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Ice hockey clinches playoff spot for second consecutive season

by Carson Werner - Staff Writer
Wed, Feb 19th 2020 03:00 pm
Senior Matt Schneider focuses on the puck as it is brought down toward him. Schneider tied the program record for career wins in a goaltender this past weekend.
Senior Matt Schneider focuses on the puck as it is brought down toward him. Schneider tied the program record for career wins in a goaltender this past weekend.

As the 2019-20 SUNYAC ice hockey season approaches its conclusion, the conference has featured one of its closest playoff races in recent years. Aside from two outliers, SUNY Geneseo and SUNY Oswego, at the top of the pack, the conference’s remaining seven teams are still in reach for the final four postseason spots. With its most recent win over Buffalo State College on Saturday, Feb. 15, The College at Brockport ice hockey team clinched its spot in the SUNYAC Tournament for the sixth time in seven years. 

The Golden Eagles kicked off their weekend on Friday, Feb. 14, with their Teddy Bear Toss & First Responders Night against the conference’s bottom-dweller, SUNY Fredonia. Brockport downed the Blue Devils earlier in the season by a 4-3 score, using a late tally from sophomore forward Jordan Renaud. On the verge of being eliminated from playoff contention, Fredonia refused to give in this time around. 

“It is always a dog fight when we play Fredonia,” sophomore forward Jeremy Solat said. “We by no means took where they are in the standings for granted. Sometimes the puck just doesn’t bounce your way and unfortunately, Friday night was one of those nights. Fredonia capitalized on our mistakes and we didn’t capitalize on theirs.”

Fourteen seconds into the game, the Blue Devils captured a lead they wouldn’t surrender throughout the match’s entirety. Trailing 5-0, it wasn’t until the halfway mark of the third period that Brockport managed to reach the scoreboard. On touches from senior forward Doc Gentzler and junior defenseman Ryan Romeo, Solat registered his sixth goal of the year and his third on the man-advantage.

The Golden Eagles were able to add another power-play tally in the final minute when Gentzler capitalized on feeds from senior forward Connor Hutchins and freshman defenseman Anthony Hora.

The following day, Brockport was offered a shot at third place in the SUNYAC and its third chance at Buffalo State. Prior to the game, the Bengals were 2—0 against the Golden Eagles and outscored them 10-3 through 120 minutes of action. With a playoff berth on the line, game three featured a different outcome than the first two. 

Romeo gave Brockport the 1-0 lead 14 minutes into the first period on the squad’s third power-play goal of the weekend. Hora and Hutchins accounted for the assists on the play. Early in the third period, the green and gold bolstered its lead with Solat’s second goal of the weekend, fed by junior forward Ethan Solat.

“Being up 1-0 going into the third is nothing to be satisfied with,” Jeremy Solat said. “One shot can tie up the game so for us to score that second goal was huge. Although, when we did make it 2-0, we didn’t take our foot off the gas. We played phenomenal defense and our special teams played a huge role in the third period.”

Despite the fact that three of Brockport’s four goals on the weekend stem from the man-advantage, the loss to Fredonia was heavily influenced by the Blue Devils’ two short-handed tallies. More than a third of Brockport’s 68 goals this season have come on the power-play, but its opponents have an identical scoring percentage when the Golden Eagles’ special teams units are on the ice.

“Special teams is going to always be a huge factor for us,” Hutchins said. “Our power play has struggled a bit but we are trying to get that clicking down the stretch here. Our penalty kill came up huge in Buffalo State and helped us secure the two points there and we don’t expect that to be any different the next few games.”

Brockport killed off six power-play chances, including a five minute major penalty late in the third, to keep the Bengals scoreless. The Golden Eagles had five opportunities themselves, converting on one and allowing as many shots as they took. 

On the other end of the ice, senior netminder Matt Schneider turned in a flawless performance for his second shutout of the season. He turned away 22 shots, including 12 in the final period. His earned victory also tied the program-record for career wins with 29. 

“Schneider played an unbelievable game Saturday night,” Jeremy Solat said. “He is the biggest part of our team and his effort was outstanding. When he plays the way he did, we are a very hard team to beat.”

Depending on the outcome of Tuesday, Feb. 18’s game against SUNY Cortland, Schneider will have two opportunities to set the program-record this week. Brockport will conclude its regular season on Saturday, Feb. 22, at home against Geneseo. 

“The next two games are huge for us,” Hutchins said. “Even though we’ve already clinched a playoff spot we want a home playoff game. That has been one of our goals since the beginning of the year so that’s something we are shooting for.”

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Taken by Vincent Croce:
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