The Ice Knights have found themselves on the brink of another SUNYAC Championship. Their 5-2 semi-final victory against Buffalo State College on Saturday Feb. 24 earned them a spot in the championship game against SUNY Fredonia on Saturday March 3.
The Ice Knights defeated a tough Buffalo team in a hard-fought game. Sophomore forward David Szmyd set the tone early with two first period goals. The team never looked back after that, as they held the lead over Buffalo for the rest of the game.
Their win sets up a home SUNYAC Championship matchup against Fredonia. Fredonia is the No. 5 seed in the SUNYAC Tournament and defeated both SUNY Plattsburgh and No. 1 SUNY Oswego to forge their path into the championship game.
The Ice Knights split their games with Fredonia this season, losing by a score of 4-3 at Fredonia and winning 4-1 at home. The team will not take their opponent lightly, despite them being only the number five seed.
“We have to earn everything we get,” sophomore forward Conlan Keenan said. “They’re playing well right now and we have to step up our game.”
Fredonia is a team that plays tough, physical hockey, so the Ice Knights need to prepare for that style of play. The team believes they match up well with their opponent from a talent perspective, but they need to match Fredonia’s physicality.
“They like to play the physical game,” head coach Chris Schultz said. “We’re going to prepare this week by being physical ourselves.”
It is not by coincidence that the Ice Knights find themselves in the championship game. The players and coaches reference their work ethic and team leadership as major factors in their success. The Ice Knights’ leadership begins with the coaching staff and trickles down through the rest of the team.
“The coaching staff has to set the culture, but it’s up to the players to instill it into the young guys and hold everyone accountable for it,” Schultz said.
The team’s ideology is centered on hard work. Everyone has been committed all season, and they believe that it is this determination above all else that will win them a championship.
“We have a lot of skill, but our identity is that we’re going to play the full 60 minutes hard,” Keenan said.
The Ice Knights were not expecting a home championship matchup, but they are embracing their good fortune. Winning a championship is never easy, but a home game in front of hundreds of Geneseo fans will play to the Ice Knights’ advantage.
The Geneseo community will not want to miss the game on Saturday March 3. There is a lot on the line, and the winner gets to lift the SUNYAC Championship trophy at the end of the game as well as earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the opportunity to extend their season, it is doubtful that the Ice Knights will have any thoughts about possible NCAA Tournament matchups just yet. The players and coaches have reiterated one single statement before every matchup all season long: one game at a time.