November 16, 2012

Three freshmen finding success on same line


PLATTSBURGH — While Luke Baleshta was giving an interview after practice one day this week, a teammate skated up behind him and poured a bottle of water over his head.

Baleshta may be leading Plattsburgh State in scoring right now, but he doesn’t get a pass from the upperclassmen — he’s still a freshman.

“I don’t think that makes a difference no matter what,” he said of his production. “They’re all pretty good guys, though. It’s all in good fun.”

The Cardinals (4-0, 4-0 SUNYAC) visit Geneseo (3-4-1, 2-1-1) and Brockport (2-4-1, 2-2) for a pair of SUNY Athletic Conference men’s hockey games this weekend. Baleshta has been playing on a line with fellow freshmen Kevin Emmerling and Connor Gorman so far this season, and the three have had an impact already.

“That freshman line is pretty good,” Plattsburgh coach Bob Emery said. “They have a skill level that we’re not really used to here at Plattsburgh. And we’re all a work in progress, and I think those guys are only going to get better.”

The coach added that he likes having three newcomers skate together because there’s a little less pressure on them than if they were playing with upperclassmen.

None of the three are particularly big guys — Baleshta is listed at 6 feet, 1 inch and 170 pounds and the other two are under 6 feet — so they all use their speed. They said they play similar styles.

“I think we’re kind of all quick guys. We are young, but we mesh well together,” Emmerling said. “The older guys have been doing a great job leading us and telling us what we have to do. And we’ve kind of just been listening to coach and listening to the whole team, and, just, we’ve been playing good. So we gotta keep it going.”

Baleshta, who’s from Cambridge, Ontario, is first on the team with seven points, including a team-high five assists.

“I’m trying to be a playmaker for these guys,” he said. “The two guys on my line have a lot of skill and a lot of speed, so I’m trying to get them the puck and let them do their work.”

Emmerling and Gorman are also in the top five in scoring. Emmerling, a Northbridge, Mass. native, had a goal in each of his first two games and then recorded a hat trick last Saturday against Fredonia, giving him a team-best five goals. He was named the SUNYAC Rookie of the Week on Monday.

Gorman has four assists and was also credited with the game-winner against Potsdam. The Shrewsbury, Mass. native said even though they’re freshmen, they think they can be regular contributors.

“Obviously putting up points is something that all three of us have done in the past and like to do,” Gorman said. “We’ve done a decent job as of late, and hopefully we can keep that going and stay jelling and turn it up from there.”

This isn’t the first time that Emmerling and Gorman have been teammates. Gorman said they both played for the Worcester Crusaders when they were eight or nine years old, and they’ve kept in touch since then. Baleshta said all three are starting to develop good chemistry.

“We’re all real good friends off the ice,” Gorman added. “I like Luke a lot. I’ve known Kevin a long time; we’re from the same area back at home. So I think we’re just working real well out there together.

“Three speedy, kinda skillcrafty guys. So it’s working well. I love playing with both of them.”

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