Ice Knights fall to Plattsburgh in semi-finals

Senior forward Stephen Collins skates to the puck as senior forward Jack Ceglarski looks to give him space. The men fell to Plattsburgh in the semi-finals of the SUNYAC tournament, bringing their 2016-17 season to an end. (Annalee Bainnson/Assoc. Photo Editor)

Geneseo’s season came to a grinding halt on Saturday Feb. 25, when the No. 14 Ice Knights fell to the No. 13 Plattsburgh State Cardinals in the semi-final round of the SUNYAC playoffs. 

Although remaining ranked within the top 15 throughout the entire season and finishing with a 17-7-3 record and a .685 win percentage, the Ice Knights do not appear to be in the discussion for an at large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

“This season, in the end, was a disappointment for us,” assistant coach Kris Heeres said. “We have a lot of talent on this team, but in games like [the SUNYACs], you can see the results if we don’t show up for a full 60 minutes.”

Geneseo traveled to Plattsburgh after narrowly losing out on the second seed of the tournament due to tiebreakers. 

“This year, there was a new tiebreaker instituted in the SUNYAC for hockey and other sports,” Heeres said. “Instead of tiebreaker by score differential against SUNYAC opponents in the regular season [to which Geneseo was +29 to Plattsburgh’s +3], it’s now record against the top team in the SUNYAC which is [No. 2] Oswego. Plattsburgh had a stronger record against them than we did, which really emphasizes that every game counts when we couldn’t close out both games against them this year.”

Failing to close out was the motif in the game against Plattsburgh when the Ice Knights entered the third period leading 2-1. The Ice Knights went on to allow four goals within the third period and ended up falling in the contest, 5-2, although the Ice Knights had a record of 15-1-2 while holding the lead after two periods against Plattsburgh’s 0-9-0 while trailing after two. 

Despite their record in such games, the Cardinals mounted an impressive four-goal comeback in the third. 

First-year forward Conlan Keenan scored both of the Ice Knights’ goals, while first-year forward Andrew Romano and sophomore forward Anthony Marra each tallied an assist in the contest. Senior goaltender Matt Leon stopped 31 of 35 sent his way, but the Ice Knights were outshot 36-20.

Although frozen at the end of the season, several Ice Knights were recognized for outstanding play. Senior forward Stephen Collins received the Herb Hammond Player of the Year award for the second year in a row in the SUNYAC conference for posting 48 points in 27 games played—19 goals, 29 assists—with two hat-tricks and nine games with three or more points. 

Receiving the SUNYAC’s Rookie of the Year award was Keenan, who’s first-year netted him a 35-point season—23 goals, 12 assists. Keenan led the Ice Knights in goals and power-play goals. 

For All-Conference teams, Collins found himself a first team honors, while Keenan and senior defensemen Derek Stahl received second team honors. 

Next year finds the Ice Knights losing a significant number of senior players, including the point’s leader Collins; captains and forwards RJ Burns and Jack Ceglarski; goaltenders Leon and Bradley Hawayek; forwards Trevor Hills and Connor Anthoine; and defensemen Cam Hampson and Matt Lee. 

While a significant gap is left by the graduating class, Geneseo has the base to create a strong team for future years. Keenan, first-year forward David Szmyd and Romano—who are Geneseo’s second, third and fourth highest scorers on the year—have incredible future potential after a strong first-year showing. 

Also in next year’s lineup are other strong contributors, such as junior defenseman Pat Condon, sophomore forwards Arthur Gordon and Marra and sophomore goaltender Devin McDonald.

“We’re going to continue to recruit strongly,” Heeres said. “We lose a tremendous senior class this year, there’s no replacing a class with this much heart. Other teams will count us out next year after losing such a strong class, but with what we’ve seen out of our younger players this year, we have high hopes for the future.”