The first round of the SUNYAC Tournament begins Wednesday, February 20, and we know the teams that will be competing.
Geneseo, Oswego, Buffalo, Plattsburgh, Brockport and Fredonia all clinched trips to the conference tournament. The Knights defeated Buffalo, 6-2, to earn the top-seed in the tournament as well as extend the team’s unbeaten streak to 19 consecutive games.
While the teams are set with a week remaining in the regular season, and the number one seed has been on top of the standings seemingly all season, Geneseo head coach Chris Schultz admitted it never was an easy journey.
“Coaches and players alike are putting in the time to be the best they can be,” he said. “You will see in the standings that there are some teams that haven’t had a great year, but those teams are not easy wins. Every team has to be prepared and focused every night.”
Plattsburgh head coach Rob Emery, who has helped the Cardinals win 16 SUNYAC championships, explained what he felt the key to outlasting the very familiar competition.
“At the end of the day,” he said, “it is the team that wants it more and does all the little things and gets good goaltending.”
For Plattsburgh, who has 22 SUNYAC Tournament championships, 12 more than second-place Oswego, there’s no secret trick to preparing for the conference tournament.
“The same as each league game,” Emery said when asked how his team will prepare for the postseason.
Geneseo is the defending champion and is looking to become the first repeat champion since Oswego in the 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons.
Geneseo and Plattsburgh have split the past four championships, and with the addition of Oswego, the three programs have won the past 11 championships and 21 out of the past 22 conference tournament championships.
Much like Plattsburgh, Geneseo will be approaching the tournament without any additional hype or fanfare.
“We don’t treat the tournament any differently than we do the 12th game of the regular season,” Schultz said. “We have a process that we stick by to get our team prepared. Coaches prepare their teams, but it is up to the student-athletes to execute on the ice. Hockey is such a read and react game, relying on good bounces in order to be the victor. But it’s usually a pretty good combination of preparation and execution that ultimately wins tournaments.”
Team of the Week
The Cardinals definitely experienced a rough stretch over the past month, going 3-6 in its past nine games, but a pair of victories against SUNYAC Tournament-bound programs Buffalo (4-0) and Fredonia (3-2) gives the team some much needed momentum going into the playoffs.
Player of the Week
Zach Sternbach, Jr., F, Hobart
After failing to earn a goal or assist in the team’s last outing, the Loudonville, N.Y.-native came out firing in the team’s next two games. In a 5-2 win over Johnson and Wales, Sternbach had two goals and one assist. He followed that up with one goal and one assist in the team’s 5-3 victory over Suffolk.
Game of the Week
Oswego at Plattsburgh, Saturday, February 16 (7 p.m.)
These two programs are perennially top contenders in the conference and both will be jockeying for position in the tournament; Oswego will be attempting to earn a first-round bye while Plattsburgh is holding on to host a first-round game.