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Devils drop semifinal opener
GENESEO, N.Y. -- A furious effort to score in the last two minutes was thwarted Friday as Fredonia State fell to Geneseo, 4-3, in the first game of their SUNYAC Tournament semifinal series.
The Blue Devils (16-9-3) had a 5-on-3 power play late in the game, then upped the ante to 6-on-3 by pulling senior goaltender Rick Cazares (San Jose, Calif.) in the final minute.
A seemingly non-stop barrage of shots in an attempt to even the score was turned aside by Geneseo goaltender Derek Jokic and his defense as the Ice Knights (17-6-2) hung on for the home win.
Jokic finished with 31 saves. Cazares stopped 24 shots.
As a result, Fredonia State will need to win the regulation game Saturday to tie the series and force a decisive 20-minute mini-game later in the evening. Anything short of that and the Blue Devils' season is over.
The Blue Devils' failure to convert on power plays -- they were 1 of 8 with the manpower advantage -- was only one of the factors in the outcome. Hard luck and bad bounces also figured into the equation.
The officials waved off two apparent Fredonia State goals, the second time midway through the third period when it was ruled the net behind Jokic had been knocked loose before the puck had crossed the goal-line.
The call became something of a moot point when, on a subsequent power play, sophomore forward Neal Sheehan (Avon Lake, Ohio) knocked home his 17th goal of the season to forge a 3-3 tie at the 12:08 mark.
The momentum swing was shortlived, although Fredonia State's poor luck continued.
Geneseo retook the lead at 14:35 when a shot deflected off Mitch Stephens and slid past Cazares along the ice after he had arched upward to stop what he thought would be a high shot.
The Blue Devils argued that a Geneseo player had set up the scoring chance by knocking the puck down with a high stick. Instead, the goal -- the second deflection of the game to elude Cazares -- stood as the eventual game-winner.
It was a bitter ending to a night that had started quite well for the Blue Devils. First-period goals by junior forward Matt Zeman (Rocky River, Ohio) and freshman forward Shawn Walker (Wingham, Ont.) resulted in an early 2-0 Fredonia State lead. It was Zeman's 15th goal, and Walker's sixth, this season.
Geneseo countered quickly and tied the score, 2-2, before the period was over. The Ice Knights then took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Dan Schofield early in the second period, and the score remained that way until Sheehan's tying tally midway through the third period.
In the other SUNYAC semifinal Friday, Plattsburgh upset Oswego, 6-3, to take a 1-0 lead in their series, which also concludes Saturday night. The semifinals winners meet next weekend on the home ice of the higher seed.