From NYHJ: Knights emerge from shadows
by Mike Zhe/Staff Writer
One by one, members of the Geneseo State hockey team boarded the bus for the ride home after a 4-3 loss to Oswego last month, one that they felt could easily have been a win.
New York is a pretty wide state, even for road trips in the proximity, and by the time they arrived back on their campus south of Rochester two hours later, some of the sting had been eased by what they realized they’d accomplished in defeat, like holding the top offensive team in Division 3 to just 16 shots. All in all, it was a far cry from the last meeting between the teams, a 10-1 Oswego win.
“Directly after it was pretty somber,” said sophomore defenseman Jack Caradonna, the team’s co-scoring leader with junior forward Zach Vit. “We were pretty upset. But we knew in our minds we were capable of beating them. We took away some positives.”
“More encouragement than discouragement,” said Vit.
As February began, Geneseo (13-6-1, 9-2-1 SUNYAC) was locked in a three-way battle with Oswego and Plattsburgh for first place in the State University of New York Athletic Conference, with just three points separating first place from third.
The conference acronym is the SUNYAC, but in recent years, there have been more shadows than sun.
Specifically, there are the shadows cast by Plattsburgh and Oswego, tall ones that have largely kept the league’s other seven teams in the dark. The two programs have combined to win the past five conference championships. Oswego went to the NCAA championship game last year, losing to St. Norbert (Wis.) College.
“We’re trying to put ourselves into that top group with Oswego and Plattsburgh, and separate ourselves from the others,” said Vit.
Coming into the season, seventh-year coach Chris Schultz (Rochester, N.Y.) felt he a had a quartet of known quantities offensively: Vit, who was the Rookie of the Year in the SUNYAC two years ago as a freshman; Tyler Brickler, a transfer from Division 1 UMass-Lowell; and a couple of returning seniors, Corbin Rosmarin (Rexford, N.Y.) and Kaz Iwamoto.
That number has blossomed nicely since October. Vit (5-15-20) and Caradonna (2-18-20) are tied for 11th in the SUNYAC in scoring, but they’re only two of 11 players who have cracked double-figures in points. Rosmarin leads the team with 10 goals.
“That’s one of the things that’s been a relief on a couple of our top guys,” said Schultz. “We’re not relying heavily on them. There’s a bunch of guys chipping in.”
“All four lines are a threat to score every shift,” said Vit, who has what his coach describes as a “pro shot” but was coming off what he admitted was a disappointing sophomore year.
The freshmen have provided a welcomed influx. David Ripple (7-9-16) is second among all SUNYAC freshmen in scoring, and forwards Ryan Donnelly and Devon Rice and defensemen Nate Brown and Alex Lubczuk also are performing nightly.
“Last year we were expected to do a lot better than we did, and this year I think we were expected to do a lot less,” said Caradonna, a two-way standout. “It’s team chemistry. We have a bunch of new guys and things are working great.”
“I’ve had teams that were just as talented as this team,” said Schultz. “Last year’s team was talented; we were just so injured the entire season.
“The difference with this team is two things. One, the freshmen that we have, they’ve been able to adapt very quickly. … And the other thing is how well our defensemen are playing. They’re getting the job done.”
With five regular-season games remaining in February, the Knights can still do something they’ve managed to do just twice in Schultz’s first six years: displace Oswego (17-3, 10-1 SUNYAC) or Plattsburgh (13-5-1, 8-1-1) in the top two. A trip to Plattsburgh on Feb. 8 will go a long way toward determining the final pecking order.
But the Knights expect to be there in the end. The disappointed team that boarded the bus after the 4-3 loss at Oswego last month was soon back looking ahead, taking away the positives and continuing its march out of the SUNYAC shadows.
“We haven’t been too up or too down,” said Vit. “It’s been an even keel all season.”
This article originally appeared in the February 2013 issue of New York Hockey Journal.