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Another nationally ranked opponent for the Blue Devils
FREDONIA, N.Y. -- Facing nationally ranked teams this season has become the norm for the Fredonia State hockey team.
The Blue Devils (11-5-4, 4-3-2 SUNYAC) have opposed seven teams ranked in the USCHO.com Top 15 at the time. Oswego is the latest team in that category. The No. 2 Lakers (16-1-3, 7-0-2 SUNYAC) make their annual Western New York swing this Friday and Saturday, with a stop Friday at Steele Hall Ice Arena.
Game time is 7 p.m.
"Playing another excellent team," Blue Devil head coach Jeff Meredith said, "will be like most weekends for us. The main point for us is to keep moving up in the SUNYAC standings."
The Blue Devils enter SUNYAC play this weekend in third place, an unmanageable six points behind Oswego but only two points back of second-place Geneseo and the potential of a SUNYAC Tournament first-round bye. On the other hand, only four points separate the Blue Devils from Potsdam, currently in seventh place, so the playoff picture is far from complete.
Six teams make the SUNYAC Tournament, which begins Feb. 20 on the home ice of the No. 3 and No. 4 seeds. The semifinal games are Feb. 24, the championship game March 3. The SUNYAC coaches, in keeping with the NCAA tournament model, have eliminated the semifinal and championship series format of past seasons.
The Blue Devils are playing some of their best hockey of the season. They are 8-1-3 since a 3-0 win over Buffalo State on Nov. 17. Prior to that game, they lost three games in a stretch of eight days. Included in the skid was an 8-0 loss at Oswego, followed by a 3-0 loss at Cortland the following night.
"Last time we played Oswego, we were thoroughly outclassed," Meredith said. "We feel we are playing better hockey now and Oswego certainly presents us with a great challenge."
The Lakers were unbeaten until recently. Their 5-2 loss Jan. 23 at Utica was quickly dispatched with two SUNYAC home wins last weekend, over Brockport and Geneseo.
"We will need to be on our game," Meredith said of playing the Lakers. "They are so talented offensively that if you give them opportunities, they will take advantage of them. I think for us, we have to play solid defensively and make the most of our chances."
Notebook: The Blue Devils are back at home 7 p.m. Saturday vs. last-place Cortland. The Steele Hall ticket office will open at 6 p.m. both nights ... Both weekend games will be broadcast by Fredonia Radio Systems, available via the internet as well as over-the-air locally on WCVF (88.9 FM) ... Campus TV station WNYF will broadcast the Friday game on local cable access channels in the Dunkirk-Fredonia area ... Three Blue Devils have surpassed the 90-point mark in their careers. Senior forward Kraig Kuzma (Muskegon, Mich.) has 95 points in 103 games, while senior forward Kyle Bozoian (St. Charles, Mo.) and junior forward Neal Sheehan (Avon Lake, Ohio) each has 91 points in 104 and 71 games, respectively. Only 12 other Blue Devils have reached 100 points ... Oswego's Brendan McLaughlin is fifth in NCAA Division III scoring with 40 points (20 goals, 20 assists), while Sheehan (18 goals, 16 assists) is 10th ... Oswego goaltender Ryan Scott is 9th nationally with a 2.09 goals-against average. Fredonia State freshman Pat Street (Annapolis, Md.) is 10th in save percentage (92.3%).