The regular season conference champions Geneseo Ice Knights hit the ice on Saturday Feb. 23 in the SUNYAC semi-finals as winners of 19 of their last 20 games.
Geneseo, the No. 1 seed, took on a familiar foe in SUNY Fredonia. Last season, the same two teams met in the SUNYAC Championship; that night, Geneseo won 7-1.
Geneseo wanted to recreate that success against the Blue Devils. The single-elimination tournament brought out the best of the Knights as they were preparing to square off against their rivals.
“The energy [before the game] was high,” junior Andrew Romano said. “Everyone was focused all night. We knew we would be in for a fight … and we were very well prepared.”
Romano was especially locked-in as he recorded four points with three assists and one goal. His first assist came early in the first period, connecting with junior forward Conlan Keenan to give the Knights an early 1-0 lead. Fredonia answered back and tied the game up before the first period ended.
In the second period, Geneseo broke the game wide open, beginning with a goal from sophomore forward Dan Bosio.
Geneseo’s power play had a 28.5 percent success rate in the regular season, according to NCAA.com. The nation’s leading power play team lived up to expectations and scored twice within a five-minute window. Romano and junior forward Tyson Empey scored on the power play to ultimately increase Geneseo’s lead to 4-1.
Junior forward David Szmyd delivered the final blow with a goal in the late second period.
Fredonia tried to mount a comeback with a goal in the third, but Geneseo was already well on their way to securing the victory with the nation’s best goaltender in net. Senior goalie Devin McDonald made 15 saves to prevent a Fredonia comeback.
The Knights, fueled by five different goal scorers, punched their ticket to the SUNYAC Finals for the second year in a row.
The dominating win should build momentum for their upcoming championship game on Saturday March 2.
Romano, however, believes the team cannot spend too much time admiring their win in the rear-view mirror.
“Beating Fredonia was a good win for us but that is in the past now,” Romano said. “We know [the championship] will be a different game compared to [the semifinal game]. This week is a new game against a new opponent. It is exciting to be playing for another SUNYAC championship, even better to be playing at home in front of our fans.”
Home-ice advantage will be crucial for the championship game as they take on SUNY Oswego, who narrowly defeated SUNY Plattsburgh on Saturday Feb. 23 by a score of 3-2 in the other semifinal.
In Geneseo’s two matchups this season against Oswego, they won 3-0 at home and salvaged a tie late in the game on the road.
The home crowd should give the advantage to Geneseo in an otherwise very close matchup
Geneseo is ranked second in the nation, according to the PairWise Rankings. Oswego is ranked fourth. The SUNYAC championship will be a matchup of two of the top five teams in the country.
Both teams are established in the SUNYAC and accustomed to winning the championship. Geneseo will be searching for their sixth SUNYAC title while Oswego will try for their 11th.
Geneseo will also try to be the first team to repeat as SUNYAC champions since Oswego went back-to-back in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons.
Adding to an illustrious weekend for the Knights, on Feb. 19 the All-Conference teams were announced in the SUNYAC and four Geneseo players received honors. Keenan and McDonald were awarded first team All-SUNYAC and Romano and Empey were awarded second team All-SUNYAC. The team will continue to try and rack up the accolades as the season rolls on.