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Potsdam power play poses potential problems
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- Staying out of the penalty box is important at any level of hockey.
Staying out of the box against the Potsdam Bears (7-13-4, 6-7-1 SUNYAC) takes on added importance.
It is one of the factors facing the Fredonia State Blue Devils (14-8-3, 8-3-3 SUNYAC) heading into their SUNYAC Tournament first-round playoff series with the Bears Friday and Saturday nights at Steele Hall.
Opening face-off each night is 7 p.m.
Potsdam is No. 2 in NCAA Division III -- behind only SUNYAC rival Oswego -- when it comes to converting power-play chances: 27.4 percent overall, 31.3 percent against SUNYAC opponents. In addition, Potsdam's Ryan McCarthy is second in the nation with 11 power-play goals.
"They are effective," Fredonia State head coach Jeff Meredith said, "because they have so many great sticks and finishers. Compound that with the fact that their players really have a great deal of hockey sense or vision that they seem to spot the open man pretty effectively."
The Blue Devils saw how dangerous Potsdam can be on the power play when the teams met during the regular season last Friday. After building a 6-0 lead, the Blue Devils started taking penalties. The Bears took full advantage to score four staight power-play goals -- two each by McCarthy and Adam Gebara. Suddenly it was a 6-4 game.
Two late goals gave Fredonia State a hard-fought 8-4 win.
The Blue Devils have had it the other way, too. In a 3-3 tie Dec. 2 at Potsdam, the Bears were 0 for 3 on power-play chances. It was only one of six games this season in which the they failed to score a power-play goal.
On the season, Fredonia State is 81.9 percent on the penalty-kill.
"When we played them earlier this year, we were playing a bit differently and I think they were," Meredith said. "Back in December, their power play was good but not as hot as it is now. I think we, first and foremost, need to stay out of the box. That will be our best penalty-kill."
Meredith believes getting off a quick start -- and getting the Steele Hall faithful into the game early -- will be a key to the weekend series. It would be too much to expect another 6-0 lead vs. the Bears. "We talk more about territory and momentum," he said, "than the scoreboard as far as quick starts go."
The bottom line will be to keep the Bears off the board, whether they are skating on the power play or not.
"Playoffs are always about goaltending," Meredith said. "We just have to keep playing the kind of hockey we have been for the last three to four weeks because we have been successful doing that."