Men set same goals
Published: Thursday, October 18, 2012
Updated: Thursday, October 18, 2012 20:10
Even with a 19-5-4 record and a SUNYAC Championship, the Plattsburgh State men’s hockey team still didn’t accomplish everything it setout to do last year.
The Cardinals were crowned conference champions in early March, but a loss to Amherst in the NCAA quarterfinals and spot at No. 5 in the national rankings weren’t what they were looking for.
“The goal of the hockey program is always the same,” Emery said. “Our first goal is to win the SUNYAC regular season championship, then win the SUNYAC Championship and hopefully get a chance to play for a national championship.”
Now, they get another shot.
PSUC is set to kick off the 2012-13 season next Friday night when it takes on Morrisville at home.
But beginning with Morrisville, the Cardinals will have to overcome the departure of last year’s five seniors — forwards Vick Schlueter, Kyle Taylor, Ryan Craig and Kyle Kudroch and defenseman Matt MacLeod. The forwards combined for 69 points and 31 goals last season, accounting for more than 25 percent of the squad’s offensive production and more than one-third of the team’s scoring.
The answer to losing that offense is playing strong defense and keeping the puck out of the net, Emery said. Emery said he also will be shifting what the team works on on offense.
“In hockey, you have skills and you have systems,” Emery said. “In the past, we’ve been focusing a lot on systems. Now we’re going to focus on individual skills.”
Emery said the team will be focusing on skating, passing, distributing and puck-handling, while also looking to be more opportunistic with the scoring chances the team generates.
Following the annual intra-squad Red and White Game Thursday, the Cards will get their first taste of game action Saturday in a home exhibition match against Concordia. With no roster-size restrictions, Emery is looking at the game as a chance to finalize the roster and get a better sense of what each player offers.
“We want to find out who wants to play,” Emery said. “When it comes down to it, the coaches don’t pick. ... The players will pick that by their performance.”
Deciding who plays in goal for the Cards could be an interesting process. Mathieu Cadieux earned a majority of the minutes during his first season at PSUC, which earned him All-American honors. Josh Leis was the primary goalie, and he said it was difficult to adjust to decreased playing time. After working hard during the summer, Leis is looking to make the most of his opportunities.
“I’m not gonna take my spot for granted,” Leis said. “You have a bad game and then someone gets thrown in. If they play better, you might go with the guy that’s hot. Your position is never safe.”
The Cards play three of their first four games at home, which history says could jettison them to a fast start. PSUC dominated the opposition on its home ice last season, going 12-0-1, including a 4-3 triple-overtime victory against Buffalo State in the last home contest of the season.
Defenseman Mike Grace said the team takes pride in winning on home ice, and he said the Cardinal fans motivate the players to perform well.
“We really feel like we’ve got to protect our house,” Grace said. “We don’t like to lose at home in front of our crowd because they’re out here supporting us all the time. They’re always there for us, so we feel we should always give back to them.”
Both Leis and Grace said they are looking to step into leadership roles as seniors this season. Leis said he likes to keep the team loose. However, he said he knows when to be serious and looks out for the younger guys to make sure they are doing things the right way on and off the ice.
“In study hall, I took a couple of guys, they grabbed their homework and I made sure they were on top of their stuff,” Leis said. “My freshman year I didn’t do a lot of studying or anything. ... I’m learning from my mistakes and trying to show them the right way.”
Grace said he isn’t a vocal leader and prefers to take a backseat in that department to players such as Paul Puglisi, Jared Docking and Patrick Jobb. Still, Grace said he takes pride in showing his teammates the right way to go about their business by letting his play on the ice speak for itself.
But it won’t be just Grace’s play that gets the job done. He said the team has bought into the idea of playing for the team and not worrying about individual statistics, and he believes the positive chemistry will help PSUC win this season.
“Everybody here wants to win,” Grace said. “We’re all here for one reason. We’re not here just for ourselves. ... We all want to do this together.”
Email Zachary Ripple at email@example.com