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Devils capture SUNYAC title
PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. -- Fredonia State completed the road trifecta Saturday to claim its first SUNYAC hockey championship in 12 years.The Blue Devils (14-8-6) defeated Plattsburgh, 6-4, before a Stafford Arena crowd of 2,874 to finish off a SUNYAC playoff run which included road wins at Buffalo State and Oswego. "I'm just so happy for the players," Blue Devil head coach Jeff Meredith said during the post-game on-ice celebration by his team. "I'm so proud of them. They've had to deal with adversity and they were rewarded for it." The victory earned Fredonia State its first SUNYAC title since winning back-to-back crowns in 1994 and 1995. With it comes an automatic NCAA bid next week against an opponent and at a site to be determined. Fredonia State goaltender Kevin Amborski was named SUNYAC Tournament MVP after a 38-save performance. It fell short in comparison to his back-to-back 42-save games in the previous two playoff games, but it he still came up big when his team needed him the most. "He came in and picked us up," said senior forward Kraig Kuzma, whose goal into an empty net sealed the victory with 37 seconds remaining. "He took us to a higher level and did a great job." "That's what was expected of me," said Amborski, a sophomore, who broke into the starting lineup at the start of the playoffs. "I'm no more special than anyone else." He would have a hard time convincing his teammates and the approximately 100 Blue Devil fans in attendance, including members of the pep band, who bowed in a "we're not worthy" pose every time Amborski made another big save. The biggest came with about one minute remaining. Down 5-4 with time running out, a Cardinal got off a point-blank shot which Amborski stopped with with a pad. "I just threw everything out the window and did everything I could," he said. "It was a nice two-pad stack. I think it was (Ryan) Busby (who shot the puck). He told me he was going to get two goals. He did, but I wasn't going to let him get three." Also chosen to the all-tournament team from Fredonia State were forwards Neal Sheehan, Bryan Goudy, and Wil Barlow. Busby and Pierre-Luc Belanger were chosen from Plattsburgh. The Blue Devils came into the game having killed 18 straight penalties in their previous two SUNYAC playoff games. They did themselves one better at 2:54 of the first period when Goudy scored his 10th goal of the season while the Blue Devils were shorthanded. Kuzma assisted for his 100th career point. Goudy assisted on the second Blue Devil goal, Sheehan's team-leading 22nd of the year, at 11:38 of the first period. Don Jaeger also picked up an assist. Plattsburgh broke through at 18:45 with the first power-play goal of the post-season allowed by the Blue Devils. With his team skating with a 5-on-3 advantage, the Cardinals' Busby made it 2-1 when he put a rebound past Amborski. What measure of momentum the Cardinals gained with the late first-period goal was quickly dispelled early in the second period by two Fredonia State goals. Wil Barlow scored at 2:37, his fourth goal of the season, from Scott Bradley and Matt Pfalzer. The Blue Devils pushed their advantage to 4-1 on a goal by Matt McKeown at 4:08. It was McKeown's 11th goal of his freshman year, with Kyle Bozoian and Sheehan earning assists. Plattsburgh cut its deficit to 4-2 on a power-play goal by Busby at 11:32. Joe Muli answered for the Blue Devils at 12:56 as the three-goal lead was re-established, 5-2. It was Muli's seventh goal of the year, and turned out to be the eventual game-winner. Goudy picked up his second assist and third point of the night. As they did late in the first period, the Cardinals took momentum into intermission with a goal late in the second period. C.J. Tozzo beat Amborski through a screen at 19:00 to again pull the hosts to within two goals, this time at 5-3. That set up a dramatic third period. Plattsburgh's Kevin Galan made it a one-goal game, 5-4, with a hard, low shot off Amborski's pad at 3:28. Each team had their share of scoring chances, and each hit posts with shots, before Kuzma put in the clincher from Colin Sarfeh and Steve Albert.