March 25, 2014

Unusual winter for Plattsburgh

With all the fuss about the lingering cold, I have to say it’s been a hot time for the Plattsburgh State men and women of winter — although you’re likely to get an argument from Bob Emery.

The excitement up and down Rugar Street has been unparalleled.

The Cardinal basketball teams rocked the rafters at Memorial Hall on their way to the NCAA party. The men (24-6) reached the Sweet Sixteen and the women (23-6) nearly joined them after recording their first victory ever in NCAA postseason action.

The crowning achievement, though, occurred Saturday evening when the women’s hockey team punctuated a record-setting 28-1-1 season with its third NCAA championship in eight years, winning convincingly before the largest crowd (1,619, plus another 100 or so freebies) ever to assemble for a women’s hockey game at Stafford Arena.

As for Emery’s hockey Cardinals, for the longest while, they looked like shoo-ins to also hop aboard the NCAA merry-go-round. But they stalled out in February. Plattsburgh State still was a credible 19-5-2, but Emery acknowledged he didn’t like the Cardinals’ chances of earning an at-large berth after slipping behind conference rivals Geneseo and Oswego. However, the NCAA selection committee succeeded in lighting a fire under Emery when it ultimately chose Norwich, a team Plattsburgh had beaten 4-2 in Northfield, Vt. during the regular season.

Hoping to rectify the situation, Emery was hard on the recruiting trail Saturday, working the back channels and arenas in Massachusetts. Emery has had to redouble his efforts in the colonies with the sagging Canadian dollar making it more difficult to land prospects from north of the border.

So much for playoff politics and currency exchange rates.

The last five weekends on the Plattsburgh State campus have been off the charts, an amazing stretch the likes of which Cardinal fans had never experienced. It began on Feb. 21-22 when the Cardinal women transformed Memorial Hall into the House of Payne. Led by their record-setting scoring machine, Kathleen Payne, Plattsburgh State proved virtually invincible at home, polishing off Fredonia State and Buffalo State to claim their first SUNYAC regular-season crowd and then a week later, the Cardinals disposed of Cortland and Geneseo to win the conference tournament and claim their first-ever NCAA bid. The highly partisan crowds swelled to near capacity by the second Saturday.

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