buffalo State. With five conference games remaining in the regular season, the Ice Knights are looking to keep their currently held second seed for the first-round playoff bye in the SUNYAC Tournament. 

The Ice Knights—who are 13-4-3—were hosted by the Mustangs—who are 3-15-3—on Friday Jan. 27. Although they were the heavy favorites heading into the contest, the Ice Knights found themselves on the receiving end of a disappointing 5-2 upset. 

Senior forward Stephen Collins and junior forward Sotiri Athanasopoulos each tallied a goal, with sophomore goalie Devin McDonald posting 33 saves on 37 shots. Despite the goal difference, the Ice Knights outshot the Mustangs 47-38.

The rematch on Saturday Jan. 28 told a completely different story for the Ice Knights, however, as they dominated Morrisville for all three periods in the 8-1 win at the Ira. First-year forwards Conlan Keenan and David Szmyd each tallied two goals, while Collins posted two goals and two assists, marking his fourth game this season with four or more points. 

Also of note was junior defensemen Braxton Bilous’ first goal in the Ice Knight’s jersey and goalie Matt Leon’s standout performance in the crease, stopping 24 of 25 pucks sent his way. The Ice Knights outshot the Mustangs 48-25 and went one for six on the power play.

“What we saw last night wasn’t a terrible game for us,” assistant coach Kris Heeres said after Friday Jan. 28’s contest. “The chances appeared, but the execution just wasn’t there. Tonight [Saturday Jan. 29], on the other hand, we saw the full 60 minutes on the clock with our players out there working hard. We have guys playing through some injuries and we’ve played five games in the last nine days, but when it comes down to it, we shouldn’t be giving conference opponents our two points.”

With the fight for playoff contention right around the corner, the Ice Knights still find themselves in second place, as the Oswego Lakers hold onto first place by six points and don’t look likely to give it up. While Buffalo State and No. 4 SUNY Plattsburgh work to catch up to the Ice Knights, of greater concern should be the latter. 

The phenomenal performance of senior goaltender Mike DeLaVergne in the net has kept Buffalo State a contender on both the SUNYAC and national stage. Averaging 1.36 goals allowed per game and posting three shutouts in 17 games, the goaltender ranks third in goals allowed and second in save percentage nationally. 

Plattsburgh, on the other hand, started off their season struggling immensely, but now seem to have caught their stride by putting up a 5-1-1 record in their last seven games. Regardless of the difficulty ahead, the Ice Knights hold an advantage in the upcoming contests, as both rematches against Buffalo State and Plattsburgh take place at home in the Ira S. Wilson Arena, where the Ice Knights have gone 6-1-2 on the season.

While these two contests are certainly marked on the calendar for the Ice Knights, they first travel to SUNY Brockport on Friday Feb. 3. 

“Brockport is a team that always plays us hard,” Heeres said. “They’re a tough team that loves the physical game. Since it’s so close, I know we’re going to get a good showing of fans who make the drive to cheer for us … It means a lot to us to know that we have such a great community and fan base.”