By COURTNEY LEWIS
---- — The PrimeLink Great Northern Shootout annually serves as a chance for Plattsburgh State to test itself against some of the best teams in Division III men’s hockey, but this year the tournament is also a chance for a little bit of redemption.
The Cardinals were upset by Geneseo last weekend before salvaging a split with a win over Brockport. They face No. 12 Middlebury in the first game today at Norwich’s Kreitzberg Arena.
“I think we’re looking to redeem ourselves after the loss last week and make sure we’re working hard,” Plattsburgh defenseman Mike Grace said.
No. 2 Norwich hosts No. 11 St. Thomas in the second game tonight. The consolation game is Saturday afternoon, followed by the championship tilt.
Plattsburgh had developed a habit of getting off to slow starts in games, and Grace said that caught up to them against Geneseo, which jumped out to a 2-0 lead and eventually won 3-2.
“We were getting away with stuff in the first period, not having to work hard,” Grace said. “It finally showed that we gotta work hard, and talent isn’t going to take us all the way.”
No. 5 Plattsburgh (5-1) and Middlebury both feature young players. While four of the Cardinals’ top five scorers are freshmen or sophomores, the Panthers have four freshmen at the top of their scoring list. Forward Matt Silcoff paces Middlebury with a goal and two assists in two games.
Junior Nick BonDurant has handled the Panthers’ goaltending duties, and he sports a 2.88 goals-against average and a .906 save percentage.
“Middlebury’s a good hockey team,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “We’ve heard they have a great freshman class. It will be a good test for us. We’re young, too.
“And I know some of the kids they brought in; they’re pretty good. They’re going to look to be a skating team, move the puck and be gritty around the net.”
The Panthers (1-0-1) just opened the season last weekend with a tough NESCAC road trip. They beat Colby 5-2 on Friday and then scored twice in the third period to tie Bowdoin 4-4.
“I’m hoping to take advantage of that. If we have anything on Middlebury it’s just the fact that we’ve played a few more games than they did,” Emery said. “Because they’re going to be one of the teams to contend at the end of the year.”
Norwich, which won the tournament last year, has started this season with five straight wins, including victories over St. Anselm and New England College last weekend. St. Thomas (5-2-1) is coming off of a weekend sweep of fellow MIAC member Gustavus Adolphus.
Emery said the Cadets probably get the nod as the favorites this weekend.
“Norwich has that big senior class; when they were freshmen they won the national championship. They have some guys with NHL potential in that class,” Emery said. “So we’ve got our work cut out for us with anyone you play in this tournament.
“It’s by far the best tournament in Division III. It is each and every year, and we’ll just go over there and hopefully we bring a little more toughness and a little bit more grit and play hard.”
Email Courtney Lewis: firstname.lastname@example.org