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Meredith envisions playoff-type weekend
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- A pair of conference home games this weekend loom large in the eyes of Fredonia State hockey coach Jeff Meredith.
"This is like a playoff weekend for us," he said, "in that we are at home and really need four points."
The Blue Devils (4-4-1, 2-3-0 SUNYAC), in a three-way tie for fourth place, will get a chance to move up in the SUNYAC standings because, on conseutive nights, they'll be facing two teams ahead of them in the standings, the Geneseo Ice Knights and the Brockport Golden Eagles.
The Steele Hall box office will open at 6 p.m. each night.
The Ice Knights (8-3-0, 4-1-0 SUNYAC) are two-time defending SUNYAC champs. They will enter Friday's 7 p.m. game one point out of first place. Individually, senior forward Mitch Stephens leads the conference in scoring with 26 points, including 24 assists. His linemate and fellow senior, Mike McDonald, is third in the points race with 10 goals and seven assists.
"(The Ice Knights) are playing well right now and have some guys who are having great years," Meredith said. "We just need to continue to play solid overall game at both ends of the ice, but there are some key areas. First, we need to get positive, good contribution from our power-play. ... Second, our penalty kill needs to be strong -- Geneseo has a pretty potent power-play."
Geneseo has converted a conference-best 23 percent of its power-play chances (23 of 100) and will be going up against the Blue Devils fifth-ranked penalty-killing unit (63 of 76; 82.9 percent). On the other hand, the Blue Devils are No. 2 in SUNYAC on the power play with a conversion rate of 20 percent (13 of 65). Geneseo will counter with the sixth-ranked penalty-kill in the SUNYAC.
"I think our power-play cooled off a bit about five games into the year," Meredith said. "We need to get back to the 25-percent range that we were in.
"Going along with that theme, we need to stay out of the penalty box so that our kill is not needed much. At the other end of the ice, we will get our chances and need to cash in on those. As always, a fast start in Steele Hall is a key for us."
On Saturday at 7 p.m., the Blue Devils will face Brockport, a team predicted to finish last by the SUNYAC coaches in their annual preseason poll. Former Blue Devil assistant coach Brian Dickinson -- back behind the Brockport bench after a one-year coaching sabattical -- has the Golden Eagles in third place heading into its game Friday night at Buffalo State.
"He has those guys working hard," Meredith said of his former assistant. "They are a team a lot like us from the standpoint that they have not scored a lot of goals."